|[Home] [Databases] [World Law] [Multidatabase Search] [Help] [Feedback]|
England and Wales Court of Protection Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Protection Decisions >> The Public Guardian v CT & Anor  EWCOP 51 (01 December 2014)
Cite as:  EWCOP 51
[New search] [Context] [View without highlighting] [Printable RTF version] [Help]
42-49 High Holborn
London WC1V 6NP
B e f o r e :
| THE PUBLIC GUARDIAN
|- and -
| CT (1)
- and -
Mark Baxter (instructed by Moss & Coleman) for the Second Respondent
Hearing date: 18 November 2014
Crown Copyright ©
Senior Judge Lush:
(a) a son, who was born in 1949 and lives in Suffolk; and
(b) a daughter, EY, who was born in 1960 and lives in Brentwood, Essex.
(a) appointed his daughter to be the sole attorney;
(b) appointed Gillian Botwright of Moss & Coleman, Solicitors, Hornchurch, as a replacement attorney; and
(c) named nobody who was to be given notice of an application to register the LPA.
"An application is made under section 48 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for directions relating to CT's mental capacity to make decisions in relation to his finances and property."
"The court may, pending the determination of an application in relation to a person ("P"), make an order or give directions in respect of any matter if-
(a) there is reason to believe that P lacks capacity in relation to the matter,
(b) the matter is one to which its powers under this Act extend, and
(c) it is in P's best interests to make the order, or give the directions, without delay."
(a) in September 2013 CT's son and daughter-in-law had raised concerns with the OPG.
(b) on 13 June 2013 CT had severed the joint tenancy of the matrimonial home and the adjoining property, which he and his wife also own.
(c) CT had ceased paying the utility bills on the matrimonial home; had stopped transferring housekeeping money to his wife, and had closed their joint bank account.
(d) in September 2013 CT applied to the Land Registry to register the matrimonial home in his sole name.
(e) on 30 September 2013 a Court of Protection General Visitor, Emma Farrar, saw him at Grays Court Community Hospital. She thought that CT possibly could suspend or revoke the LPA, but that he would require considerable support in doing so.
(f) Havering Social Services had raised a safeguarding alert.
(g) the OPG asked EY for an account of her dealings.
(h) EY replied her father still had capacity and that the OPG's enquiries were an invasion of his privacy.
(i) in January 2014 the OPG commissioned a visit from a Court of Protection Special Visitor (Dr T.G. Tennent, DM, FRCPsych) but EY and her partner, who is employed by Moss & Coleman Solicitors, refused to let him visit CT.
(j) Dr Tennent was, nevertheless able to examine CT's medical records, and in his report, dated 31 March 2103, he came to the conclusion that CT had capacity (a) to make the LPA and (b) to sever the joint tenancies, but that it was "impossible to offer any opinion as to Mr Todd's current capacity in relation to the queries (c) to (j)."
(a) the OPG to serve a copy of the application and witness statement on the respondents by 25 July;
(b) the respondents to file and serve a response by 15 August; and
(c) the matter to be listed for a directions hearing on 20 August 2014.
"The evidence in the attached witness statement shows unequivocally that CT had the capacity to make complex decisions in relation to his finances and property in September 2013. He underwent a further capacity assessment in November 2013 prior to discharge from hospital after nearly six months treatment and he was again assessed as having the capacity to make the very difficult and important decision as to his destination and future place of residence following his discharge. There has been no stroke activity since the incident in May 2013, nor any other event which might cause or signal a material change in his capacity since the last test was carried out some nine months ago. There is therefore no valid reason why he should not be presumed to have capacity at this time."
Hearing on 20 August 2014
(a) declaring that CT had capacity on 13 June 2013 to execute the LPAs and to sever the joint tenancy of the two properties he owned with his wife;
(b) directing the OPG to serve the application papers on CT;
(c) requiring the parties to identify by 5 September, a single joint expert to report on CT's capacity by 10 October 2014 and, in default of agreement, Professor Robin Jacoby would prepare the report; and
(d) specifically requiring the expert to assess CT's capacity in nine areas, which will become apparent in paragraph 22 below; and
(e) listing the matter for a final hearing on 18 November 2014.
Professor Jacoby's report
"Because I do not know CT's full medical history and have not seen his notes, I cannot be firm in giving a diagnosis, but in my opinion he probably does have cerebrovascular dementia. I also consider that he is subject to recurrent episodes of delirium which are probably due to a combination of cerebrovascular disease, prescribed medication and UTI's. Fortunately for the purpose of my examination, I do not think that he was delirious at the time.
For the assistance of the court and non-medical readers of this report, delirium is, like dementia, a global impairment of multiple higher cortical functions but differs from dementia in certain crucial ways. Its hallmark is a disturbance of conscious awareness and the sleep-wake cycle. Delirium also differs from dementia in other ways: it is of more rapid onset, i.e. days or hours, compared with years for dementia; and resolution either by remission or death occurs within hours, days or weeks, although it may recur frequently in vulnerable individuals. The causes of delirium are legion and can be summarised as any underlying physical illness or toxicity, especially drug toxicity. If the underlying cause remits, delirium too resolves itself. Older people are at particular risk of delirium because they lack cerebral reserve. Dementia sufferers are at high risk of delirium, often as a result of an underlying infection, such as of the urinary tract. Delirium is sometimes termed 'an acute confusional state' by physicians and surgeons."
"I shall deal with the separate capacities as set out in my instructions which were taken from the directions order of 20 August 2014. Before doing so I wish to stress that I am relying on CT's mental state as I observed it on 2 October 2014. However, I believe his mental state fluctuates both as regards his dementia and his episodes of delirium. I should make the following preliminary remarks:
(a) When he is delirious, in my opinion, he does not have any of the capacities listed below.
(b) When he is not delirious, but his dementia is more prominent, his capacities are weaker than when he is at his best.
(c) When he is at his best he does retain some capacities as described below.
(d) When he is at his best he is able to communicate his decisions, and I shall not comment further on this fourth limb of section 3(1) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
(e) When at his best I believe that his capacities can be enhanced by assistance in line with the judgment of Gibson LJ in Hoff et al v Atherton  EWCA Civ 1554, in which he stated "it is a general requirement of the law that for a juristic act to be valid, the person performing it should have the mental capacity (with the assistance of such explanation as may have been given [my italics]) to understand the nature and effect of the particular act (see, for example, Re K (Enduring Powers of Attorney)  Ch 310 at p. 313 per Hoffmann J.)." As I understand it, although I may be corrected by the court, giving assistance to persons with marginal capacities in order to enhance them is within the spirit of the Mental Capacity Act 2005."
(1) CT's capacity to be a party to the current legal proceedings (in the absence of which he shall require a litigation friend).
"In my opinion, he has the capacity to understand what the legal proceedings are about if carefully explained to him. However, he would not be able fully to follow the proceedings in court because he needs considerable time to deliberate and come to a conclusion, by which time the proceedings will have moved on. Also his episodic memory is impaired and he would not always recall what has gone on before. I consider that he would benefit from a litigation friend.
(2) CT's capacity to revoke or suspend the LPA he made on 13 June 2013.
In my opinion, at his best, CT does have the capacity to revoke or suspend this LPA, because he understands the information necessary to make the decision, and can retain it long enough to weigh it up in order to make the decision. Again, I consider that he would benefit from disinterested advice before making this decision.
(3) CT's capacity to make a new LPA.
For the same reason given in (2) above I consider that he does have the capacity to make a new LPA when at his best. He would understand that he would be giving the power to someone to be able to do with his affairs what he, himself, could do.
(4) CT's capacity to make decisions relating to his property and financial affairs.
In my opinion, at his best, CT is able to make decisions in relation to his property and affairs. Where more complex decisions are required he would, in my opinion, benefit from disinterested advice. For example, he would not need advice on the decision to buy say a winter coat. However, if the decision were to sell one of his properties, I think he would be able to assimilate the advice of say a solicitor, if that were explained to him in simple terms. I am not making any comment here about the quality of the advice he now gets from EY because this is beyond my remit and I have no information on it anyway. However, because he is now dependent on her for his day to day care he might be more likely to accept her advice without more careful consideration.
(5) CT's capacity to give instructions to his attorney in relation to his property and affairs.
In line with my opinion in (4) above I consider that at his best CT does retain the capacity to give instructions to his attorney in relation to his property and affairs, and that he would benefit from disinterested advice for more complex decisions.
(6) CT's capacity to instruct his attorney to provide an account of her dealings.
At his best, I consider that CT does have this capacity.
(7) If CT now lacks the capacity to make decisions in relation to his property and affairs, when did he lose capacity?
Strictly speaking this matter is not applicable because of my opinions in (1)-(6) above. However, for the assistance of the court I should say that it is not possible in such cases to give a precise date of even say a month when a person loses capacity unless there is a sudden event, such as a stroke. In my opinion CT's prognosis is poor and that he is likely to deteriorate over time. For instance, it would not surprise me if he had lost all the above capacities in six months or a year, if he lives that long.
(8) If CT now lacks the capacity to make decisions in relation to his property and affairs, what are his present wishes and feelings regarding his attorney and whether he is content for her to continue to manage his property and financial affairs now and in the future?
Again not strictly applicable, but he was clear to me that he is very content for EY to continue to assist him with managing his affairs.
(9) If CT now lacks the capacity to make decisions regarding contact and residence, what are his present wishes and feelings regarding contact and residence?
Again not strictly applicable, but I believe that he wishes to remain where he is at present. I believe that he is capable of deciding with whom he wants contact.
"In my opinion, when CT is at his current best and not in an episode of delirium, he retains the capacity to manage his affairs and to revoke or make an LPA, but that his capacities would be enhanced by disinterested advice. His capacity to litigate is not totally lacking but is, in my opinion, below a sufficient threshold, and he would, therefore, require a litigation friend."
Gemma Hopper's witness statement of 6 November 2014
"The Public Guardian understands that it can be difficult for an attorney to carry out their duties. However, it is of course important that the Public Guardian is not prevented from safeguarding potentially vulnerable adults as required by the Mental Capacity Act.
It is the Public Guardian's position that if EY had complied with the OPG's requests then a medical report would have been completed sooner and at no expense to CT. The results of the report would have resulted in the closure of our investigation.
The Public Guardian accepts the opinion of Professor Jacoby and awaits further directions from the court."
The hearing on 19 November 2014
(a) revoke or suspend the LPA dated 13 June 2013;
(b) make a new LPA;
(c) make decisions relating to his property and financial affairs;
(d) give instructions to his attorney in relation to his property and affairs; and
(e) instruct his attorney to provide an account of her dealings with his property and affairs.
(a) the application be dismissed; and
(b) the Public Guardian pay the costs of the second respondent, EY, to be assessed on the standard basis if not agreed.
Mark Baxter's submissions
"EY is the only party other than the OPG who has been put to costs by this application. EY asks the court to depart from the general rule and order the OPG to pay her costs.
EY accepts, of course, the OPG's statutory function to deal with complaints about the way in which the donee of an LPA is exercising his powers (MCA 2005, s 58(1)(h)). Her complaint is that the OPG's conduct of their investigation, of which the application forms part, has been such that neither CT nor herself should be required to bear the costs that investigation has caused.
The manner in which the OPG has conducted its investigation has been disproportionately heavy-handed and without regard to the limits of its statutory jurisdiction, the available evidence, or the presumption of capacity.
In summary, the OPG:
(1) Concluded without any, or any sufficient evidence, that EY was exercising or had exercised her powers under the LPA:
(a) the OPG assumed this to be so and assumed it had statutory jurisdiction to investigate;
(b) it has always been EY's position that she has never acted under the LPA, and accordingly that the OPG did not have jurisdiction to investigate, but this was dismissed by the OPG without any, or any proper, consideration.
(2) Failed to apply the presumption of capacity, accordingly:
(a) the OPG assumed EY, not CT, was managing CT's property and affairs;
(b) the OPG corresponded with EY, not CT, about C's property and affairs and the question of his capacity, when there was no basis for disenfranchising CT in this manner;
(c) the OPG sought information about CT's property and affairs from EY, notwithstanding she was not in a position to provide this;
(d) the OPG sought to arrange capacity assessment(s) of CT with EY, rather than with CT, and appears to criticise her for such assessments(s) not taking place as they wished.
(3) Ignored the evidence of CT's capacity to manage his property and affairs; and ignored the shortcomings in the evidence casting doubt on his capacity, which confirmed (or did not displace) the presumption of capacity:
(a) the OPG gave insufficient weight to the positive assessments of CT's capacity on 20 April 2012, 12 November 2012, 13 June 2013, 17 September 2013, and 22 October 2013;
(b) the OPG relied on the evidence of a medically unqualified Visitor, who purported to assess CT after rousing him from a deep sleep from which he remained exhausted;
(c) the OPG ignored its own conclusion that there was conflicting evidence as to CT's capacity to make decisions in relation to his financial affairs and property.
Further, the OPG has conducted these proceedings poorly in that:
(1) it refused to agree at the hearing on 20 August 2014 to the appointment of Professor Robin Jacoby to prepare a report on CT's capacity, notwithstanding being provided with a copy of his CV, which demonstrated his eminent suitability, and the court's own endorsement of his expertise.
(2) it took twelve days thereafter (just four days before the deadline for the instruction of the expert) to enquire of the two candidates as to their availability.
(3) notwithstanding the direction of Senior Judge Lush in his email to counsel of 20 August 2014 that the parties should attempt to agree a letter of instruction to the expert (who, the order of 20 August 2014 makes clear, was to be instructed jointly), and the OPG's counsel confirming he would convey this to his client by email of the same date, the OPG instructed Professor Jacoby unilaterally, without any attempt to agree the letter of instruction.
(4) The letter of instruction purported to enclose "all information available" but while it did enclose the OPG COP 1 Application and the supporting witness statement of David Richards dated 17 July 2014, it did not enclose the witness statement of EY dated 14 August 2014 in reply, which disputed much of David Richards' evidence thus Professor Jacoby was not provided with all the available evidence, and in particular was not provided with EY's evidence.
As the OPG admits, the application (and the costs thereof) could have been avoided if the OPG had obtained an assessment of capacity by consent. That could have been achieved if the OPG had properly applied the presumption of capacity, corresponded with CT from the outset, and sought his consent to an assessment of capacity (properly explaining its reasons for this) without involving EY.
Instead, the OPG unreasonably and improperly made and acted upon two presumptions, none of which were supported by the evidence and one of which was contrary to the MCA 2005 seeking to place the onus on EY of securing the assessment they sought and of convincing the OPG of CT's capacity, when the question of his capacity and consent to an assessment ought to have been addressed to CT himself. As a result of the OPG's wrong approach, this application and its costs became all but inevitable.
In all the circumstances, from the evidence available at the time, it should have been reasonably apparent to the OPG that an application to determine that CT lacked capacity to manage his property and affairs was doomed to fail.
In any event, the application would have been unnecessary if the OPG had applied the presumption of CT's capacity to manage his property and affairs and consent to an assessment and engaged with him (and him only) on these questions.
At the very least, the application almost certainly would have been dealt with consensually if pre-action correspondence had been with CT and the application itself had not criticised EY for simply acting on the basis that CT had capacity.
In all the circumstances, EY has been put to unnecessary and increased costs by the OPG's failure to comply with the MCA 2005, and its poor conduct in bringing and pursuing this application in the manner it has (including ignoring the court's exhortation to attempt to agree a joint letter of instruction to Professor Jacoby).
Accordingly, it would not be just for either CT or EY to bear any costs of this application. The only alternative is for the OPG to be required to bear its own costs and those of EY."
The law relating to costs in Court of Protection proceedings
(a) Part 19 (rules 155 to 168) of the Court of Protection Rules 2007 (Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 1744 (L. 12)); and
(b) two practice directions 19A and 19B which supplement Part 19 of the Court of Protection Rules, but are not relevant to this decision.
Property and affairs the general rule
156. Where the proceedings concern P's property and affairs the general rule is that the costs of the proceedings, or of that part of the proceedings that concerns P's property and affairs, shall be paid by P or charged to his estate.
Departing from the general rule
159. (1) The court may depart from rules 156 to 158 if the circumstances so justify, and in deciding whether departure is justified the court will have regard to all the circumstances, including:(a) the conduct of the parties;(b) whether a party has succeeded on part of his case, even if he has not been wholly successful; and(c) the role of any public body involved in the proceedings.
(2) The conduct of the parties includes:(a) conduct before, as well as during, the proceedings;(b) whether it was reasonable for a party to raise, pursue or contest a particular issue;(c) the manner in which a party has made or responded to an application or a particular issue; and(d) whether a party who has succeeded in his application or response to an application, in whole or in part, exaggerated any matter contained in his application or response.
(3) Without prejudice to rules 156 to 158 and the foregoing provisions of this rule, the court may permit a party to recover their fixed costs in accordance with the relevant practice direction.
" The work carried out by the local authorities and other public bodies such as NHS Trusts in this important field cannot be underestimated.
 That does not mean, however, that local authorities, or any other public bodies, can be excluded from liability to pay costs in appropriate cases. The rules about costs must be applied fairly to all litigants, regardless of who they are.
 Of course, it is right that the court should follow the general rule where appropriate. Parties should be free to bring personal welfare issues to the Court of Protection without fear of a costs sanction. Local authorities and others who carry out their work professionally have no reason to fear that a costs order will be made. The submission that local authorities will be discouraged from making applications to the Court of Protection if a costs order is made in this case is a thoroughly bad argument. The opposite is, in fact, the truth. It is only local authorities who break the law, or who are guilty of misconduct that falls within the meaning of rule 159, that have reason to fear a costs order. Local authorities who do their job properly and abide by the law have nothing to fear. In particular, the Court of Protection recognises that professional work in this very difficult field often involves very difficult judgments and decisions. The court is not going to impose a costs burden on a local authority simply because hindsight demonstrates that it got those judgments wrong.
 In this case, however, I am entirely satisfied that the local authority's blatant disregard of the processes of the MCA and their obligation to respect E's rights under the European Convention amount to misconduct which justifies departing from the general rule. "
"I have asked EY to assist me in writing this letter to you because I remain unable to write clearly and I do want to be sure you fully understand what I wish to say to you as it is very important to both of us.
I remained in the car for a long time because at first it seems you refused to even come out to the car to speak to me, apparently the reason you gave was that you were too frightened by the presence of EY and (her partner) who were accompanying me back to the hospital. Anyway, it seems you created quite a stir with the result that the police were called."
"Thank you for your letter dated 5th February 2014 which my daughter has read to me and discussed at length. I am grateful that you have had the courtesy of writing to me directly with a degree of openness not previously evident in your correspondence."
(1) Any person who without reasonable cause (a) refuses to allow the inspection of any premises; or(b) refuses to allow the visiting, interviewing or examination of any person by a person authorised in that behalf by or under this Act; or(c) refuses to produce for the inspection of any person so authorised any document or record the production of which is duly required by him; or(d) otherwise obstructs any such person in the exercise of his functions,shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, any person who insists on being present when required to withdraw by a person authorised by or under this Act to interview or examine a person in private shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) Any person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or to both.
"Over the course of these conversations EY referred everything to her partner. Quite politely they told me that CT did not want to see me but would not permit me to speak directly with him. They would not provide me with the name or address of CT's current general practitioner. As I understood it, they were of the view that although CT had made an LPA he was still capable of managing his own affairs and they were not using the LPA and therefore the OPG should not be involved with his affairs. They told me that they were in correspondence with the Office of the Public Guardian about the matter and that until this had been resolved they did not want me to visit their home."
"Again, I consider that he would benefit from disinterested advice before making this decision."
"Where more complex decisions are required he would, in my opinion, benefit from disinterested advice."
"I consider that at his best CT does retain the capacity to give instructions to his attorney in relation to his property and affairs, and that he would benefit from disinterested advice for more complex decisions."
" his capacities would be enhanced by disinterested advice."
"I am not making any comment here about the quality of the advice he now gets from EY because this is beyond my remit and I have no information on it anyway. However, because he is now dependent on her for his day to day care he might be more likely to accept her advice without more careful consideration."