You know how Harry Potter fans would queue all night for the next installment of the boy wizard’s adventures? Well, I’m not quite that sad, but I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of the Court of Protection Handbook for some time. Today I finally got my hands on a copy. On the tube, I was eagerly flicking through it, when a man told me that he thought I must be a lawyer to be reading a book that looked so long and boring. He was wrong of course, on both counts: I’m not a lawyer and it’s not boring at all (although I will concede that it is quite long).
The book is written by well respected practicing lawyers (and a judge) in the fields of property and affairs and personal welfare litigation in the Court of Protection. It is doubtful that anybody has a better knowledge of Court of Protection case law than Alex Ruck Keene, a practicing barrister and one of the editors of the 39 Essex St Mental Capacity Act Newsletter (and also an excellent blog offering more commentary and resources). Kate Edwards is a financial deputy at Fenton’s Solicitors, and is the founder and chair of the Court of Protection Practitioners Association. Professor Anselm Eldergill is a district judge who works in the Court of Protection, who might be known to readers for memorable judgments such as Manuela Sykes’ case. District Judge Eldergill also has considerable experience of the Mental Health Tribunal and his book on that subject can be found online. Sophy Miles was the founding member of Miles & Partners LLP mental health team, and is now chair of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Disability Committee.
There are already many excellent books on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), so you might wonder why your bookshelf needs to be adorned with another (aside from the colourful cover). Although the book does provide a short overview of the MCA, it is less concerned with providing a detailed analysis of the provisions of the Act (on which note, I see that a new edition of Richard Jones’ MCA Manual will be out later on this month) and instead focuses on procedural and jurisdictional issues in the Court of Protection. The book will be highly valued by anybody who works in the Court of Protection, who is applying to the Court of Protection or is otherwise involved in Court of Protection litigation. I suspect it will be useful to a range of health and social care practitioners, particularly to MCA and deprivation of liberty safeguards teams, to IMCAs, and to local authority and NHS lawyers. It’s a book that I would recommend to families or others struggling to understand the Court of Protection’s processes without the benefit of legal advice and representation. It’s written in plain and easy to understand English, and contains invaluable practical advice. It also has appendices with useful resources including examples (precedents) of orders, statements and letters, checklists, links to further information and resources and guidance on Court of Protection fees. It also has an excellent accompanying website which provides further information, updates to the handbook and other resources.
The chapter topics are as follows:
- Steven Neary’s story (by Mark Neary)
- An overview of the Mental Capacity Act 2005
- The Court of Protection
- Is an application appropriate?
- Funding and representation
- Making an application: property and affairs cases
- Making an application: health and welfare cases
- Permission, issue and service
- Responding to applications
- Preparing for and appearing at directions hearings and interim hearings
- Litigation friends
- Evidence and disclosure
- Publicity, privacy and confidentiality
- The final determination of the application
- Reconsideration and appeals
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Office of the Public Guardian
- Applications under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 s21A
- Medical treatment cases
- Safeguarding and the Court of Protection
- The Court of Protection and the Administrative Court
- Human rights and the Court of Protection
- Cross-border matters
- Instructing psychiatrists in the Court of Protection
- Primary legislation
- Secondary legislation]Precedents
- Statements and letters
- Checklists for best interests assessment, care planning and transition planning
- Useful addresses and resources
- Court of Protection fees
The COP Handbook is published by the Legal Action Group (LAG). LAG is a national charity that promotes equal access to justice for all. As I’ve commented before, LAG’s books offer practical useful advice, they are clearly informed by the experiences of practitioners on the ground and the kinds of issues they encounter. Although they aren’t cheap, they are certainly much more reasonably priced than many law books which are clearly aimed at law firms with deep pockets. Like other LAG books, the COP Handbook engages with human rights and issues of fundamental social importance. So, for example, you’ll find discussion of the complex human rights issues around how the relevant person should be assisted to participate in Court of Protection proceedings and the role of litigation friends. You’ll find discussion of the complex interface between public law (how public bodies choose to allocate resources and meet statutory duties to provide care) and the MCA, an issue which is hardly glamorous and is terribly neglected in the industry of academic commentary on the MCA, yet is absolutely pivotal in terms of whether or not the Court of Protection can actually do anything about unsatisfactory care arrangements. There’s a very interesting chapter on the practical and legal issues around media interest in Court of Protection proceedings (with input from journalists, as well as practitioners).
The man on the tube was wrong. Court processes and procedures aren’t a boring or dry subject at all. They may have the appearance of the ‘wall of tedium’, which Ben Goldacre talks about shielding matters of fundamental social importance from closer scrutiny, but they are absolutely integral to how effectively people affected by the MCA are able to vindicate their rights in court. The book is really about access to justice in the Court of Protection. It is absolutely appropriate that the book begins with Steven Neary’s story, told by Mark Neary, because as Mark says the law ‘only has a value if the people who fall within the scope of it are able to access justice’.
You can buy the Court of Protection Handbook from the LAG Bookshop for £48. It is also available in Kindle format for £45.