What is a Deprivation of Liberty? – Thoughts on Cheshire West and Chester Council v P

I accept that this post is about something of a niche in the corner of health and social care but it’s an area I have some interest in as I’m a Best Interests Assessor. This is going to be a long haul of a post so I’ll start this time with a glossary.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards – particular additions to the Mental Capacity Act which were supposed to fix a ‘gap’ (known as the Bournewood Gap – see below) in UK legislation where people without capacity could be ‘deprived of their liberty’ in a hospital or care home without leave to appeal.

Bournewood Gap – while it sounds like the name of a service station, it resulted from the HL v Bournewood case which was taken to the European Court of Human Rights and determined at a man (HL) with learning disabilities had been detained unlawfully in Bournewood Hospital. This case meant the UK needed to change its law to be compatible with the Human Rights Act.

Mental Capacity Act – broad legislation introduced in 2005 which included (on amendment of the 2007 Mental Health Act) these Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Best Interest Assessor – one of the minimum of two people involved in assessing whether a deprivation of liberty should be authorised or not. Usually a social worker, nurse or  occupational therapist – could also be a clinical psychologist (unusual). They will assess both whether there is a deprivation of liberty and whether it is in the person’s best interest.

Mental Health Assessor – the other person who would be involved in assessing whether a deprivation of liberty should be authorised. They will be a specially trained doctor. They assess, well, the Mental Health.

So back to the start again and ‘What is a deprivation of liberty?’ in this context? Considering I’m a Best Interests Assessor and one of my roles is to actually assess whether a deprivation of liberty is taking place or not, you’d think that I would have a great answer to add to my ‘summing up’ glossary above.

You’d be wrong. The definition of ‘deprivation of liberty’ is fuzzy and continues to get fuzzier.
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