Judge brands council treatment of dementia sufferer ‘woefully inadequate’

Family|May 19th 2014

A district judge has strongly criticised a council’s decision to move an elderly woman into a care home without seeking court approval.

Milton Keynes Council also failed to properly investigate concerns about the woman’s welfare.

The Council’s handling of the case had been “been woefully inadequate from the start”, said District Judge Mort in a hearing at the Court of Protection in London.

In Milton Keynes Council v RR & Ors, ‘RR’, an 81 year-old lady, had led an active and independent life before succumbing to dementia. Initially mild, her condition later became more severe and her son, ‘SS’, left his home in Germany to look after her.

In September 2012, the manager of a day care centre attend by RR raised concerns after noticing bruising and scratches on her nose, cheek and legs.  However, these concerns were not investigated until a further alert was issued the following month. At that point, she was taken into a care home.

Two social workers attended her home without court authorisation and took RR away, after she had “unsurprisingly” been unable to explain how the injuries had occurred. Her son SS was not in at the time and was not told of her whereabouts until 19 days later after his solicitor wrote to the council.

Milton Keynes Council did not apply for retrospective court authorisation until four days after RR had been taken into a care home, and only received this approximately two weeks afterwards.

The Council subsequently made allegations of neglect against SS, the details of which ran to 39 pages, but he denied these and eventually, in February this year, the local authority declared that they would not be pursuing the claims.

The same month SS consented to an order declaring that his mother lacked the capacity to litigate on her behalf and that it was in her “best interests” to stay at the care home.

District Judge Mort said:

“It is SS’s position that he had little choice other than give his consent as no more suitable residential option was available for RR.”

RR had been detained “unlawfully”, the judge declared. He continued:

“The initial failure of [Milton Keynes Council] to investigate the safeguarding concerns was deplorable as was their failure to apply to the Court of Protection for authority to remove RR from her home. The 19 day delay in applying to the court compounds their failure as does their failure to advise SS of his mother’s whereabouts for the same period.”

In addition, “contact between RR and her son was subject to restrictions for longer than was necessary.”

The Council had breached two of the elderly lady’s key rights under Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the judge ruled.

“There can be no excuse for [Milton Keynes Council’]s initial failure to investigate the [concerns about RR’s status]. The way they have dealt with this case has been woefully inadequate from the start. It has resulted in avoidable and unlawful interference in respect of RR’s [Article] 5 right to liberty and security of person and her [Article] 8 right to respect for her private and family life and her home. Those rights are not invalidated, nor are the unlawful interferences with those rights rendered any less serious by virtue of RR’s incapacity.”

The Court of Protection makes legal rulings on behalf of people unable to make own decisions about their health, welfare, or finances due to illness or disability.

Read the full judgement here.

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