Local authorities “should take notice of landmark legal ruling”

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Local authorities “should take notice of landmark legal ruling”

15th August 2011

A landmark legal ruling to allow a Court of Protection case to be reported in ‘real time’ has been welcomed by a leading expert in human rights law.

Mark McGhee, head of the Human Rights and Community Law department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, was speaking after a Judge ruled that a man’s legal battle with the local authority caring for his elderly father was of ‘specific public interest’.

“The case revolves around an elderly widower who, his son claims, is being forced against his wishes to live in a care home where he is being unlawfully denied contact with his family,” said Mark. “As the case is being heard in the Court of Protection – the specialist court dealing with cases involving vulnerable people – the proceedings could not be reported without a specific ruling by the judge.”

Even when publicity is granted, reporting of such cases is usually strictly limited to a few key facts that can only be published after the final judgment has been made. But the judge in this instance, Mr Justice Ryder, ruled that the case is ‘a paradigm case in an area which happens to be at the forefront of public awareness, (and is) therefore not just of general public interest but of specific public interest.’

“This is perhaps the first time that detailed reporting has been permitted while a Court of Protection case is in progress, and this move is a victory for those fighting against injustices perpetrated by the very people supposedly charged with their care,” said Mark, who specialises in cases involving vulnerable people.

“Although the circumstances of this particular case are yet to be fully discussed, the ruling will have wider implications for those many cases that follow in its wake,” he said.

Mark explained that the ruling means the public will now be able to follow the step-by-step decision-making process of the court in this case, and for the first time, be able to examine the arguments over whether and when the controversial Deprivation of Liberty Orders, which came into force in April 2009, should be applied to hospital patients and residents of care homes.

“For too long, local authorities have been allowed to hide behind the shield of anonymity afforded them by the rules on reporting Court of Protection cases, and this landmark ruling should make them sit up and take notice,” he said.

“They can no longer hide what they are being accused of from the public, or their arguments for depriving someone of their liberty,” he said. “Those members of the public who are affected by these issues will now be able to read and hear about them as they happen, rather than once all the legal dust has settled.”

Read more at: The Guardian