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Home > Judgments

A Local Authority v T (No.2) [2018] EWHC 816 (Fam)

Second judgment of Mostyn J concerning a child, T, for whom the grounds for secure accommodation had been made out, but there was no bed in a secure unit. Issue as to whether T 'authentically' consents to her deprivation of liberty considered.

This is the second judgment of Mostyn J concerning a child, T, for whom the grounds for secure accommodation were made out, but there was no bed in a secure unit. Mostyn J was being asked to make orders and declarations under the inherent jurisdiction to approve another placement, in line with a number of authorities dealing with the scope of the power of the High Court under an inherent jurisdiction to make alternative mirror arrangements. However, it was argued that T was consenting to that regime, and so a declaration by the court for use of inherent jurisdiction was not necessary.

In the first judgment, with neutral citation [2018] EWHC 576 (Fam), Mostyn J decided that the "Storck component (b)" is satisfied in respect of T, namely that there is an absence of consent if the court can conclude that the consent that is purportedly being given by the child in question is neither authentic nor enduring.  This decision has been appealed and permission to appeal was granted by Peter Jackson LJ on 19th March 2018 under the second limb, namely that there were compelling reasons for an appeal to be heard.

In this, the second, judgment, Mostyn J notes that the view he took in the first judgment, that the consent in question has to be found to be both authentic and enduring, is 'well borne out by the subsequent events'. Since the hearing in January a number of events occurred, including the child self-harming and being admitted to hospital, being reported missing, and, principally, her leaving placement after it completely broke down. T moved to a new placement in the Midlands and it was reported that T consented to this placement. There was agreement that the first and third Storck components are engaged at the new placement in the Midlands; the child being objectively confined, not in any realistic sense free to leave and that confinement being at the behest of the State.  The issue was whether T 'authentically' consents.

Not satisfied that T's consent is authentic and enduring, Mostyn J was more satisfied than before that the deprivation of liberty declaration should be given as sought, granting the local authority the powers and protections mentioned in his previous judgment. Mostyn J therefore discharged the order authorising T's detention at the previous placement and replaced it with a fresh order authorising her detention at the new placement.

Summary by Emily Ward, Barrister, Broadway House Chambers
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Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 816 (Fam)
Case No. CF17C00940

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION


Royal Courts of Justice
1st Mezzanine Queen's Building
Strand
London, WC2A 2LL

Date: Thursday, 22nd March 2018


Before:

MR JUSTICE MOSTYN
(In Private)

B E T W E E N :

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A LOCAL AUTHORITY Applicant
-  and  -
(1) SW
(2) MT
(3) NT
 Respondents
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

MISS A. MEUSZ (instructed by the Legal Department) appeared on behalf of the Claimant.
THE FIRST AND SECOND RESPONDENTS were not represented.
MR A. LAING (instructed by Duncan Lewis) appeared on behalf of the Third Respondent.
MR J. HUSSELL appeared on behalf of the Guardian.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

JUDGMENT  NO.2
MR JUSTICE MOSTYN:
1. This judgment follows on from my previous judgment given on 23rd January 2018 which has the neutral citation number [2018] EWHC 576 (Fam).  It is not necessary for me to detail any of the facts that is set out in that judgment.  It may be that if anybody were reading this second judgment of mine, they would be assisted if they were first to read my earlier judgment.

2. In my earlier judgment, I decided that what I will call the "Storck component (b)" is satisfied, that is to say there is an absence of consent if the court can conclude that the consent that is purportedly being given by the child in question is neither authentic or enduring. 
 
3. That decision of mine has been appealed and permission to appeal was granted by Peter Jackson LJ on 19th March 2018 under the second limb, namely that there were compelling reasons for an appeal to be heard.  I have noted that in the skeleton argument in support of the proposed appeal, an analogue in relation to the consent to sex was made; similarly, an analogue with the formation of a commercial contract was made.  It will be for the Court of Appeal to decide whether these analogues have any relevance at all to the consent which, is in fact, in play.  I would point out that a person at the age of the child with which I am concerned cannot consent to sex or form a contract, so the relevance of those analogues at the moment presently escapes me.

4. In my judgment, the view that I took that the consent in question has to be found to be both authentic and enduring is well borne out by the subsequent events.  I cite from the witness statement made by a social worker on behalf of the Local Authority dated 16th March 2018.  At para.10 it says this:

"On 3rd March 2018, [name redacted] went out for a walk without permission at 16.45 following becoming agitated at the home and staff followed her.  A staff member [name redacted] has reported that she maintained contact with [name redacted] through text messaging and met up with her again in McDonald's at 17.40.  [Name redacted] reports to [name redacted] that she was upset about her younger brother staying at his mother's house when he was not supposed to.  On her return, [name redacted] went into her bedroom, the following day staff reported that [name redacted] was pacing back and forth in her room, asking for a paracetamol for a headache.  [Name redacted] reports that [name redacted] unusual behaviour continued, leading her to request a room search.  [Name redacted] became aggressive towards staff whilst in her bedroom when staff asked her to do a room search.  They describe that her eyes were like saucers and could possibly have been under the influence of a substance.  [Name redacted] used a plastic plaque to harm herself, was hitting out at staff with it and making verbal threats that she would, "Fuck them up".  The staff reported that [name redacted] calmed down quickly after the incident.  Police attendance had initially been requested and when the police arrived, [name redacted] became agitated again and upon search of her, a mobile phone with Internet use fell out of her bra.  Upon a search of the room, nothing further was found.  [Name redacted] was admitted to hospital following the incident of self-harm, where she had superficially cut her wrists.  At the hospital, she was seen by CAMHS and they concluded that she had no further self harm intent and no suicidal ideation and were happy for her to be discharged.  She was discharged back to [name redacted] on 6th March 2018 at 2.00 p.m…

12. On 6th March 2018, following being discharged, [name redacted] left her accommodation at about 5.00 p.m. and was reported missing to the police.  She was found by the police smelling of alcohol, having hallucinations and was aggressive.  She was refusing to be monitored and was very agitated and was given two milligrams of Lorazepam to calm her down.  Ambulance staff transported her to hospital on 7th March 2018 at 5.00 a.m. where [name redacted] reported to hospital staff that she did not remember what had happened, was given alcohol and sweets and reported to have had anal and oral sex with one man who she did not know.  [Name redacted] refused to go to the [name redacted], a provision to offer urgent and follow-up care to people who have been sexually assaulted but agreed to a hepatitis B vaccine, bloods and sexual health tests.  [Name redacted] was given three weeks preventative medication for HIV."

5. Three days after that, the placement of the child completely broke down and she was moved to a new placement in the Midlands.  She is content and compliant at that placement.  Everyone hopes that this new placement will represent a success for her and that improvements can be made in her mental rehabilitation. 

6. The consequence of this is that the order that I made authorising her detention at the previous placement has been overtaken by events.  That order will therefore be discharged and replaced by a fresh order made by me today.  The consequence of that is that the order in respect of which permission to appeal has been granted by Peter Jackson LJ no longer exists and that appeal becomes redundant.  However, in view of the fact that I intend to adopt the same legal reasoning in respect of this fresh placement will, no doubt, lead the child to seek permission to appeal this new order, notwithstanding that the point of this exercise entirely escapes me.

7. There is agreement that the first and third Storck components are engaged at this new placement in the Midlands.  The child is being objectively confined, she is not in any realistic sense free to leave and her confinement is at the behest of the State.  The issue, once again, is whether she authentically consents.

8. On the last occasion in my judgment I held that the consent, as I have said, can only be found to exist where it is authentic and enduring.  That I was correct in that determination is demonstrated by the subsequent events.  Notwithstanding that the child on the last occasion expressed to me, seemingly authentic consent, subsequent events show that within a relatively short period of time, that consent was not genuinely expressed because the events which I have set out occurred. 

9. For these reasons, I am satisfied once again, even more satisfied than I was on the previous occasion, that the deprivation of liberty declaration should be given, granting the Local Authority the powers and protections which I have mentioned in my previous judgment.

10. I have asked, if I were not to make this declaration, what position would the Local Authority and, indeed, the child be left in?  She would not be in a position of formal state detention with the powers and protections that attach to that.  She would, on the face of it, be free to leave her present placement, although the consequences would be that she would then become an officially missing person and the Local Authority could summon police assistance to bring her back to base, but there will be nothing to prevent her leaving again almost instantly, a situation that is almost too absurd to contemplate as a consequence that the law intends to apply.

11. For these orders, therefore, I make an equivalent order to the one that I made on the last occasion in relation to this new placement.  For the avoidance of any doubt and in anticipation of an application for leave to appeal, I refuse leave to appeal on the same basis that I did on the last occasion, namely that I see no prospect of an appeal succeeding and, with all due respect to Peter Jackson LJ, I can see myself no compelling reason for the appeal to be heard.

12. I will authorise the bespeaking with expedition of a transcript of the judgment I have just given at public expense.

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**This transcript has been approved by the Judge**