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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
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

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past