Tait v Wedgwood (29 October 2002) (unreported) (Ch.D)

T had suffered serious head injuries in a train accident as a child. In proceedings for personal injury damages (by the conclusion of which T was an adult), T’s father and solicitor had given undertakings to hold the damages awarded on trust for T, the arrangements for which were extremely informal.

T had since married and wished to emigrate to India with his family. He sought orders from the court that the undertakings given be discharged, that the trust be wound up and that the assets be distributed to him. The question for the court was whether T was a patient within the meaning of s94(2)MHA 1983, ie a person incapable by reason of mental disorder of managing and administering his property and affairs. Restating the legal position, the judge held that the purpose of the court’s jurisdiction to declare a person to be a patient was not to protect the individual from the consequences of a wrong or imprudent decision; it was to take out of the hands of that individual his or her decision-making function in relation to property and affairs, when it was shown on the balance of probabilities that such a person did not have the capacity sufficiently to understand, absorb and retain information (including advice) relevant to the matters in question sufficiently to enable him or her to make decisions based on such information. Although there was, on the evidence, some degree of mental disorder within the meaning of s1(2) of the Act, T had the insight to recognise his intellectual limitations. He would need and would seek the necessary advice and, provided the advice given was explained carefully, he would be able to understand it. T therefore had the requisite decision-making capacity to manage his affairs and the court would make the necessary orders to bring the trust to an end.

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