Down’s Syndrome man awarded £10,000 for sex education delay

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A man with Down’s Syndrome has been awarded £10,000 in damages by the Court of Protection.

The case concerned a 38 year-old, ‘CH’, who also had an unspecified learning difficulty. He married a woman referred to as ‘WH’ back in 2010 and they set up home together, living in his parents’ house. Five years into the marriage, however, the couple sought fertility treatment and at that point a consultant decided that CH actually lacked the capacity to properly consent to sex with his wife, and would have to undergo an educational course before he would achieve this.

In the meantime, WH was told to stop sleeping with her husband. She complied, moving into a separate bedroom and largely avoiding “any physical expressions of affection”, to the dismay of CH.

Judge Sir Mark Hedley explained:

“WH had reasonably understood from the local authority that should she fail to comply, safeguarding measures would be taken which would require the removal of CH (or herself) from their home.”

Oddly, however, the council  failed to arrange the sex education classes the psychologist had deemed necessary, in spite of repeated requests and extensive correspondence with couple. It was not until CH’s sister obtained an order from the Court of Protection that the course finally began, in summer last year. Subsequently, a second course of lessons was ordered, to further educate CH on the risks of sexually transmitted disease – in spite of the fact that the couple had been in a “committed monogamous and exclusive relationship”.

These additional lessons were delivered in the early months of this year and the local authority finally accepted that CH was now able to consent to his marriage. A court order to that effect was  made in May.

At that point CH and his wife resumed normal married life, more than two years after the original stipulation.

Sir Mark Hedley approved the damages award after the Official Solicitor applied on behalf of CH.

The Judge declared:

“Society’s entirely proper concern to protect those who are particularly vulnerable may lead to surprising, perhaps even unforeseen consequences….Many would think that no couple should have had to undergo this highly intrusive move upon their personal privacy yet such move was in its essentials entirely lawful and properly motivated. … perhaps it is part of the inevitable price that must be paid to have a regime of effective safeguarding.”

Read the full judgement here.

Image by jiunn kang too via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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