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Court of Protection protects teenage boy from his own 'impulsivity'

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In the case of Buckinghamshire County Council and RT (by their guardian KT) [2018] EWCOP 12, the Court of Protection has ruled that a 17 year old boy be deprived of his liberty at a specialist unit in order to protect him from his own ‘impulsivity’.

The circumstances of the case are extremely unfortunate in that RT, as he was referred to in the proceedings, was adopted when he was five years old along with his two brothers, RT was one of triplets. The children had suffered ‘serious abuse at the hands of their birth parents’. In his judgment, Mr Justice Williams stated that ‘the consequences of the abuse RT suffered continue to sound now some 12 years later. RT's behavioural issues are such that it is no longer safe for him at home’.

The court acknowledged that RT suffers from a range of complex difficulties and a report completed by Dr Eldad Farhy, a consultant psychotherapeutic and counselling psychologist stated that RT has an intellectual capacity of 59 in the extremely low range’. The report also stated that ‘RT also suffers from deficits in adaptive functioning that may indicate high functioning autism or an incipient antisocial personality disorder’.

In June 2016, following ten years of living with his adoptive parents and siblings, RT was accommodated by the local authority as he had been displaying challenging behaviour. His behaviour then improved somewhat and it was agreed that RT should return to live back in the family home in January 2017.

Following his return home, unfortunately his behaviour became even more challenging. There had been several occasions where he had threatened different people with a knife, including both of his adoptive parents. Furthermore, RT had started to set fires in the family home, placing both his siblings and adoptive parents at risk.

It was also noted in the proceedings that RT has started to ‘harm himself or expose himself to serious harm’, incidents of which included ‘taken an overdose of medicine, holding a knife to his neck, put ligatures around his neck, running into busy roads and running away from home’.

In addition to the above, Mr Justice Williams paid credence to a specific feature of RT’s behaviour which was that he ‘can become obsessive about girls or young women he knows and may follow them or bombard them with messages or otherwise behave intrusively’. This was a real cause for concern for the court.

The matter came to a head on 16 October 2017 when RT attempted to throw himself off a balcony at school. Fortunately, the staff at the school were able to hold onto RT as he was about to fall. Mr Justice Williams referred to this incident during his analysis of the case and stated that ‘Had he fallen he would have suffered very serious injuries if not been killed.

In early January 2018, RT moved to an autism specific residential service which was designed to provide specialist care for those between the ages of 18 – 65. Following the move, RT challenged his deprivation of liberty via his advocate and the local authority made the application to the Court of Protection to enable the court to determine which future residence option would be in his best interests.

In analysing the case, Williams J stated ‘It is clear that RT may injure himself if not subject to the most stringent levels of supervision. He has demonstrated impulsive behaviour of the most extreme kind which has put his life at risk. It is also clear that RT can behave towards others in a highly aggressive and threatening way which puts him at risk of retaliation by third parties who do not know him. It also puts him at risk of being subject to criminal proceedings.’

In concluding his judgment, Mr Justice Williams stated that ‘It is very clear that it is RT's best interests to remain in an environment in which he can be protected from his own impulsivity and where others are protected’.

The case emphasises that the Court of Protection covers a wide range of issues in the public domain and it ensures that there are adequate safeguards for those who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Stephensons have a specialist team of Court of Protection solicitors covering cases nationwide and have the benefit of a legal aid contract (subject to eligibility). Should you require any assistance or advice on any matter which may relate to the Court of Protection or community care, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01616 966 229.

By Jamie Gordon, trainee solicitor in the Court of Protection and community care department