Book Review : ‘Court of Protection Made Clear – A User’s Guide’

This review is a guest post written by  Sarah Phillimore, barrister at St John's Chambers (@svphillimore), Bristol.

‘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)


book cover imageThis 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 – 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.

Books n balloons

Andrew Pack of Suesspicious Minds fame has written a book called In Secure. It sounds rather great. He has also created a Hollywood Blockbuster quality promotional video involving him being pelted with water balloons. I don't pretend to know why, but hey. Go watch it and then lob him a few quid - he is publishing via crowd funding so he needs your pledge. Take a looky! I won't spoil the taster on the crowdfunding page, but it contains the word smooshed. Nuff said? Thought so.

Sploosh! and In Secure

Book Review : “At A Glance” At A Glance

I'm always asked to review At A Glance by the publishers, Class Legal. It makes me chuckle when it turns up because it's the same every year apart from the colour - so what do I say? This year is a fetching shade of lifeboat purple. I like it very much (I do, for what that's worth).

Most family practitioners know of it, it's reputation for being mighty handy to have in your suitcase, and anyone who does any money work buys it already - none of which makes a review seem desperately urgent. But I do feel a little guilty that each year the hopeful At A Glance people send me my free review copy with a polite letter, and every year I stick it on my shelf and fail to review it (in truth I have a whole host of things in the queue for review but I think At A Glance gets to jump the queue this one time because its quick to review and they get points for persistence).

So, what can I tell you about the 2016-17 edition other than it's colour? Well, since the last time I thumbed one the paper has got thinner, but the thickness overall has stayed pretty static. There are many many more numbered tabs (its up to 29 now) and so I conclude this book has MORE USEFUL STUFF IN IT.  This is good.

The Preface contains an amusant reference to Ambridge and the "rather annoying" stabby Helen (personally I'm not sure how the adjective "annoying" distinguishes her from any other character in "The Bloody Archers" as it is lovingly known in our house. Incidentally, the editors suggest as at the time of writing (April) that there will be care proceedings in Ambridge - they are not right on that one so far. but I digress (as does the Preface)). This Ambridge opening segues seamlessly into a discussion of the controversy concerning the hearing of financial remedy cases in public and there then follows a gay skip through the long grass of several financial remedy hot topics, a propos of nothing....

The loss of much loved tables *snigger* on car running costs is noted, and the introduction of new and exciting sounding tables such as Income Tax and National Insurance Marginal Deductions which (it says here) "illustrates the overall impact on gross earnings from employment once ravaged by these two imposts*". This review is a reminder of how a few years without doing much money work can cause an atrophy of the financial remedy parts of the brain because I've no idea what that means. However, At A Glance is a lifesaver for judges and lawyers alike - and I suspect (say it quietly) a few sensible McKenzie friends. It surely represents a modest investment for having a wealth of information at one's fingertips, and the ability to wave it around knowledgeably to create the illusion of knowing-what-you-are-doing-ness. There are tables on all the usual, helpful things - child support figures, housing costs, company cars, RPI, interest base rates, tax (various), gross salary compared to net income, pensions etc...And I see a useful few pages on social security benefits which I think is new-ish or at any rate vastly expanded from the old days when I used to have regular recourse to At A Glance.

Section 27 on procedure is a useful aide memoire - and might well be useful to those who are in person, unbundling or using a mckenzie, as would the extracts from relevant statutes and procedure rules.

So, it's a thumbs up from me. As usual, it is well worth the £60. Details of how to purchase and bulk discounts can be found on the FLBA website here.

*who knew, it means "a tax or similar compulsory payment". I had thought it was a typo for "imposter"! You learn something every day...