Court appoints ‘successive deputies’ for 26 year-old

Family Law|August 10th 2015

The Court of Protection has appointed “successive deputies” for a 26 year-old autistic woman.

If someone is deemed unable to make decisions about their own life and wellbeing, the Mental Capacity Act gives the Court the authority to appoint deputies to make such decisions. In some instances, successive deputies are appointed, with later appointees taking over from the first deputy.

Sitting at the Court of Protection in London, Senior Judge Lush explained that such arrangements were actually quite rare. Usually, in cases involving older people, joint deputies are appointed, such as a spouse and children.

In Re H, the woman in question suffered from autism, had “almost unintelligible speech and very limited communication skills”. She lived with her parents in Cambridgeshire. They applied to be named “deputies for property and affairs and personal welfare” and for three others to be named successive deputies: the mother’s two sisters and a woman who met the woman in college.

The judge said that the appointment of a deputy for the woman, ‘H’, was necessary because she lacked the “capacity to make decisions on most matters” and that it was unlikely she would gain such capacity in the future.

However, Judge Lush added that the parents’ application was based on a “false premise”: that when they die, the Court “would appoint someone from outside H’s circle of support as her deputy”. The judge said such an outcome was “unlikely” but possible. He also noted that there was “currently no infrastructure … or any practice direction governing the procedure to be followed on a successive appointment”.

Despite these disadvantages, the judge said that appointing successive deputies would ensure “continuity of care and decision-making” and “continued contact with persons whom H knows”. Although “the disadvantages slightly outnumber[ed] the advantages”, he decided to allow the appointment of successive deputies.

He declared that the decision would “give H’s parents peace of mind” and would allow them to “sleep soundly at night, knowing that they have put their affairs in order”. Judge Lush concluded with his belief that the three deputies “will feel a stronger sense of responsibility and commitment towards H” now that they have been officially appointed.

To read the full judgment, click here.

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