These proceedings concerned the Protected Party (P), a 30-year-old woman, in proceedings originally brought by her Mother, who was the First Respondent. The Local Authority was the Applicant. P acted through her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor.
A dispute arose regarding the conclusions (in respect of capacity) reached in the second independent expert psychiatric report of Dr Rebecca O’Donovan. The Official Solicitor and the Local Authority accepted the conclusion, however P’s Mother did not.
P’s Mother previously brought 2 sets of proceedings following P moving out of her home. On the first occasion, P returned home voluntarily and, on the second occasion, (and the occasion in which these proceedings relate), P voluntarily returned home to live with her Mother during the week however, spends the weekends at her partners home. During the course of the two sets of proceedings, independent psychiatric reports were obtained from Dr Carpenter and Dr O’Donovan.
The Court was asked to make a determination in a number of elements regarding P’s capacity, namely capacity to:
- conduct proceedings (all agreed lacks capacity);
- decide where to live;
- decide on care;
- decide on contact (all agreed that re-assessment required);
- decide on access to social media;
- consent to sex (all agreed has capacity);
- decide on contraception;
- withhold information (all agreed has capacity);
- manage finances.
Dr O’Donovan’s professional opinion was that P had capacity in relation to all of the above issues (however did not comment on those agreed by the parties). P’s Mother made submissions against the conclusions in Dr O’Donovan’s report which were duly considered by the Court.
In making the determination, the Court had regard to the legal framework set out in section 1-3 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the principles set out in Kings College Hospital HNS Foundation Trust -v- C & V  EWCOP 80.
Upon consideration of the submissions, the Court found no reason to depart from the conclusions made by Dr O’Donovan in relation to all issues in dispute. As such, the Court discharged the extant declarations in relation to P’s capacity to make decisions in respect of care, contraception and who she has contact with.
This case is a good example of the weight in which the Court will place on independent experts and demonstrates the difficulties in opposing the conclusions reached.
The full judgement can be read here
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