The costs involved in Court of Protection proceedings have been branded “a matter of serious concern” by a new study.
Researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics said that the reasons for the “high cost and lengthy duration” of such cases merited “urgent investigation”.
Data was gathered from local authorities across England and Wales which included how many Court of Protection cases they had been involved in, how long they lasted, and how much each one cost. Of those approached, 82 per cent of authorities provided the requested information.
According to the study, over half of cases cost the local authorities at least £8,881, and the most expensive case reportedly cost £250,000.
It also found that half of the completed cases had taken nine months or longer, whereas half of all ongoing cases had lasted at least a year. Some cases had gone on for as long as seven years. Researchers said such cases were likely to be where someone had been ‘deprived of their liberty’, and its continuation needed regular authorisation from the courts.
People who are deemed unable to make decisions for themselves under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, due to illness or disability, can have some decisions made on their behalf. However, sometimes those decisions can effectively restrict their personal freedom. Under the law, this is a “deprivation of liberty”.
Lead author of the study Dr Lucy Series warned that local authorities could face “devastating consequences for their resources” if they, and the Court of Protection, do not “radically change” the way they approach cases.
The study said that the importance of looking at costs was increased by what has become known as the ‘Cheshire West case’ in the Supreme Court, claiming it would lead to “an exponential increase in applications” to the Court of Protection. This case occurred last year, when a ruling made by President of the Family Division Sir James Munby was overturned. The Supreme Court effectively lowered the standard for what constitutes a deprivation of someone’s liberty.
To read the full Cardiff University study, click here.
Photo by David Goehring via Flickr