Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law & Human Rights team in Bristol represented Mr W, a vulnerable adult in his late forties who has cerebral palsy and severe learning disabilities. He lives in his own home with a 24 hour care team.
In 2012, his family suspected that Mr W had been abused by one of his carers. The carer was removed and an investigation took place but the outcome was inconclusive because Mr W couldn’t communicate what had happened to him. The incident was hugely upsetting for the whole family and had a lasting impact on Mr W.
Mr W’s family wanted to make sure that he would be protected against possible abuse in the future and considered various ways to safeguard Mr W, including the installation of CCTV in his home. Mr W’s new care team confirmed they fully supported the use of the CCTV and felt that it would also provide them with protection against allegations as well.
As Mr W didn't have capacity to consent to the use of CCTV himself, a best interest decision had to be taken on his behalf in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
Mrs W notified the local authority about her proposals for CCTV. The local authority didn't believe that the use of CCTV was in Mr W’s best interests and felt that it breached Mr W’s right to privacy.
The family couldn't resolve their dispute with the local authority and so approached Irwin Mitchell to act on Mr W’s behalf. We then met with the local authority on Mr W’s behalf to ensure that the local authority promptly referred the matter to the Court of Protection, so the Court could determine what was in Mr W’s best interests in the absence of agreement.
As part of the proceedings, the judge visited Mr W at his home to see how the CCTV would be installed. A court hearing was held in February 2014 and the court heard evidence from Mr W’s mother and the local authority. Both parties were represented by barristers who specialised in Court of Protection cases.
The judge carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of using CCTV and concluded that, on balance, the use of CCTV was in Mr W’s best interests.
Polly Sweeney, the solicitor who represented Mr W in the case, said: “Although we are obviously pleased that the judge has agreed with the arguments that we put forward on Mr W’s behalf, the court also made clear that a decision about the use of CCTV in someone’s home is a very serious matter, and must be based on the specific facts of the case. It is likely that in many cases, the court may find that the use of CCTV is not justified.
“However, in Mr W’s case, the court was satisfied that there would be proper arrangements in place for monitoring and reviewing the use of the CCTV, that his carers were happy with the arrangements, and that overall, the arrangements would enhance Mr W’s life.
“The case is an important example of how the Court of Protection can be used effectively and quickly to resolve disputes about what is in the best interests of someone who lacks capacity and judge’s decision shows clearly the careful balancing exercise that the court has to undertake when making decisions of this nature.”
For expert advice on matters relating to mental capacity law, please contact Polly Sweeney of Irwin Mitchell's Public Law & Human Rights team on 0370 1500 100 or complete our enquiry form.
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