Schedule to be inserted as Schedule AA1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005

Part of Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care) 9:45 am, 15th January 2019

It was not clear to me that you wanted me to speak to my group of amendments, Mr Austin, but I understand that now. Some Committee members have not been on a Bill Committee before, and I have not been on one for about two and a half years, so you might have to bear with us. In speaking to amendment 38, I want to mention an important principle that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North touched on, which was introduced in the House of Lords: the extension of the liberty protection safeguards to 16 and 17-year-olds, and their right to a pre-authorisation review by an approved mental capacity professional.

Extension of the liberty protection safeguards was added in the House of Lords. The Government ought to be congratulated for this addition, as there was a large and glaring inconsistency within the Mental Capacity Act. This was timely recognition that 16 and 17-year-olds are vulnerable to slipping through the gaps the Bill would create for them if they were not included. The Mental Capacity Act applies to people aged 16 plus, but the Bill originally excluded those below 18 from the liberty protection safeguards, leaving an important gap in the legislation.

The Law Commission conducted a detailed consultation on this and concluded that most respondents to the consultation supported the proposal to include 16 and 17-year-olds in the new scheme. In its words, most organisations

“argued this would provide consistency with the rest of the Mental Capacity Act, and that in many cases the use of the Mental Health Act and section 25 of the Children Act would be inappropriate.”

The two recommendations from the commission’s report were that

“The liberty protection safeguard should apply to people aged 16 and above”— this would give effect to their inclusion in the commission’s draft Bill—and that

“The Government should consider reviewing mental capacity law relating to all children, with a view to statutory codification.”

As was noted during Committee in the House of Lords, extending the Bill to cover 16 and 17-year-olds will empower some of the most vulnerable young people and ensure that they can access adequate help. However, the liberty protection safeguards do not completely fill the gap regarding the deprivation of liberty of people under 18. The extension comes with some problems, but these are soluble.

Under existing legislation, deprivation of liberty must be authorised either by a court, most likely the Court of Protection, exercising powers under the Mental Capacity Act 2005