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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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DEPRIVATION OF LIBERTY: A Local Authority v WMA and MA [2013] EWHC 2580 (COP)
Date:16 OCT 2013
Law Reporter

(Court of Protection, His Honour Judge Cardinal, 23 July 2013)

The man suffered from an autistic spectrum disorder, atypical autism and a pervasive development disorder. He lived an isolated and insulated life, largely dependent on his mother who suffered with sight and mobility problems. He had few life skills. There were serious concerns about the state of their living conditions which had already necessitated a move and also for the effects of the man's lifestyle on his long-term development. The social work team concluded that he needed to be moved into supported living accommodation.

The local authority sought an order as to the lawfulness of a deprivation of liberty to ensure a move was affected and that he remained there.

A consultant psychiatrist reported that the man lacked capacity to litigate, to make decisions for himself as to residence, to decide who to have contact with, the appropriate care package and whether he should be restrained at his new accommodation. He was also satisfied that a move was in his best interests for reasons of safety, psychological well-being, future self care and the acquisition of living skills.

Weighing all the evidence it was clear that the man did not have capacity to decide where he should live, what care package he should be subject to or what contact to have with his mother. In taking a best interests decision the judge had to bear in mind that the man's wishes and feelings to remain with his mother were not judged to be rational or sensible and to give them determinative weight would have long term emotional and psychological consequences.

It was clear that a move was necessary not for fanciful reasons but due to real risk. The mother was in effect abusing the man by restricting his development, keeping him isolated, refusing help, failing to ensure he is cleanly presented and keeping the home in a dirty and squalid condition. The court would provide for the deprivation of liberty by making orders permitting: the local authority to enter the home if necessary; for the police to restrain the man if necessary; to remove him from his current home and take him to the specialist accommodation where the local authority would have power to retain him if needed; and the local authority would have the power to sign the tenancy agreement on his behalf. Those measures were proportionate and necessary.