In an unprecedented judgment in the Court of Protection, Mr Justice Charles, vice president of the Court, placed responsibility on the government to ensure that each vulnerable individual whose liberty is considered in the Court of Protection has appropriate representation when their case is considered. The judgment was achieved by way of four test cases (JM & others), where no appropriate representative could be found for reasons including resource constraints.The Law Society intervened in the case, to help the Court of Protection in its efforts to find a solution to the lack of appropriate representatives available for vulnerable people in cases where decisions are made about their freedom.
Mr Justice Charles also ruled that all future similar cases will be adjourned until a workable solution is found. This means that large numbers of such cases, concerning what are often crucial health and welfare decisions, will now be pending indefinitely.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers added:
’The Law Society gave evidence in this and other related cases because solicitors told us that vulnerable people’s rights are at risk. The Law Society has a role set out in statute which enables us to represent the public interest in cases like JM, where people’s rights are threatened.
‘We recognise that the Court of Protection, local authorities’ and government budgets are stretched. But those who are least able to defend themselves should not be sacrificed on the altar of austerity. Today’s judgment makes the government responsible for making sure vulnerable people are properly represented when important decisions are made about their care. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice to find a solution that is in the best interests of vulnerable people who come to the Court of Protection.’