When deprivation of liberty is for the best

On 23 July 2013, in the case of A local authority v WMA [2013] EWHC 2580 (COP), a court had to decide about the future of a twenty five year old man, (identified only as ‘WMA’), where he should live and what help should be given to him.  It raised complex issues about best interests and deprivation of liberty.

WMA suffered from an autistic spectrum disorder.  Although it is possible to have a conversation with him about his clearly expressed views, it was plain, and agreed by even his mother that he lacked capacity in some important aspects.  He had been diagnosed as having atypical autism and a pervasive development disorder and presented with unpredictable behaviour on occasions.

The conditions in which WMA and his mother lived were unhygienic and had impaired his development. The local council decided that it would be in his best interests to be placed in his own supported housing accommodation. He did not want to move and his mother did not want him to go. The council applied for orders to bring about the move. The Court of Protection granted orders which included: a power for the council to enter the current home; a power for the police to restrain the son if necessary; and an order that the son be removed from his current home and taken to the supported housing where the council would have power to retain him if needs be and to sign a tenancy agreement on his behalf.  These measures were considered to be not only in his best interests but proportionate and necessary.

Robert Wassall, a Partner and head of social housing at Trethowans Solicitors commented; "This very difficult case demonstrates the issues a court must take into consideration when being asked to deprive someone suffering from a disability of their liberty and how in some circumstances it is in their best interests to take them away from their home and family.”