This case will be of interest to commissioners, providers and social workers who work with young people subject to a deprivation of liberty who do not have capacity, who may shortly be approaching their 18th birthday.

This case summary should be read in conjunction with:

 

Case

Buckinghamshire County Council v RT [2018] EWCOP 12 (23 April 2018)

Relevant Topics

  • Children
  • Young People
  • Deprivation of Liberty
  • Review of Deprivation of Liberty prior to turning 18

Practical Impact

  • Where a young person attaches particular significance to their 18th birthday, the Court should consider listing a review hearing shortly before a young person turns 18 to enable the young person to have a further say at that crucial transition point;
  • This may mean that a review hearing is scheduled sooner than the ordinary review interval of 12 months where a deprivation of liberty is authorised for a young person 17years or over;
  • The Court could authorise a deprivation of liberty for 1 year, but direct a review hearing sooner than that.

Summary 

RT was 17 ½ years old, and lacked capacity to make decisions regarding his residence and care. The Local Authority commenced proceedings following RT being placed in foster care after a sequence of extremely challenging behaviours – he was not detainable under the Mental Health Act 1983.

It was clear that the care arrangements objectively amounted to a deprivation of liberty and, as RT did not have capacity, subjectively there was a lack of valid consent. It was in RT's best interests to remain in an environment in which he could be protected from his own impulsivity and where others are protected from his behaviours. The Court authorised his deprivation of liberty there for one year.

However, as RT's 18th birthday had particular significance for him, the Judge listed a review hearing for shortly before he would turn 18, which would allow RT to have a further say at that point. It was considered that such a review was consistent with his ECHR rights and was appropriate in both welfare and procedural terms.

Background

At the time of the proceedings RT was 17 ½ years old. He was one of three male triplets who were adopted at the age of 5. RT's behaviours gradually became increasingly challenging. He had threatened others, including his mother, with a knife; set fires in the family home and had harmed (or exposed) himself to serious harm (including, hitting his head on a table, taken an overdose of medicine, held a knife to his neck, put ligatures around his neck, run into busy road and run away from home). A particular feature of his behaviour was that he can become obsessive about girls or young women he knows and may follow them or bombard them with messages, or otherwise behave intrusively.

In October 2017, RT left home and went to the home of a girl. His parents were called and collected him. He threatened them with a knife, ran into the road and the police were called. He was accommodated in a foster placement for three nights. He then tried to throw himself off a balcony at school, but staff held on to him to prevent him from falling. He was taken to hospital under s136 MHA. He did not meet the criteria for detention, so the Local Authority subsequently instigated these proceedings.

At the time of the proceedings he was residing in a specialist autism residential service which catered for 18 to 65 year olds. RT was supported by 2:1 staff during the day and 1:1 staff at night, with a further two members to assist if required. He was making good progress there, and the plan was for him to remain there for some time.

The Local Authority, RT's mother and his children's Guardian all agreed that RT lacked capacity and that it was in his best interests to remain in his placement for the foreseeable future. RT considered reaching the age of 18 to be a big milestone, and therefore all parties invited the Judge to make an Order which provided for a review hearing shortly before RT's 18th birthday.

Key Findings

  • RT would injure himself if not subject to the most stringent levels of supervision. He had demonstrated impulsive behaviours of the most extreme kind, which would put his life at risk. He could behave towards others in a highly aggressive and threatening way.
  • Clear that the care arrangements amounted to a deprivation of liberty, as the level of supervision was in excess of that which might be applied to "even the most unruly 17 year old in a domestic setting".
  • As RT did not have capacity, there was a lack of valid consent (and therefore Court authorisation for the deprivation of liberty was required).
  • The very high levels of supervision were necessary and proportionate in the particular circumstances of the case.
  • The intensive support and therapeutic input required was likely to take months, if not years, and therefore RT's deprivation of liberty was authorised for one year.