Six years, three judges, £350,000 in costs to the taxpayer... and no change: Judge hits out at 'astonishing' cost of Court of Protection case

High court judge hits out at legal costs as family fights council decision for six years

A High Court Judge has hit out at the “astonishing” cost of a six year legal battle in the Court of Protection which ended today after all parties agreed a woman should stay in care.

The parents of a woman with severe learning difficulties originally applied to the court in 2007 because they wanted her to be cared for at home, rather than at a facility more than 80 miles away.

The local authority argued the parents’ home was not suitable and presented evidence of successive serious house fires and threats of arson as well as allegations of a family feud and criminal activity by relatives.

But last week, after pursuing a case which cost the public at least £350,000 in legal fees for three different teams of lawyers, the family backed down and accepted the local authority’s decision.

The woman, who is referred to in court documents as ‘ED’, is in her thirties and only able to communicate through sign language. She is currently being looked after in a care home by those who know sign language.

Over the course of the protracted case, which was overseen by three different judges, the family changed their position several times until eventually agreeing last week that she could be looked after in residential care after all.

There were four house fires at the family home in early 2009, the last of which caused extensive damage to the house. The police were also called by ED’s brother in January this year, claiming a gang of four men were outside holding petrol cans and shouting that they would burn the house down. Four days later a car outside the house was set on fire, though the parents say they have no idea why.

The Local Authority was not initially told about the fires, meaning they did not provide the necessary vibrating fire alarm system for ED straight away. This was part of their argument as to why the family home was unsafe for her.

Whether or not ED’s pubic hair could be removed was another point which generated lengthy legal discussions. The final judgement says her parents - who argued it was Muslim custom - are not allowed to remove her pubic hair or help her to do so. Their time with their daughter will also now be supervised by carers.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Wood said the case had cost an “astonishing” amount and generated a “great morass of paper”. The judge described how its various elements amounted to almost 2,000 pages of paperwork, including witness statements running to 740 pages.

He said: “By the time the case came before me in February 2013 (listed as a final hearing) the quantity of paper generated in this phase of the proceedings can only be described as inordinate.”  

In August ED’s parents decided they no longer wanted to try and get their daughter returned home and instead sought for her to be moved to a closer care home. Then, just over a week ago the judge was informed, having already spent two days reading into the case, that the parents were prepared to agree with the local authorities wishes after all.

Mr Justice Wood said there was “no explanation for this volte-face” and that he remained “utterly baffled by the course this litigation has taken, and perplexed by this lack of clarity in their case.”

The Local Authority spent approximately £138,000 on legal costs since October 2011, while the parents’ costs amounted to £82,000, and the Official Solicitor’s ran to around £130,000.  

Commenting on the costs involved in the case, Mr Justice Wood said: “This is an astonishing sum of money to spend on one case. ED, Mr. D and Mrs. D have all had their legal expenses met from public funds. Particularly when one considers the nature of the case for the parents, and that the ultimate resolution... is that the parents have, ultimately with their own “consent,” agreed to Orders which dismiss any hope of ED coming to live with them and a significant reduction in her contact to them.”

The case was heard in private in the Court of Protection, which makes major care and medical decisions on behalf of those deemed to lack mental capacity. The Independent was able to report it after lengthy applications to attend.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz