‘Court of Protection Made Clear – A User’s Guide’
Consulting Editor: The Honourable Mr Justice Keehan
Authors: Clare Wills-Goldingham QC, Marie Leslie and Dr Paul Divall (Bath Publishing, 2016)
This book sets out to be a helpful first port of call for the lawyer and to shine a light on the practice and procedure of the CoP for all who use it; this will encompass a wide variety of people – as family or friends or as professionals in other fields such as care home managers. It is written by two barristers and a consultant psychiatrist.
It is a timely book – the CoP is making great efforts to cast off it’s ‘shroud of secrecy’. The transparency ‘pilot’ opening up the CoP is most likely here to stay. Together with the recent practice of transferring cases to be heard at ‘regional hubs’ it is inevitable that increasing numbers of people are going to be made aware of the kind of issues that CoP practitioners must grapple with. Any attempt to demystify this process is to be welcomed. Given that CoP cases involve only those who lack capacity to make decisions, a heavy responsibility thus falls on others to determine what is in the best interests of some often extremely vulnerable people; it is important that their decision making capacity is not hindered by the avoidable stress and strain of trying to deal with an unfamiliar legal process.
Those coming to the CoP for the first time – and even I suspect those who are more familiar – are faced with a complicated network of rules, regulations and developing case law at the highest level. It’s a lot to take in. The stated aim of the book is to lead us through it and offer a practical guide.
The authors make good their promise to use plain English (I particularly like their description of mediation – ‘often considered to be people sitting round a table getting nowhere fast’) This breezy and colloquial style is a refreshing change from many of the legal texts I have to grapple with.
One of the major advantages to this book is that it is linked to a website – courtofprotectionhub.uk which provides links to the relevant forms and will continue to update the changing case law. This is an essential adjunct to an area of law such as this where the case law will require continual and careful evaluation.
It is very thorough – there are 21 Chapters in total, first offering an overview of the main legislation, and issues of capacity. Chapters 6-8 describe the applications that can be made and preparation for the hearing. Chapter 9 sets out a very practical description of what happens at a hearing and what you should do if attending as a lay person. This is exactly the kind of calm and sensible advice which will be very valuable for a nervous friend or family member who has very little idea what to expect. The remaining chapters deal with particular aspects of the CoP such as explaining the difference between ‘property and affairs’ and ‘health and welfare’. ‘Deprivation of liberty’ looms large at Chapter 15, which will be no surprise to anyone with even passing acquaintance with that issue.
This book does what it says on the tin. It is a good, clear and helpful guide for the relatively inexperienced lawyer or the worried family member. I particularly like the Glossary which has clarified a few hitherto mystery phrases and acronyms.