COURT of PROTECTION (COP)
What is the Court of Protection (COP)?
Based in London though it has 7 regional hubs, the Court of Protection (COP) is administered by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. The court’s cases are heard by either district judges with a senior judge presiding or, alternatively, high-court judges. But what they all do, in essence, is make decisions for those whose lack of mental capacity means that they are deemed by applicants to be incapable – temporarily or permanently – to make necessary decisions (usually on either money and property or health and welfare).
What Sort of Decisions Does the Court of Protection Make?
It’s worth realising that, although the Court of Protection (COP) spends a lot of time protecting minors and those who either have a lack of mental capacity or anticipate the likelihood of that occurring to themselves, not everybody that it protects falls into any of those categories. The Court of Protection might, for example, allow a decision to be made for somebody whilst they’re simply on holiday.
- It decides whether at-risk persons have the mental capacity to make specific decisions for themselves
- It gives people permission to make one-off decisions on behalf of others who lack mental capacity
- It handles urgent and emergency applications when decisions must be made on behalf of others without hesitation (for instance releasing funds to pay for medical care)
- It making decisions about lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney, evaluating any objections to their registration
- It considers applications to make statutory wills or gifts
- It makes decisions concerning deprivation of liberty under the Mental Capacity Act
- It appoints ‘deputies’ to make ongoing decisions for those lacking the mental capacity (due to serious brain injuries, illness, dementia or severe learning difficulties, for example).
Deputies don’t usually replace attorneys though the range of their powers may be similar. Nor may they act in respect of personal welfare (though they may on other counts) for anyone who is under 16. And they need to return annual reports to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).
The Sheer Scope – and Seriousness – of Decisions at the Court of Protection
The Court of Protection can be called upon to rule on cases that are often unique. So it’s flexible, versatile and reactive. If a family is at war over the care of an at-risk person then the court must make what could well be a difficult decision. It might give deputies the power to decide over time where somebody at-risk should live. It is periodically asked to rule on what should happen to property and / or land when it is jointly-owned yet one of the owners is mentally incapable though another owner wishes (or owners wish) to sell the property. Or it may deal with an objection to an attorney being given, or keeping, lasting powers to make decisions on the part of another (there are lots of legitimate reasons including the attorney being bankrupt, which might compromise their judgment, but there’s only a 3-week window to object).
Deprivation of Liberty
Essentially the Court of Protection’s role in respect of deprivation of liberty revolves around perceptions of mental health, whether the individuals concerned have been wrongly detained (usually they have been ‘sectioned’), whether the actions have not been in their interests, and whether they actually have the mental capacity to decide on their own treatments or otherwise. Importantly the court makes, when it comes to deprivation of liberty, decisions concerning at-risk people who are both within and outside institutions. And it can facilitate both incarceration and freedom from it.
The Court of Protection Can Work at Astounding Speed if Necessary
Importantly the Court of Protection is able to work at speed if necessary. For example it can even enable somebody, in emergency, to make a statutory will on behalf of somebody else – on the basis that the party concerned has not long to live but simply does not have the capacity to understand what assets they have, what a will is, or the implications of their decisions for 3rd parties. Such rulings can be arranged very quickly.
Where Can You Find Out More about the Court of Protection?
You can find out more on the Court of Protection at Goodwills though the UK Government’s website will tell you a lot at www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/court-of-protection. Yet, all in all, and given the complexity of the cases that are usually referred to the Court of Protection, you’d surely be better off if you just hire Goodwills.