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Should alcoholics be locked up under the MCA?

RB v Brighton and Hove CC (2014) EWCA Civ 561, (2014) MHLO 25

In my previous article under the heading ‘When should the state prevent vulnerable people from having sex?’  I did not anticipate that Richard Gordon QC would try to argue (unsuccessfully) in the RB case (below) that principles relating to sex should also apply to alcoholics.

In June 2007 RB sustained a serious brain injury in an accident. He was treated for eight months in hospital and then transferred to a care home, S House. In 2011 RB ceased participating in rehabilitation programmes and proposed to leave S House. The staff at S House considered that RB was not capable of independent living. Because of his physical and mental disabilities he was likely to (a) resume his former chaotic lifestyle and (b) to suffer serious or fatal injuries in consequence. The Council granted a standard authorisation pursuant to schedule A1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘MCA’), which enabled staff to detain RB at S House. RB brought proceedings in the Court of Protection to terminate the standard authorisation. The Court of Protection dismissed the application and RB appealed to the Court of Appeal. He contends that two preconditions for deprivation of liberty are not satisfied, namely the mental capacity requirement (set out in paragraph 15 of schedule A1) and the best interests requirement (set out in paragraph 16 of schedule A1). In my view RB’s appeal should be dismissed. Because of his brain injury RB is unable to use and weigh relevant information. He does not appreciate the dangers of resuming his former chaotic lifestyle in his present condition. Therefore the mental capacity requirement is satisfied. If RB is discharged into the community, he is likely to revert to alcoholism and a chaotic lifestyle. Given his current disabilities, this is likely to lead to serious injury. Therefore confinement in S House, at least for the time being, is in RB’s best interests. I reject the submission that IM v LM [2014] EWCA Civ 37 somehow governs the outcome in this case. The court must apply the provisions of the MCA, not judicial glosses on the statute.

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