RGS was 84 and suffered from vascular dementia. He had two children, a son (“RB”) and a daughter. RGS had been living in his own home until he was admitted to hospital and he was subsequently moved from hospital into a care home. The proceedings had a long history. According to the social worker’s (“SW”) statement which formed part of the original court application, whilst living in his own home RGS had suffered from neglect at home:
“RB states that he would bring his father fresh food every week. This is adamantly disputed by RGS’s housekeeper and neighbours who state that RB eats his father’s food and leaves him without. They state that he would leave his father for weeks on end and then he will come and use the washing machine, leaving the house a ‘mess’”
Following RGS’s move into residential care his Independent Mental Capacity Advocate stated that “…RGS would be at a very high risk if he returned home, due to previous self-neglect.”
In the previous proceedings RB had disagreed that his father should be placed in the care home and following an afternoon visit, refused to return his father and subsequently refused to tell the SW where his father was. A ‘seek and find’ order was granted by the High Court. RGS was returned and RB gave an undertaking to the court that he would not remove his father from the care home. Following this incident, the contact that he had with his father was supervised.
In 2013, by consent and on the basis of several independent assessments, the Court declared that it remained in RGS’s best interests for him to live at X Care Home. The full judgement was reported as Re RGS  EWHC 4162 (COP).
Shortly after this decision was made RGS was assaulted on three occasions over three days by a fellow care home resident. Following these incidents the other resident was constantly monitored. He was subsequently sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 and removed from X Care Home. That resident would not be returning to X Care Home. The manager of the care home promptly reported the incidents to Essex County Council and to RB, so that they could be investigated under the council’s safeguarding procedures. On its own motion the Court considered that it was in RGS’s best interests to review the existing arrangements.
The primary issue before the Court was whether or not it continued to be in RGS’s best interests to reside at X Care Home, having regard to the fact that he had been assualted there. There were also two secondary issues to decide concerning contempt of court and reporting restrictions.
RB argued that his father was effectively a prisoner at X Care Home and that he passionately wanted to return home and that Essex County Council should pay for home care until compensation was awarded to RGS. Many independent people had visited RGS at the care home in order to evaluate the accuracy of what RB was saying. All of them stated that RGS was content where he was and when he had been presented with alternatives by them, he had not expressed any wish or preference to live elsewhere. They stated that transferring him to a different environment would add to his confusion and be likely to make him more agitated. The Official Solicitor stated that the assaults were isolated incidents involving a specific resident. The care home’s procedures had been reviewed and revised. Although no individual’s safety could ever be totally guaranteed, Essex County Council was satisfied that X Care Home was safe for RGS and other residents. The court accepted that the very clear balance of the evidence indicated that it continued to be in RGS’s best interests to reside at X Care Home.
District Judge Eldergill added the following comments:
“a) Having spent almost 30 years in mental health, chaired inquiries and worked as a Coroner, I can say without qualification that it is a sad fact that assaults and other serious incidents do sometimes occur at well-run care homes, nursing homes and psychiatric units because of the mental ill-health of someone receiving care or treatment there. That is one important factor to consider when deciding whether it is in someone’s best interests to be at home or in a shared environment.
b) In this case, X Care Home is a spacious manor-type house set in the open countryside. It passed all of the overall standards at its last Care Quality Commission visit in January 2014, including the standards concerning caring for people safely and protecting them from harm. RGS is generally content at the care home. The independent people who have visited him are satisfied with his general care and quality of life.
c) There is no practical alternative. He suffered neglect at home. His son’s actions would make a home care package unsustainable even if it was affordable. The financial feasibility of a return home was explored in 2013 in deference to RB’s wishes. It was not feasible. The position today is the same. If W Cottage is not sold, RGS has debts which cannot be met of £199,908 (much of which ironically and tragically relate to his son’s actions). Therefore, W Cottage must be sold.
d) RB now says that home care could be financed by a ‘flood claim’ against the Anglian Water Authority pending the award of compensation to him and his father. That is not realistic. The Official Solicitor was correct to say that the option of residence at W Cottage is ‘not remotely affordable’ even if it was otherwise feasible.
e) It is not appropriate for RB to be appointed as his father’s deputy for property and affairs, in place of the county council. The conflict of financial interest is too great and his previous unauthorised dealings with his father’s assets make this impractical.”
RB had persuaded some local newspaper editors to publish stories about his father and his own efforts to ‘release’ him from his ‘prison’. These publications breached section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960, the Court of Protection Rules 2007 and court orders. RB had also written to District Judge Eldergill about the case at a private email address, copying the judge into numerous emails and correspondence with the parties and other persons. Because the local authority had taken a compassionate view and no one had yet applied to have him committed for contempt of court, the Court held that no action would be taken. DJ Eldergill had stated in the first case that the son had
“…endured mental health problems since the age of 16 and quite often this has been trying for him, and no doubt for his father, to cope with. His father appears no longer to have capacity to decide how to deal with, or to respond to, his son’s behaviour when it affects his own well-being and interests. I must decide for him. On the current evidence, I think his father is devoted to his son and would wish me to take the same forgiving approach to his actions that he seems to have taken over the years. At present, therefore, I continue to prefer not to take any formal steps…”
In relation to the media attendance, reporting, and publicity the Court held that the existing reporting restrictions were appropriate in striking a balance between the arguments for and against broadening identification of those involved in the proceedings. RB argued that the Court should identify him and his father as the people at the heart of this case and to authorise the press and other third parties to identify them in reports. He also wanted the Court to authorise the identification of the care home. The court decided that RB lacked litigation capacity and that acceding to his request would be likely to cause significant harm to his health and well-being and was not in his best interests.
The court held that the identities of Essex County Council, the court, the judge and the experts were already public knowledge and they were all accountable whether or not RGS and RB were identified.