The state must protect vulnerable people from being deprived of their liberty without proper legal safeguards, the Law Society of England and Wales said following a stinging ruling in the Court of Protection.
’The judgment shines a light on a largely hidden area of our justice system where people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or a learning disability wait indefinitely for their cases to be heard because of a lack of funding for representation,’ Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws said.
‘People can be deprived of their liberty, their movements closely supervised and restricted and they may be given medication and other treatments to control their behaviour.
‘These restrictive arrangements may be in the individual’s best interests, but authorisation from the Court of Protection is needed to ensure the vulnerable person’s rights are adequately protected.’
Many people will understand the challenges of making decisions for a relative who is unable to give their consent.
‘We are very grateful to Mr Justice Charles for his continued determination to highlight the human cost of cuts to local authority and rationed Ministry of Justice funding – and to find a solution,’ Christina Blacklaws added.
‘The 330 stayed cases at the Court of Protection represent a fraction of the thousands of people around the country who we believe are being deprived of their liberty without proper judicial oversight, in contravention of their rights under the Human Rights Act.
’The Law Society Mental Capacity Accreditation scheme, which trains and vets solicitors so that they have the skills and knowledge to represent the interests of people who lack capacity, is only part of the solution.
‘As Mr Justice Charles makes clear, the State can no longer abdicate responsibility for providing funding – either to local authorities or to the Ministry of Justice – to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.’