Mental Capacity Law in Contract and Property Matters

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By Jaime Lindsey and Benjamin O’Connell

Mental capacity law could impact all of us at some point in our lives. When a person’s decision-making capacity becomes impaired, it can lead to a best interests decision being taken on their behalf under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. A best interests decision could be taken by professionals caring for the individual, those with authority to do so such as Deputies, or the Court of Protection (CoP). While health and welfare decisions in mental capacity cases have been increasingly researched, the jurisdiction relating to property and affairs has had much less scrutiny, despite it making up a significant proportion of the CoP’s workload.

Given this gap in focus, the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre are hosting a hybrid event on 5 October 2022 in conjunction with the Mental Diversity Law Network (MDLN). The MDLN is an interdisciplinary network of approximately 200 people with academic, professional and/or lived experience of mental differences or difficulties, caregivers and other stakeholders with an interest in the law as it relates to mental diversity.

The event will bring together a range of academics, practitioners, individuals with lived experience and others to discuss the role of mental capacity law in helping individuals to manage their property and finances. The event will consider a wide range of issues, including the capacity to contract, capacity to make a will, supported decision-making and safeguards to protect against financial abuse.

The event will consist of two panels.

The first will discuss the role of support in managing property and finances, including issues that arise under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This may include practical barriers individuals face, access to documentation and general accessibility of support and benefit services, as well as what legal responses can be operationalised to better secure support. Speakers on this panel include Clíona de Bhailís from the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor Rosie Harding of the University of Birmingham, and Support Workers from Outside Interventions, Shonaid and Andy.

The second panel will discuss the role of mental capacity law in England and Wales in this area and include three speakers. John Howard, a lawyer in the Property and Affairs Team of the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee; Gareth Ledsham, Partner at Russell Cooke; and Her Honour Judge Hilder Senior Judge of the Court of Protection.

This free event will be held Wednesday 5 October 13:00 – 17:00 at Wivenhoe House Hotel, Colchester, as well as online via Zoom. Please register in advance here. The organisers welcome questions and interaction from audience members and any queries about the event can be directed to Dr Jaime Lindsey at j.t.lindsey@essex.ac.uk.

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