Troubled teen ‘can consent to confinement’

family law

A troubled 15 year-old boy has the capacity to consent to his detention the High Court has concluded.

In Re C (A Child), the boy, ‘C’, was originally made the subject of a care order back in 2002. He was the youngest of five chldren and all four of his siblings were subsequently adopted. He remained with his mother, meanwhile, under the care order until 2007 when he was finally placed in foster care due to abnormal and risky behaviour.

In the Family Divison of the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan observed:

“Suffice it to say for the purposes of this judgment that it is agreed he has had a troubled childhood.”

C’s behavioural problems continued, however, and two foster placements broke down. Eventually he moved to his current home, which the Judge described as a highly supervised“specialist residential unit”, which specially trained staff are required to manage “high levels of aggression and intimidation and to work with C to manage his sexualised behaviours.”

At the home he is allowed no unsupervised contact with other residents and never left alone, whether in the unit or out. The doors of the home are locked at night and the windows are alarmed.

The local authority sought the Court’s authorisation for C’s retention in the home, a situation legally termed a ‘deprivation of liberty’.

However, C’s legal guardian countered that no legal authorisation was in fact required because the teen was, despite his problems, still ‘Gillick-competent’. This term is used to describe young people with sufficient maturity to consent to their own (mainly medical) treatment, without the permission of their parents or other authority figures.

Mr Justice Keehan accepted this argument, and therefore was no need for a legal order as confinement was clearly in the boy’s best interests. However, the Judge warned him:

“I hope C does not interpret my decision as giving him free reign to do what he likes; I very much hope he will continue to work cooperatively with the staff at the unit for his long-term future benefit.”

Mr Justice Keehan added:

“I do not intend what I am about to say to be seen as a threat by C, but he must understand that were he not to cooperate or were he to withdraw his consent to his placement, it is inevitable that the local authority will take action and make further applications to the court to secure his compliance.”

Read the full ruling here.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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