The recent case of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council v Hill [2018] EWCOP 35 resulted in the Court making an order for committal to prison after the respondent was found guilty of impersonating P and incurring costs on P’s behalf that he was not authorised to do.

Background

P was a gentleman of 82 years of age living with dementia. P lived at home with support and the local authority was heavily involved in his affairs. During the proceedings, a provisional declaration was made that P lacked capacity and a deputy for property and financial affairs was put in place from January 2018.

What was the case about?

The case concerns an application for the respondent’s committal to prison for breach of certain injunctive orders made on 13 October 2017. The respondent was the son of P.

The respondent had previously been ordered not to contact P, directly or indirectly, or come within 100m of his house. This hearing was to determine whether he had breached those orders.

The respondent did not attend the hearing. As these were committal proceedings, the onus on proving the breach was on the local authority, the applicant.

The Court’s decision

Whilst the Court was not satisfied that some of the breaches had been proven to a criminal standard, it did find the respondent guilty of some of the breaches.

The breaches the respondent was found guilty of were:

  • Visiting P’s house when an injunction was in place
  • Arranging for the order and installation of a BT phone line and broadband without the authority of P and using the equipment at P’s property which meant further visits to P’s house when an injunction was in place.

When the BT order was placed, the caller purported to be P, giving his details including name, address and date of birth. The numbers the BT phone line was used to call were examined and the numbers were found to have links to the respondent – on many occasions it was used to call the respondent’s girlfriend. Therefore, the Court felt certain beyond reasonable doubt that the person who had placed the order with BT was the respondent.

In terms of the BT order, records show this was placed after the appointment of a deputy and therefore, the deputy was the only person with authority to incur place orders or make purchases on behalf of P. The Court found that the respondent had impersonated P in placing the BT order and had also incurred costs on P’s behalf that he was not authorised to do.

The respondent was sentenced to 4 months in prison.

What if I have concerns about a vulnerable person?

If a person is no longer able to manage their own property and financial affairs, and has not made a Power of Attorney, then an application should be made to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a Deputy.

What can be seen from this case is how important it is that the person’s money is properly managed and that decisions are made in the person’s best interests. Our specialist Court of Protection team has a wealth of experience in supporting individuals who lack capacity and their families.