Is it acting in the best interests of the vulnerable?
THE recent reports we published with regards to Michael and Ann Clarke have not only brought a number of comments from readers about that case, but have also resulted in messages from individuals who appear to have been treated in similar ways by the Court of Protection.
This particular court, which was created as recently as 2007, has some very important ideals, but due to apparent secrecy in its activities and allegations of partiality and protection of members of the legal profession who may or may not have acted for their own benefit or incompetently, there appears to be very little trust in its activities.
The concept is without doubt a good one as the court is supposed to step in when it appears that an individual may be incapable of making rational decisions in their own right, or may be likely to be financially disadvantaged by members of the family or carers.
One of the most repeated areas of criticism is that when ‘legal professionals’ are appointed to effectively control an individual’s money, the cost of the control often far exceeds the amount of money that they are granted to live on.
Due to the fact that this whole matter is very emotive, we have to be alert to the fact that matters may be overstated or magnified to make the situation appear worse than it is, but various national newspapers in the UK have campaigned for more transparency and fewer closed courts in order to ensure that people are treated with dignity and fairly.
One woman was sent to prison in secret because she had removed her father from enforced care, another woman lost everything because local social services didn’t want her to stay in her own home and she had to fight to have carers of her choice not theirs.
Michael Clarke is threatened with imprisonment unless he returns to the UK, apologises to the court and surrenders his mother’s passport.
Others argue that despite the fact they or their relatives have not been medically proven to lack mental capacity, they have still been taken under the control of the Court of Protection.
If just one person is proven to have been hurt physically, mentally or financially by the very body that is supposed to protect them, then the whole system will need to be dismantled and replaced by a fair and open system, which treats all of the cases properly and there should be strict limits on the amounts that ‘professional deputies’ can charge for their services, which should basically cover their costs but not allow them to earn more than they dole out to those they are supposed to protect.
The current President of the Supreme Court, England’s most senior law lord, the Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, is on record as having complimented the campaign for greater transparency with the Court of Protection. Whilst information may become apparent more speedily, little seems to have been done to actually control its powers over some of the most vulnerable members of society.