Belfast Health and Social Care Trust v PT [2017] NIFam 1, [2017] MHLO 7

"The court considers that four questions need to be addressed in this [Northern Irish] case: (a) Does PT lack capacity? (b) Is there a gap in the existing legislation, thereby permitting the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction? (c) Is the care plan in PT’s ‘best interests’? (d) Is the care plan compliant with the ECHR? ... There is therefore no difference between the statutory test and the existing common law tests. Hence, in determining the capacity of PT in respect of welfare matters, the court can apply the test set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005, even though that legislation does not apply in Northern Ireland, as it is in line with the existing common law tests. ... I find that PT lacks capacity to litigate, to make decisions about his care and residence and about whether to leave the home unescorted. ... Therefore, it is clear there is a lacuna or ‘gap’ in the 1986 Mental Health (NI) Order and as a result, a care plan which involves a deprivation of the liberty of a person subject to guardianship, cannot be sanctioned under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986. Such deprivation of liberty can only be sanctioned by the High Court acting under its inherent jurisdiction. ... I find that continuous supervision by his foster mother JB and the locking of the external doors of the home and car doors whilst it is in motion are in his best interests as they protect his health and physical safety. The provisions also ensure he can continue to live with JB, with whom he has a special bond. For this reason I find that it is in his emotional best interests to remain in this placement. This can only happen if the proposed deprivation of liberty is permitted. ... Therefore, before the court exercises its inherent jurisdiction it must fully address the following questions, in order to be satisfied that any order it makes complies with the ECHR. (a) Is Article 5 is engaged? Does the care plan contain provisions which amount to a deprivation of liberty? (b) If so, are the provisions of Article 5 (1) (e) met? (c) If so, is the detention in accordance with the objective of Article 5 and is it in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law? (d) Is the proposed Order compliant with the provisions of Article 5 (4)? ... I also find that although this is a benign regime, in accordance with the definition set out in Cheshire West, PT’s care plan involves a deprivation of liberty because there is constant supervision and he is not free to leave the home as the external doors are locked and car doors are locked whilst he is present. ... I find that the provisions of Article 5 (1) (e) are met. There is objective medical evidence before the court indicating that PT is of unsound mind, this condition is persisting and is of a kind to warrant his compulsory confinement as PT needs supervision to prevent him causing harm to himself. ... I find that the care plan represents the minimum deprivation necessary to achieve the aim of Article 5, namely to ensure that PT does not cause harm to himself. ... In accordance with the requirements of Article 5 (4) the Court order must provide for adequate review at reasonable intervals. The Trust seeks an order of 12 months duration. I find that this is a reasonable interval to review the order as the Care Plan and Guardianship are reviewed annually. To accord with the requirements of Article 5(4) the Order should also a include liberty to apply at short notice provision. The review provisions must also ensure that there is sufficient medical evidence before the court to enable it to review whether there still persists an unsoundness of mind of a degree or kind to warrant PT’s compulsory confinement. In addition it is necessary to build other safeguards into the Order including PT’s right to legal representation."

External link

BAILII.