Laura Davidson acts for successful local authority in COP case ousting abusive live-in carers from an elderly woman’s home

Thu, 31 Jul 2014

London Borough of Redbridge v G, C and F [2014] EWCOP 17, COP (Ms. Justice Russell), 21st July 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/17.html

G was a frail, 94 year old lady from St Lucia who suffered from dementia and various other physical health problems, including double incontinence due to a rectal prolapse.  She mobilised via a wheelchair.  G was unmarried and had been a missionary for many years with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, as well as a midwife.  Historically, she had had many friends and a rich social life within the community.  C and F were from St. Lucia.  In 2011 C was introduced to G through a mutual friend.  Very quickly, C moved into G’s house, followed by her husband F.  Some months later, C cancelled G’s care package and began providing full-time care to G.

The case was initially brought under the inherent jurisdiction due to concerns that C and F were unduly influencing G and attempting to exploit her financially. It has had numerous reported hearings, including a hearing to determine whether or not G lacked the capacity to litigate, and to make decisions about her finances, residence, care and contact.  The Judge accepted the opinion of independent consultant psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Barker and determined that due to dementia, she did not.  Associated Press had also tried to become a party since G had stated her wish to speak to the Press, notwithstanding the anonymity order in place (In the matter of G (Adult) London Borough of Redbridge v G and Ors [2014] EWCOP 1361).  That application failed.

The local authority provided a Schedule of Findings of Fact it wished the court to make with respect to C and F.  These included allegations of emotional and psychological abuse in the form of intimidating and/or controlling behaviour by C by bullying G, disrupting and/or preventing meetings between G and professionals charged with her care and seeking to protect her welfare, socially isolating G by cancelling monitoring support by Age UK, preventing visits to G by members of her church and preventing friends and family from visiting, manipulating G by telling her untruths regarding G being placed in a care home, and threatening to leave so that G would be placed in a care home and attributing false motives to others as a way to get G to comply with her wish to remain in G’s home, attempting to manipulate G by making her change her Will in their favour.  The social isolation prevented proper monitoring of G’s situation, and C’s conduct caused G distress and engendered paranoia and distrust.  C had deliberately caused a dependency and G’s personality had changed to that she was now subdued and distrustful.

A final four day fact-finding hearing took place at which the local authority requested that the court make a declaration that it was not in G’s best interests to live with or to be provided with care by C and F.  G attended the first day of the hearing, but due to her tiredness, paid carers looked after her in her own home for the remainder of the trial.  An independent social worker concluded that it was in G’s best interests for C and F to continue to live with her and to provide care to her, since G now believed that they were her relatives and that it was God’s will for them to care for her.  The local authority contended that C and her husband F (though primarily C) bullied, intimidated and manipulated G in their desire to remain housed by G and to benefit materially and financially.

The court accepted the oral evidence of all of the witnesses, save for C and F. Three of G’s old friends gave evidence, in addition to a neighbour who said that C screamed and shouted at G every day.  A Will writer gave evidence that G had been prompted by C to give him a piece of paper on which it was written that G wished to leave all her money to C and F.  When questioned in the absence of C, however, G indicated that she wished to benefit her brother and his children, and on further questioning, G was interested in appointing her brother as her Attorney.  The professional noticed that in G’s address book she had written “threatening behaviour” beside the names of C and F.  G made various disclosures to an independent social worker who had provided a previous court report, and to Dr. Barker, including that C would physically shake her, that she would boss her around and make her go to bed at 9pm, that she could not walk around her own home freely, and that if she dressed herself, C would undress her and then dress her again in exactly the same clothes.  G’s friend NP stated that C had socially isolated G from all her church friends and would not let anyone visit.  She was upset to see G in a public protest in Ilford whilst C made a spectacle of her.  She was also upset to be estranged from G who had known her since she was a baby.  JP gave evidence that on one occasion G, who uses a wheelchair to mobilise, made it to his house to complain that C bullied her.  When he returned with G to her house and questioned C, C flew into a temper.  A police officer who had seen the public protest had been very concerned for G’s welfare, given that it was a cold day and G was shaking.  All of the witnesses were credible and truthful, including G’s social worker who was impressive, calm, courteous and measured.

By contrast, C had prevaricated, claimed to have no idea when she first moved into G’s home, and called almost every witness a liar.  She believed that they were all in a conspiracy with the local authority to put her out of G’s home.  She suggested that the Will writer had made up his evidence because G had de-instructed him.  Her indication that she was willing to have church members visit was conditional upon the church members changing towards her.  She repeatedly told G that the local authority wished to remove her from her home although it was clear that this untruth distressed G.  C was unable or unwilling to work with others unless they are and remain in total agreement with her view of things.  Her evidence was contradictory, disingenuous and at times bordering on the paranoid.  The evidence supported the suspicion that C had tried to use G to provide resolution to her immigration problems, making an application to remain on the basis that she was the sole carer of her ‘relative’.  C was not capable of acting in G’s best interests.  If G was capable of retaining and weighing information, she would be deeply troubled by the risk of exploitation by C and she would be unlikely to regard C and F as family.

After the final hearing but a week prior to the handing down of the Judgment, and despite having given an undertaking to give access to professionals for daily monitoring of G, C invited her aunt GA from the US to come and stay in G’s home, and attempted to curtail and frustrate visits by the Official Solicitor’s representative.  This led to the local authority bringing the matter back to court.  The spirit if not the substance of the undertakings given by C were not honoured.  Final orders were made that it was in G’s best interests for C and F to leave her home and not to return.  Orders were made to manage the move from G’s home in the least distressing way for G.  An order was made for a further report from the independent social worker with respect to G’s best interests in terms of contact, including with GA. 

F provided general maintenance around the house, but he benefited from living there rent free.   He was quiet and more credible, but there was little evidence that he had done anything to protect G from being manipulated and intimidated by C.  He denied that his wife shouted at G, but accepted that G had become increasingly socially isolated.

As to G’s wishes and feelings, she has in the past been ambivalent about C and F providing her with care, and also expressed fear and distress.  More recently she has repeated that they are family and she has said that she wishes them to remain living with her and looking after her.  She had repeatedly said that she wished to be left “in peace”.  However, considerable caution must be attached to her current wishes when attributing weight to them, given the adverse influence of C (ITW v Z and M [2009] EWHC 2525 considered and applied).  She was clearly a dignified, proud and self-possessed person who had been very determined.  She was extremely fearful of having to go into a nursing home.  Her religious affiliation was clearly relevant to the need to consider G’s beliefs and values under s.4(6)(b) of the MCA.

The court had the power to remove C and F from G’s home as it was “a matter concerning P’s personal welfare”, and s.17(1)(c) expressly provides that the court can prohibit a named person from having contact with P.  The court could make a decision that P could make if P had capacity.  C and F would be ejected from G’s home by way of a mandatory injunction made under s.16(1)(a) and s.16(2)(a) and s.47(1).

Two lasting powers of attorney had purportedly been made by G in favour of C after the Will writer had met with G and subsequently been de-instructed.  It was unclear whether or not G lacked the capacity to make an LPA (although it seemed unlikely).  Accordingly, the health and welfare LPA that had been registered could not be revoked on the basis that it was made at a time when G lacked capacity under s.9(2)(c).  Instead, the court declared that it was not in G’s best interests for C to be her health and welfare Attorney.  The court revoked the LPA under its power under s.22(4)(b) on the basis that s.22(3)(a)(i) and (ii) applied, given the court’s findings of fact; it was more likely than not that C used undue pressure to induce G to make it.  It was also held that the behaviour of a donee referred to in s.22(3)(b)(i) was not limited to acts purportedly carried out under the authority of an instrument, but could apply generally where a done has behaved in a way that is not in P’s best interests, particularly when the behaviour related directly to the specific LPA – here, health and welfare. 

Comment:

The ‘grooming’ and manipulation of G by C is particularly shocking in this case, and it is good to see the Court of Protection at its best, making orders to protect a vulnerable, frail old lady. This complex case was reported by the Daily Mail in an entirely misleading way, prior to its attempt to join the proceedings as a party, which led to criticism by Cobb J (London Borough of Redbridge v G, C and F (No. 2) [2014] EWHC 959 (COP)).  If one compares the facts as suggested by the Daily Mail (despite the publication of the February Judgment ([2014] All ER (D) 24 (Mar)) and its journalist attending court) and the content of the final Judgment, there is a stark contrast.  It is hoped now that G will be ‘left in peace’.

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