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Monday, 03 September 2018

Judge takes aim at social services 'malaise' in case of severely-disabled Colombian woman

Written by Brian Farmer

Social services bosses at a London council have been criticised by a judge over the way they handled a case involving a severely-disabled Colombian woman who was living in England but wanted to be cared for in South America.

Mr Justice Newton said the woman had suffered a cardiac arrest more than four years ago, when in England, which left her with brain damage.

He said "as long ago" as September 2014 the woman had "unequivocally" said she wanted to be cared for at a unit in Colombia and social services bosses at Lambeth Council, and health staff, had approved the idea.

But he said she had not returned to her homeland until early in 2018.

The judge said the woman had "just had to wait" because of "disorganised, muddled and unfocused decision-making, and what has at times verged on an arrogance".

He said a "malaise" had set in for which Lambeth Council was "entirely responsible".

The judge analysed the case at hearings in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions are considered, in London and made criticisms in a written ruling.

He said the woman, who is in her 50s, could not be identified.

"I can only begin to imagine (the woman's) sense of frustration and loss at being kept here for years against her wishes, and for no good reason," said the judge in his ruling.

"The arrangements could and should have been established and implemented long ago, years ago, but because of disorganised, muddled and unfocused decision-making, and what has at times verged on an arrogance, (she) has just had to wait."

He added: "It should be remembered that (she) had been kept here against her wishes, at a cost to the taxpayer of over £2,000 per week.

"If the authority had done what it should have done in a timely professional manner, not only could they have saved themselves over £100,000 a year, and saved the cost to the taxpayer of these protracted ... court proceedings, they could have avoided (the woman) the years of misery from being kept a prisoner here, against her will."

Mr Justice Newton, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said the case had a "shocking history".

The judge said he had published a summary of the "unhappy proceedings" to highlight the "very deeply frustrating and disorganised thinking, planning and management within the authority".

He said a "vulnerable adult" had been kept "unnecessarily miserable against her will" much longer than was necessary.

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