Deprivation of Liberty following the Supreme Court Judgement

Essential reading and guidance for all staff following the Supreme Court ruling 19 March 2014 – P v Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Briefing following the Supreme Court Judgement

  • P v Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • P & Q, the Official Solicitor v Surrey County Council 2014 UKSC

On 19 March 2014 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that P, a profoundly disabled man was deprived of his liberty by virtue of the complete and effective control exercised over his life by those looking after him. The Supreme Court rejected the decision and the factors that were introduced when the case was heard by the Appeal Court and re-affirmed the original decision that had been previously reached in the Court of Protection.

In reaching this decision the Supreme Court identified that to determine whether a person (without the mental capacity to consent to the arrangements) is being deprived of their liberty, the following 'acid test' should be applied:

Is the person subject to continuous supervision and control?

  • All of these factors are necessary. You should seek legal advice if intensive levels of support are being provided to any person as part of a package of care or treatment. 

Is the person free to leave?

  • The focus is not on the person’s ability to express a desire to leave, but on what those with control over their care arrangements would do if they sought to leave.

In all cases, the following are not relevant to the application of the test:

  1. The person’s compliance or lack of objection
  2. The relative normality of the placement (whatever the comparison made); and
  3. The reason or purpose behind a particular placement.

This ruling has increased the number of customers who now fall within the scope of what constitutes a deprivation of liberty and where this occurs authorisation is required.

 Where this test is applicable and the customer is in:

  • a care home or hospital, authorisation is able to be provided through the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards – DOLS. 
  • an environment other than a care home or hospital, then an application would need to be made by the customer’s allocated worker through the Court of Protection – via Suffolk Legal.

Guidance regarding the process for making a DOLS referral (where the customer is in a care home or hospital) is provided on the DOLS page.