22. A Local Authority v DL and Others  EWHC 2675 (Fam) (Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, 14 October 2010). www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2010/2675.html Although this is technically not a Court of Protection case, it involves interesting issues relating to the protection of vulnerable adults. Mr L is 85. Mrs L is 90. Neither of them lacks capacity. They live with their son DL, who is in his 50s. There are documented incidents of abuse of his parents by DL since 2005, and consistent reports that he is seeking to coerce his father into transferring ownership of the house into his name, and to have his mother placed in a care home against her wishes.
The local authority wished to take steps to protect Mr and Mrs L from DL considered and rejected:
- using the criminal law;
- an application to the Court of Protection under the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
- an application for an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order); and
- an application under section 153A of the Housing Act 1996.
In his judgment, the President considered two bases upon which he had jurisdiction to make a non-molestation injunction against DL:
- the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to protect vulnerable adults; and
- section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972, which provides that where a local authority consider it expedient for the promotion of the interests of the inhabitants of their area, they may prosecute or defend or appear in any legal proceedings and, in the case of any civil proceedings, may institute them in their own name.
The court has a jurisdictional basis to intervene under its inherent jurisdiction. Following the decisions of Mr Justice Munby in Re SA (Vulnerable Adult with capacity: Marriage)  EWHC 2942 and Re MM: Local Authority X v MM and KM  EWHC 2003 (Fam), it has an inherent jurisdiction over vulnerable adults who, although not lacking capacity, are reasonably believed to be (i) under constraint, or (ii) subject to coercion or undue influence, or (iii) for some other reason deprived of the ability to make a free choice. Although this was sufficient to dispose of the application, the facts also warranted action under section 222 of the LGA 1972.