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Court and councils could face ten-fold increase in liberty deprivation cases

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The Law Society Gazette has reported that Judge Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the High Court has warned the the Court of Protection is likely to see a ten - fold increase in it's work load in relation to deprivation of liberty (DOLS) cases. 

These are cases where a Local Authority seeks authorisation to deprive someone, who they believe lacks capacity, of their liberty where it is deemed to be in their best interests.  

The warning comes following the decision in P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and P&Q v Surrey County Council  [2014] UKSC 19 which overturned previous rulings which had defined deprivation of liberty more restrictively. The ruling means that many things including a lack of objection to the placement and level of disability are irrelevant to the question of whether DOLS is lawful in any particular case.

There are concerns that the volume of cases may now overwhelm the court and hinder justice as the number of people being deprived of their liberty on mental health grounds has been 'vastly' underestimated. There are similar fears that Councils will also struggle with the need to undertake, at great expense in time and money, six assessments before making a DOLS determination.

Sir Munby took part in a hearing last week to discuss options for dealing with the increase including allowing bulk applications by Local Authorities and extending the time scale for completion of DOLS assessments. 

The ten fold estimate comes from research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services into 105 of the 153 Local Authorities in England.

Sheree Green, member of the Law Society's Mental Health and Disability committee is reported to have said: 'The court is rightly considering the need for the vulnerable person, who may be deprived of their liberty as part of their care arrangements, to have an unequivocal right to legal representation, access to public funding, whilst mindful of the need to streamline and simplify the process.' 

By Emma McClure, Court of Protection team

Finding yourself in dispute with a Local Authority about your or a family member's capacity to make decisions can be a particularly stressful time. This can be compounded by unfamiliar court proceedings. If you are concerned that a family member or loved one is being deprived of his or her liberty, then we are able to provide specialist advice, guidance and representation through this process. Call us on 01616 966 229