Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
Shut Up While We Steal Your Family and Property
October 17, 2012 permalink
Richard Browning-Smith was hospitalized in 2009 for foot surgery. He spent some time recuperating in Horkesley Manor care home in Essex England, where social workers, without a medical diagnosis, decided he was unable to look after himself. He went to a bus stop on his own to get home, but social workers took him back by force and held him in the dementia unit. His son Richard Jr was out of the country at the time. But on his return, he tried to get his father, still able to solve crosswords and play chess, back home. Social workers complained about the condition of the father's home, so Richard Jr arranged to spend £60,000 on renovations. When Richard took his father home from Horkesley Manor, police arrived to take him back, but as there was no custody order in place, they left without taking dad. But a few weeks later Horkesley Manor completed the legal formalities and retrieved him. A year into the ordeal, Horkesley became the deputy of Richard Sr, what is called a guardian in other places. They got full control of his assets, including his bank accounts. Soon Richard Jr had to pay rent to live in what had been the family home for 50 years and his family heirlooms are in storage waiting to be auctioned.
Richard Jr has fought back through the courts, reaching the European Court of Human Rights. He has also drawn public attention to the case. Two newspaper articles are enclosed. A judge has ordered Richard Jr to avoid naming a council official, court officials or anything to do with the Court of Protection either through the press or social network sites, while warning that violation could result in three to six months in jail. On this coming November 2 the court will conduct a hearing on Richard Jr's capacity to litigate. This is a British procedure for getting rid of recalcitrant opponents by declaring them unfit to conduct their own litigation. A lapdog gets appointed in their place to concede everything the opponent wants. Mr Browning-Smith knows English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Latin and French. Doesn't sound incompetent.
This is the familiar story of a child abducted and placed in foster care to justify a claim on the public treasury. In the Browning-Smith case, it is at the other end of life, and the father's estate may be part of the temptation.
Because of the threats against Richard Jr, we won't mention the source for these paragraphs.
Son in legal battle with county to save heirlooms
A MAN is set for a court battle with social services bosses, who want to sell his father’s heirlooms to pay for his care.
Richard Browning-Smith wants Essex County Council removed as the legal guardian of his father, also called Richard.
He opposes the authority’s plan to finance his father’s care at Great Horkesley Manor by auctioning the work of two of Impressionist artist Camille Pisarro’s descendants worth an estimated £120,000.
He is certain there is a conflict of interest with the council paying for the care while holding the family purse strings.
Mr Browning-Smith, 57, will next month take the council to the Court of Protection in a bid to become his father’s legal guardian and end plans to sell the family heirlooms.
He would pay his bills by remortgaging his home in Maltings Wharf, Manningtree.
He said: “Essex County Council is taking me to the Court of Protection in June to get permission to sell the family heirlooms at Chelmsford,which I will contest.
“I will also ask for damages against Essex because they have cost my father and me so much money in legal fees.
“You cannot believe it could happen in this country.
“It is a warning to people they should make their wishes known – for example in a living will – before they are deemed to have become incapable. They can then make their own deputies for the future – a son or daughter, or someone from the next generation.
“Otherwise, you could see the county council appointed and you could be locked up for your own protection.”
Mr Browning-Smith says his widowed father was sent to the care home in October 2009 following a social worker’s assessment at Essex County Hospital, Colchester, where he spent three weeks recovering from a foot operation.
He said: “The social worker said he didn’t know where he wanted to live and didn’t know how to handle his finances.”
Mr Browning-Smith did not become his father’s legal guardian at that time as he was out of the country.
Last November, Essex County Council appointed its own people as deputies, despite Mr Browning-Smith’s efforts to get a family friend to stand in.
Half of Mr Browning-Smith’s care is paid for by benefits and a pension, while his son has so far been paying some of the remainder.
He has now been told he can no longer pay himself, and that it must come from his father’s wealth.
The works by Pisarro’s son, Lucien, and grand-daughter, Orovida, came to the Browning-Smith family via son Richard’s late godfather and Lucien’s uncle, John Bensusan-Butt.
Now they are being held in storage, along with the family’s antique furniture.
Mr Browning-Smith said his father had short-term memory loss, but not dementia, and was capable of answering crossword clues. He said he wanted to return to West Mersea, his home since 1964.
He added: “If he was here, he would be much happier.
“It is ridiculous for them to try and indoctrinate you and say he is happy there.
He added: “This has cost me nearly £30,000 in legal fees, but if it results in getting my father back, it is money well spent. ”
A spokesman for the council said: “Essex County Council cannot comment about this case.”
Source: Daily Gazette News, Colchester Essex
Mersea Man takes Council to European Court
Eighty-year-old Richard Browning-Smith of West Mersea had been a heavy smoker all his adult life, and in 2009 he was diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease. In September of that year, he was admitted to hospital to have two toes amputated.
Richard lived at Lavender Cottage, Kingsland Beach, which had been his family home since 1964, and he set off for Colchester General hospital in the full expectation that he would be returning as soon as he had been discharged. Events were to prove otherwise.
After his operation, he was sent to Horkesley Manor care home for a short period of recuperation, after which, it was understood, he was to return to Lavender Cottage. But while he was at the care home, visiting social workers decided that he would be incapable of looking after himself if left alone. They claimed that he did not fully understand his finances and was not sure if he wanted to return home. However, when they found him walking to the nearest bus stop on his way back to Mersea, they forced him to return to the care home, stating later that they 'thought he might be a danger to himself'. He was admitted directly to the dementia unit.
At this time, Richard's son - also named Richard - was abroad, and when he returned to the UK at the end of December he went immediately to Horkesley Manor.
He demanded to know why his father was being held against his will, and was told by social workers that the 80-year-old 'no longer had the capacity to look after himself' and was suffering from dementia.
They added that the house at Kingsland Beach was unsuitable for a man of his age as it was not in a good state of repair.
'I found this particularly astonishing', said Richard. 'My father had been happily living in the house up to the time of the operation, and now it was suddenly being deemed unfit by people who knew nothing about it. As for dementia, like most people of his age my father had a degree of short-term memory loss, but he was still quite capable of doing crosswords and playing chess, so I have no idea what they meant by that. I'm not aware that he underwent any medical diagnosis.'
When he learned that the condition of Lavender Cottage was one of the reasons that he was being kept in the care home, Richard's father immediately gave his son access to his bank account and asked him to make whatever repairs and renovations that were necessary.
'We spent nearly £60,000 on double glazing, a new heating system and many other improvements', said Richard 'but it made no difference. Even though I told them that the family would pay for round-the-clock care to keep him at home where he belonged, the social workers said that they still intended to impose a deprivation of liberty order on my father.
'However, before they could get the order signed, I went to Horkesley Manor and collected him. He was delighted to be going home, but shortly after we got there the police arrived. They said that the social workers were claiming that I had abducted my father, but since the deprivation of liberty order was not yet in force, they admitted that they were powerless to act. My father was adamant that he wanted to remain in his own home, and after a three-hour discussion the police left.
'The following week, I took my father on a boating holiday along the Suffolk coast. We were in Felixstowe when I received an email from social services stating that the deprivation of liberty order was now in place and that I was to return my father to Horkesley Manor immediately.
'We had made an appointment at the local clinic to have the dressings on his foot changed, and when we arrived the police were waiting. I was powerless to stop them driving my father away.
'A week later, I went to the high court in London to get him released from what we both considered a prison sentence, but my appeal was refused. What's more, the social services department at Essex County Council applied to the court to impose conditions that would prevent me - in their words - abducting my father again. This means that if I want to see him I have to give the care home a week's notice, and we are only allowed to be together inside the building.
'At the end of 2010, social services instigated a process to become my father's legal deputy. They didn't have to give any grounds or reasons, but they were still granted full control of my father's finances and property. They had access to his bank accounts and stocks and shares holdings, and were technically landlords of the family home.
'Up to this point, I had been paying my father's care home bills, even though neither of us wanted him to be there. I was told that, in future, these costs would be met by social services who would sequester funds directly from my father's bank account
'I was still living in Lavender Cottage, but the council said that since they were now legally responsible for the property, in future I would have to pay them rent of up to £1.500 per month if I wanted to remain in my family home of nearly 50 years. They made it very clear that they wanted me out as soon as possible.
'They are also trying to sell my father's belongings, which they have impounded at a storage facility in Chelmsford. There are paintings by French artist Camille Pissarro's son and granddaughter that are worth well over £100,000, as well as antique furniture and other items. So far, I have been charged storage fees of nearly £5,000.'
Over the course of his battle with Essex County Council, Richard claims to have accumulated legal fees of over £30,000. However, his latest tactic has cost nothing. He has issued a writ of Habeas Corpus - an action that is always heard without cost in an English court - against Essex County Council for the unlawful detention of his father.
'Justice Bean, who presided over the case, instructed the council to appoint an official solicitor to act for them', said Richard, 'but although at first she agreed, a week later she mysteriously refused to pick up the case. It is obvious to me that this was because Essex County Council just didn't want the hearing to go ahead.
'However, the fact that all avenues for redress in the UK jurisdiction were now exhausted meant that I could apply to the European court of human rights for a judgement. Because there are allegations of false imprisonment and cruelty, the case has been given a fast-track grading and I am hopeful that it will be heard in the very near future.
'Apart from their grave treatment of my father, Essex County Council have threatened me with contempt of court proceedings and possible imprisonment because I have resisted their heartless, bullying tactics. But I will continue to refuse to co-operate with them while they are treating my family with such contempt.
'I have served notice on them that the case is now being heard in Strasbourg and asked them to supply all the details and paperwork that they have so far kept from me. If they refuse, the court of human rights will make an order against them.
'They have been holding me to account like a criminal; now it's their turn. I am determined to get my father out of their clutches.'
The Essex county Council social services department said that it was unable to comment.
Source: Mersea Island Courier
Addendum: In a court order dated October 12, 2012 judge Eldergill has comprehensively gagged Mr Browning-Smith and the court is taking steps to disqualify him from litigating and to take control of his assets. If successful, the court system will take the estates of both father and son, maybe a quarter million pounds. It will be used to pay for the so-called care for Richard Senior. A reasonable guess is £10,000 a year for his few remaining years, the rest to be divvied up by the lawyers.
Addendum: While Richard is safely muzzled by a court-imposed gag order, the press is free to spin the case against him. All the same facts he told in his own story, but presented in a way showing the court officers as the heros.
A Pissarro painting, the struggle to pay for care and the public's right to know
Following a campaign to report on the Court of Protection, a son's plea for publicity has illustrated the very difficult issues it is forced to confront
It began with a call about a Pissarro painting. Earlier this year, a man whose elderly father had been taken into care contacted The Independent and said his local authority wanted to sell off a series of family heirlooms. Among the items the council was hoping to auction in order to pay for the elderly man's care bills was a 1906 landscape by the Franco-British artist Lucien Pissarro.
The man's son insisted his local authority was being mendacious, refusing to return his father to his home and choosing to auction items that held deeply sentimental value to the family.But the full story is significantly more complex. After The Independent successfully led a consortium of news organisations to seek access to the case in the Court of Protection, it can now be revealed for the first time.
Far from being mendacious, the court was told how the local authority had bent over backwards to accommodate the son's wishes, despite the fact that he had spent more than £70,000 of his father's assets without permission and had been allowed to live in his house rent-free. The judge, meanwhile, spared the man a referral for prosecution and a potentially lengthy jail sentence after he repeatedly committed contempt of court by illegally posting details about the case on Facebook, with his local newspaper and on the walls of his local fish-and-chip shop.
The case is important because it sheds light on how councils must find ways to pay for elderly patients who may need years of round-the-clock supervision. It also reinforces the importance of media being able anonymously to report complicated cases in private court hearings so that both sides of a story can be told accurately and the public informed about how such courts work.
With a population of increasing longevity, requests by local authorities to sell someone's assets are becoming increasingly common. Once someone becomes incapacitated and needs expensive assistance, possessions can be sold off to pay for that care. But the sale of such items can often prove deeply traumatic for a patient's family.
The problem with accusations of wrongdoing from relatives of patients is that they are difficult to assess because care proceedings for those who have lost the capacity to make vital decisions about their lives are dealt with by the Court of Protection.
Most proceedings within the important but little-known Court of Protection are held in private and the media have to apply to report on individual cases – a complex and expensive system that The Independent has tested ever since it first won the right to report Court of Protection cases three years ago.
The man – who is referred to as "RBS" in court documents to protect both him and his father – was dramatically saved from a spell behind bars because of his own fluctuating mental health. During two hearings in June and November, the court heard how the man "had a long history of involvement with mental-health services" and could be "irrational and unpredictable". As the case progressed through the court, he "bombarded" court officials, the media and social websites with updates and details of the case – information which ought by law to have been kept private, in order to protect the privacy of his father. He also issued a habeas corpus writ and applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming that his father was imprisoned.
At a hearing to decide whether the man had the capacity to litigate in proceedings, the man insisted he was in full control of his faculties, leading District Judge Anselm Eldergill to warn that he could face prison if that was the case.
Three witnesses – neighbours and friends of the man – testified that his actions were motivated by a desire to have his father return home from care and a belief that the care home was not the best place for him. The judge described the witnesses as "kind-hearted, compassionate, truthful, intelligent and loyal to their friend" but added that they were largely unaware of how the man had behaved towards the court in recent months and that he had originally consented to his father's placement in the care home.
Care officials, meanwhile, insist that the elderly man's interests are best catered for in a care home.
In the end, the judge, an expert in mental-health law, made an interim order stating that there was enough evidence to believe the man lacked the capacity to litigate, pending further examination by medical professionals. But he added that he would do everything he could to avoid sending the man to jail.
The judge also praised the local authority for the way it had handled matters. "[RBS's] highly adversarial approach to litigation suggests he is unable to understand the deputy has been caring and generous towards him," he said. "He has been permitted to reside rent-free at his father's cottage, there have been no applications to commit him, despite fairly vicious public attacks on council staff, and his unauthorised dealings with his father's assets have been discounted. This is not a case of a bullying local authority abusing its powers over a vulnerable adult and their family; quite the opposite."
It will be down to the court to decide at a later hearing whether the sale of the Pissarro paintings should indeed go ahead. The court heard how the local authority was facing a shortfall of £14,400 a year to cover care costs once the elderly father's income was taken into account. He also has liabilities of more than £100,000 which need to be paid off. Both his son and daughter owe him money and the council could look into renting the cottage where his son lives. The Pissarro painting, the court heard, is expected to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000 at auction.
But in a stark warning against continued litigation, the judge cautioned that he was keen to avoid a "Jarndyce vs Jarndyce" situation – a reference to a fictional court case in the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House in which a legal battle over a handsome inheritance drags on for so long that the money is depleted.
"Given that the trigger has been whether the heirlooms have to be sold," he said, "a 'Jarndyce vs Jarndyce' situation cannot be allowed to develop which means [the heirlooms] have to be sold to pay the legal costs incurred deciding whether they should be sold."
The next hearing is due to take place early next year.
Picture this: Pissarro's life
The eldest son of the famous Impressionist painter Camille, Lucien Pissarro is a lesser-known artist but one who has an indelible connection to Britain. Born in 1863, he grew up in France surrounded by his father's peers such as fellow Impressionist founders Cézanne, Manet and Monet.
His father had a brief sojourn in Britain to escape the Franco-Prussian war and from then on would often wear tweed and insist on marmalade for breakfast.
Skilled as a painter in oils and watercolours as well as wood engraving and lithography, Lucien, pictured left in a self-portrait, felt like he lived in the shadow of his father and in 1883 he made his first trip to Britain, partially to put some distance between his own work and Camille's Impressionism. He eventually settled here permanently after marrying an English Jewish woman called Esther Bensusan.
Together they founded an illustrated-book company, while Lucien continued to paint haunting landscapes that fused both French Impressionism and the more traditional schools of English art that were current at the time.
He became a naturalised British citizen in 1916 and spent much of his time recording landscapes in Dorset, Devon, Essex, Surrey and Sussex.
Lucien and Esther's only child, Orovida, also became a prominent British artist in her own right.
Source: Independent (UK)
Here is one of the pictures being sold. LUCIEN PISSARO 1906 STRATFORD-UPON-AVON original frame hung above Fathers desk for many years after given too him by JOHN GORDON BENSUSAN BUTT who inherited the residue of his Aunt ORIVIDA PISSARO estate.
Addendum: On April 1, 2013 Richard Jr posted a picture of a bruise acquired by his father in "care".
Richard Bruce Browning-Smith Father with huge bruise on his forehead said to have happened last Tuesday , I had to find out myself on Friday , the care home did not even bother to telephone me to tell me what had happened to him !!!
Was he hit, or an accident they claim he fell over but recently they accused him of assaulting 3 other residents, at GREAT HORKSLEY MANOR.
Addendum: On July 19, 2013 the court of protection found Richard Jr to lack the capacity to conduct his proceedings.
Richard Bruce Browning-Smith added 6 photos.
Father was assaulted 3 times on consecutive days at the end of July this year . Had one of his teeth broken never received any medical treatment was promised emergency dental care which only amounted to a dental visit 2 to 3 weeks latter .!!!
ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL have temporarily stopped referring any more people to GREAT HORKSLEY CARE HOME near Colchester on the Nayland road .?
Source: Facebook, Richard Browning-Smith
Addendum: Some time in 2013 Anne Browning-Smith, sister of the elder Richard and aunt of the younger, passed away in a care home. Neither man, her closest living relatives, was notified.
ANNE BROWNING-SMITH HAS DIED IN A CARE HOME SOMETIME IN LAST YEAR .
She was my Fathers Sister , my Aunt , he and I are her nearest living relatives WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN INFORMED IMMEDIATELY by Carnarven house Clacton On Sea , I believe this is very suspicious and am asking Fathers Finance Deputy Julia Crow , to investigate fully as fraud looks to have been committed on my Grand Fathers Estate ELM FARM MARKS TEY approx 70 acres prime agricultural soon to be building land COLCHESTER , My Father has often talked to me on this issue .
Source: Facebook, Richard Bruce Browning-Smith
Addendum: Christopher Booker mentions the Browning-Smith case in the Daily Mail.
Read these stories of how the secret courts imprison the elderly in care homes against their will - and weep
Seldom does a parliamentary inquiry manage to uncover a national scandal on the terrifying scale of the one blazoned across yesterday’s Daily Mail front page under the headline ‘Prisoners of Care Homes’.
Astonishingly, this report by a House of Lords committee on the workings of the Blair government’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act found that ‘thousands, if not tens of thousands’ of old people have been forcibly incarcerated in care homes or hospitals against their wishes and are being ‘de facto detained unlawfully’.
At the heart of the scandal is the ultra-secretive Court of Protection, set up under the Act, which rules every year that thousands of people are deemed to ‘lack mental capacity’ — so that control of their lives and property can be handed over to social workers and other state officials.
Last year, the Mail lifted a corner of the veil of secrecy surrounding this little-known court’s workings when it reported the case of Wanda Maddocks, who was imprisoned by one of its judges for removing her 80-year-old father from a care home in Stoke-on-Trent where he was being abused.
Eventually, he was tracked down by social services, and forcibly returned to care, while his daughter was punished for ‘abducting’ him with a 12-month jail sentence.
The Mail was able to report the details of this story only after Miss Maddocks was released from prison, because in the meantime her father had died and his case was therefore ‘closed’.
What this report highlights is that thousands of people all over Britain have, like Mr Maddocks, been locked up against their will and the wishes of their families on the say-so of ‘experts’ in secret courts.
While the Lords report is savagely critical of how this system works, finding that it is too often used to detain old people illegally, it scarcely touches on the terrifying consequences of this incarceration for elderly and vulnerable individuals up and down Britain.
A number of journalists like me have long been aware that these constitute one of the most flagrant abuses of human rights to be found anywhere in the nation today.
But it has been extremely difficult to bring this to light because of the way the Court of Protection manages to hide the extraordinary powers it bestows on social workers.
We should be grateful to those members of the House of Lords who have raised the deeply worrying workings of this court to the forefront of national attention.
But it is only when you learn of individual cases, as I have over years of writing on this subject, that you truly appreciate just how much misery the Mental Capacity Act has wrought on those who fall into its clutches.
Here are three such cases concerning families who have contacted me in anguish. Because of the secrecy imposed on each of them by the Court of Protection, I cannot name the individuals and their details are necessarily sketchy — but they will all make you want to weep.
THE SOLDIER WHOSE WIFE HAS ALZHEIMER’S
Mr C, who served with the ‘Glorious Glosters’, as the Gloucestershire Regiment was known for its heroics in the Korean War, had been happily married for more than 50 years when his wife developed Alzheimer’s.
At the behest of Exeter social workers, a Court of Protection judge ordered her removal from his loving ministration to a private care home.
Mr C was shocked to observe how his wife was not being properly looked after. When he arrived one day to find her missing from her room, it was eventually discovered that she had wandered off unnoticed and became trapped in a cupboard.
He protested to the social workers, whose response was to ask the Court of Protection for an order forbidding him and his wife to have any further contact.
Not only was he prohibited from visiting her for years, he was not even allowed to send her flowers or Christmas and birthday cards. He finds it hard to speak of what has happened to them both without weeping.
THE EX-MIDWIFE WHO IS TERRIFIED OF HER CARERS
Miss G is a 94-year-old former midwife living in her own house in East London. When Redbridge council social workers sent in ‘carers’ to help her, she found them hopelessly inadequate.
But a married couple who befriended her at church moved in and looked after her so well that she now talks of them as ‘family’.
Meanwhile, the council hired a psychiatrist who found she did not have ‘mental capacity’ to make decisions on her own behalf, and sought the Court of Protection’s permission to take control of all her affairs, including her house and substantial savings.
Horrified, she paid £1,000 to be examined by the President of the Association of European Psychologists. He found that she certainly still had ‘capacity’ to manage her affairs, and was highly critical of the council psychiatrist’s report.
But the judge dismissed his findings, preferring those of the council’s ‘expert’.
This frail old lady is now terrified the social workers will evict the couple looking after her, and bring back the old carers who were so inadequate, using her own money to pay for them.
THE CHESS PLAYER FORCED TO LEAVE THE HOME HE LOVED
Few stories are more upsetting than that of Mr B, whose case came to court at the behest of Essex social workers three years ago and who was deemed by a judge to lack ‘mental capacity’. Against his wishes, he was removed from the comfortable house where he spent most of his life, to be incarcerated in a private care home
Initially, his son was allowed to visit him, and one day, at his father’s wish, the two went sailing. On their return, the son was arrested, his father taken back to the care home and the son’s visits were suspended.
The council had been given by the court complete control of the father’s property, money and other assets, including some very valuable pictures painted by a famous artist who was a family ancestor — which it then sent to a local auction house to sell, to help towards paying the fees for the care home.
When the son protested to the auctioneers, they were withdrawn from sale. His father, still able to play chess and do crosswords, despite having been ruled as lacking ‘mental capacity’, became ever more miserable at his situation.
Only recently, when he suffered a series of injuries inflicted on him in the home, has it begun to look just possible that — thanks to an unending battle fought by the son — this unhappy 85-year-old might be allowed to return home.
There must be hundreds of similar stories unfolding every year, almost none being reported, because of that blanket of secrecy the Court of Protection has been allowed to throw not just around its own workings but over the conduct of everyone who benefits from this system — the social workers, the psychiatrists they hire as ‘expert witnesses’, the lawyers who act for them, the owners of the private care homes they provide with a regular supply of customers.
As with much else that goes on behind the closed doors of our family courts, no one can argue with the laudable intentions of this system — to ensure those who cannot fend for themselves are looked after. But yet again we see the old truth that, where courts are allowed to operate in secret, terrible abuses of justice almost inevitably follow.
The Lords report concludes that Labour’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act, which brought in the Court of Protection and the so-called Deprivation of Liberty rules, has in practice so dismally failed to honour the purposes for which it was put into law that this whole system needs reforming virtually from scratch.
To this end, Lords recommend an independent body is given responsibility for oversight of the Act to drive forward vital changes.
But even in their excoriating report, these peers have scarcely told the half of why this reform is so desperately needed.
There is some hope, however. Lord Justice Munby, head of the Family Division of the High Court, appears determined to open the Court of Protection to the ‘glare of publicity’.
Which means we might one day see an end to one of the greatest scandals in Britain.
Source: Daily Mail
Addendum: Richard Geoffry Browning-Smith passed away on January 5, 2015. Rest in peace.
Source: Facebook, Richard Bruce Browning-Smith
Addendum: Christopher Booker writes his epitaph for this family.
That 'sinister court’ mocks justice again
The workings of the mysterious and ultra-secretive Court of Protection are a national scandal
My article on January 3, headlined “The most sinister court in Britain strikes yet again”, has for the past month been the “Most Viewed” Comment item on the Telegraph website. [ See Grandma Apologizes for Hugging Granddaughter ]. Its theme was the workings of the mysterious and ultra-secretive Court of Protection, which has only recently begun to emerge from the shadows – that’s thanks to the stalwart efforts of our top family judge, Lord Justice Munby, to lift something of the suffocating veil of secrecy shrouding the courts over which he now presides.
My report centred on the astonishing treatment of Kathleen Danby, a 72-year-old grandmother, who first hit the headlines last year when it was revealed that – two months earlier – she had been sentenced in her absence to three months in prison by Judge Martin Cardinal, for breaking an injunction by hugging her granddaughter who had run away from “care” 170 times.
But just how disturbing the workings of this all-powerful court have become has again lately been highlighted by two more cases, which in many respects were strikingly similar. Each of them involved the forced removal of an old man into “care” by social workers from Essex County Council, which was empowered by the Court of Protection to take complete charge of his life.
In both cases, as the men were deemed to be no longer capable of looking after their own affairs, the council took over the houses where they had lived for 50 years and virtually all they possessed. But in their outcomes the two stories could not have provided a starker contrast.
In the first case, as can be read on the Bailii website under (2015) EWCOP 1, Judge Paul Mort couldn’t have been more critical of the conduct of Essex council, which he described as “totally inadequate”.
“It is hard to imagine a more depressing and inexcusable state of affairs,” he said, than “to remove a defenceless old man” from the home where he had spent most of his life, to detain him in a “locked dementia unit against his wishes”.
Only because of the eloquent intervention of a friend was the scandalous treatment of this 91-year-old drawn to the court’s attention. This led Judge Mort to order that the man must immediately be released to go home, where he could be properly looked after; and that Essex must pay all his care and legal costs, plus hefty damages.
The other case I have long been following with dismay, but without being allowed to write about it. This concerned an 80-year-old who, after a complaint from a man who lived close by that he was being “neglected”, was in 2010 taken by Essex social workers to a care home, not only against his wishes but also initially without court permission. To the fury of his son, who had been abroad at the time, Essex was then authorised to take control of his father's home and all his assets, including valuable family heirlooms.
Such a blanket of secrecy was thrown around the case by Judge Anselm Eldergill in the Court of Protection that it was virtually impossible to refer to it at all. The father, miserably imprisoned behind locked doors, was only allowed occasional visits from his son, and even these were eventually suspended. Meanwhile, the council set about selling the father’s family home (to someone who had originally reported him to the social workers) and all his prized possessions to defray the costs of his “care” and ever-mounting legal fees.
Only after Munby issued his new guidelines in favour of more “transparency” were these draconian reporting restrictions partially lifted. But by now, after four years locked away in “care”, the old man was visibly going downhill. Worse still, he was violently attacked three times by a fellow inmate with a stick, with several of his teeth being knocked out.
Finally, last month, after he had been escorted outside in the cold for a smoke, he caught pneumonia and died. The contrast between the outcome of this case and the one which earned the same council and its social workers such withering criticism from another judge could not be more glaring. We may now be allowed to reveal rather more about the Court of Protection than was possible before the advent of Munby. But there is still far more going on behind those closed doors than justice and human decency should allow.
Source: Telegraph (UK)