This case concerned LC, a young woman with autism and significant learning disabilities. A feature of LC’s autism was her preoccupation with seeking out sexual encounters with men. In 2013, proceedings were initiated in the Court of Protection because “it was felt that LC was at very significant risk of sexual harm if she were permitted unfettered liberty or, in fact, to be unescorted in the community generally.” During the course of proceedings, LC was assessed as having capacity to consent to sexual relations, marry, and make decisions about contraception; but to lack the capacity to make other decisions such as to conduct the proceedings, make decisions about her residence and about her contact with men. A care plan was formulated which permitted LC to have unsupervised contact with men. As Mr Justice Hayden observed with “the enormous benefit of hindsight” this led to LC’s safety and dignity being compromised and placed an intolerable burden on those supervising her. The plan attracted significant public criticism. LC now lives in a residential home with visits from her husband. The judge endorsed LC’s treatment plan and directed a report from a female clinical psychologist, noting the obligation under the Mental Capacity Act to take steps to promote decision making capacity. Mr Justice Hayden also recognised the need for public debate on, and further consideration given to, “whether the measures put in place to protect LC in those areas where she lacks capacity may legitimately impinge on her autonomy in those areas where her capacity is established.” He also stated that “where issues arise that may necessitate restrictions in areas where adults have capacity, these should be heard by a High Court Judge in the Court of Protection.”
The full judgment can be read here.
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