Jones v Commission for Social Care Inspection [2004] EWCA Civ 1713

This was an appeal by J against a judgment of the Administrative Court allowing an appeal by the National Care Standards Commission (C) against a decision of the Care Standards Tribunal (T).  T’s decision overturned a decision by C to refuse his application for registration as a care home manager.  J was an experienced nurse who had managed 2 nursing homes for adults with physical and learning disabilities.  Both homes were registered under the Registered Homes Act 1984 but there was no provision within this Act for the registration of managers as fit persons to manage a registered home.  The relevant local authority operated a voluntary registration scheme for such managers and J was registered under this scheme.  The Care Standards Act 2000 repealed and replaced the 1984 Act and imposed a more sophisticated registration scheme for managers.

Regulation 9 of the Care Home Regulations 2001 set out the criteria under the new scheme that a manager must meet in order to satisfy the requirements of being a ‘fit person’.  It stated that a person would not be fit to manage a care home unless ‘he was of integrity and good character’ and ‘had the qualifications, skills and experience necessary for managing the care home’.  The Regulations required the registration authority to refuse an application if they were not satisfied he was a fit person to be concerned in carrying on a residential care home.  The burden of proof was therefore on the applicant to show on the balance of probabilities that he was a fit person for the purposes of the Regulation .

J’s application to register was rejected by the Commission on 3 grounds:

(1)  An adverse outcome of a disciplinary hearing before his professional body
(2)  Deliberate concealment of the proceedings (and a police investigation) in his application for registration
(3)  His failure to impress the inspector during his interview, on his knowledge of the law and principles of managing a care home.

The Tribunal, in overturning the Commission’s decision not to register J, thought that the Commission had to be satisfied of unfitness, before they could validly refuse registration.  A statutory appeal by the Commission was granted by the Administrative Court on the basis that it was not satisfied that the Tribunal had approached its job on the appeal, of properly assessing the evidence in J’s case against Regulation 9 criteria or given adequate evidence of the reasoning processes behind its decision.  J appealed against this judgment to the Court of Appeal.

The court agreed that the Tribunal’s approach had been incorrect and the burden of proof had been applied the wrong way around. The correct approach was for the applicant for registration to show that he was a fit person, set against the criteria in Regulation 9.  The Commission’s appeal was allowed because of the erroneous basis on which the Tribunal had arrived at its decision and the matter was remitted back to the Tribunal to be heard by a fresh panel properly directing itself.

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