Case Study: The Mental Capacity Act and Rebecca
I was asked to get involved in the case of a young woman with a mild learning disability. For the purposes of confidentiality, we will call her Rebecca. Rebecca lived in a house share with some other young people with mild disabilities. There were some care staff that came in through the day to help with a few things. Rebecca, like many people her age liked to go out to the pub, which she had done without any problems for about 4 years. One evening Rebecca was mugged and this involved her being pushed and having her purse stolen. The incident was reported to the Police and due to Rebecca’s very good description of the mugger an arrest was made.
The care agency supporting Rebecca decided that she should not go out to the pub anymore unless a member of staff accompanied her. They had good intentions and did not want her to be mugged or come to any harm. However, Rebecca did not agree to this plan that the care staff had come up with and therefore I was asked to get involved.
My first consideration was whether it was lawful for the care staff to effectively lock Rebecca in her own home and tell her she cannot go to the pub without a staff member. Rebecca did not agree to this restriction and the restriction was not authorised by the Court. It was therefore illegal.
I met with Rebecca and she agreed to me completing a mental capacity assessment about this issue. Her capacity was questioned because of her learning disability. I established that she had mental capacity to decide if she wanted to go to the pub and whether she wanted a carer to accompany her or not. We therefore had a written assessment for Rebecca which fully considered all the relevant issues and determined that she could .
Rebecca absolutely had the right to go to the pub. She had been mugged which was awful but she should not be punished because of this. The mugger is the one that should be punished. Rebecca wanted to keep going out to the pub because she enjoyed it. In four years she had been mugged once which was horrible but it was a rare occurrence that could have happened to anybody. Rebecca did not want this one bad experience to end her social life. I was able to support Rebecca in ensuring her right to liberty, which is Article 5 of the Human Rights Act. Article 5 is about protecting people’s freedom from unlawful detention.
With Rebecca’s permission, I was able to speak with her care staff to advise them on using the law in relation to this matter. I was able to help them with completing accurate risk assessments with Rebecca in order to promote her right to go out to the pub alongside having a plan in place should something go wrong.
(Details have been changed to protect the person’s confidentiality.)