Vital ruling on man’s liberty

Victory: Philippa Curran of O'Donnells solicitors

Victory: Philippa Curran of O'Donnells solicitors

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A Preston law firm has played a key role in a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court that will have national implications for future cases involving the liberty of mentally incapacitated people.

O’Donnells solicitors said today the ruling formed “arguably the greatest decision on liberty of the decade.”

The case involves a profoundly mentally and physically disabled man who – it has been ruled – has been unlawfully deprived of his liberty by local authority Cheshire West and Chester Council.

O’Donnells acted on behalf of the severely disabled man in his 30s, who lacks mental capacity to make decisions about his welfare.

He requires 24 hour care and has for the past few years been under the complete control of the local authority after his mother was unable to care for him.

The local authority placed the man in shared accommodation, providing one-to-one care and intervening in the event of challenging behaviour.

The Court of Protection was asked to sanction these arrangements as being in his best interests.

Philippa Curran, partner at O’Donnells, said: “We argued that while the arrangements made by the local authority may have been in our client’s best interests, they also amounted to depriving him of his liberty.

“We wanted this to be recognised by the court, sanctioned and kept under periodic independent review. The judge in the Court of Protection agreed with this request, but the local authority did not and challenged this in the Court of Appeal.

“The Court of Appeal found that this was not a deprivation of liberty as he was enjoying a relatively normal life and it was seen to be the best life someone with his disability could be provided with.”

She added: “It was then taken to the Supreme Court who was asked to decide in cases of mentally incapacitated people, what is a deprivation of liberty.

“This landmark ruling will give clarity to hospitals, care homes and social services and ensure that a mentally incapacitated person is not deprived of their liberty without a means for their placement and care arrangements to be independently reviewed, as to do so would be to contravene their human rights.”

Ms Curran said the man’s situation was shared by many people and had been the subject of severe criticism by a House of Lords Select Committee.