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Court overturns teenager DoLS ruling

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Birmingham City Council has won its appeal against a Court of Protection ruling that the parents of a 16-year-old boy with severe behavioural problems could not give consent for him to be deprived of his liberty.

When the boy was 15 the court had ruled that parents could give consent for the boy, who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome and a mild learning disability, to be placed in secure accommodation.

The basis of the ruling was that the boy lacked the capacity to give consent for his care.

However, when the boy turned 16 the court of protection reconsidered the boy’s case and ruled that his parents could no longer give the required consent due to his age.

This judgement required Birmingham to apply to the court for authorisation of a deprivation of liberty for a child under a voluntary care agreement, as specified in section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

Birmingham challenged the ruling, arguing that because the boy was in voluntary care with parental consent, deprivation of liberty did not apply as his parents were in charge of him.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal overturned the original ruling.

Delivering the judgement, the president of the Court of Protection Sir James Munby said the original judge had “erred in law” in ruling that the parents could not give consent for a deprivation of liberty for a child of 16 or over.

Birmingham executive director for children’s services Alastair Gibbons said the case could have had significant consequences for local government finances.

He added: “For those disabled children and those children with mental health and psychological problems such as self-harming there would have been a whole series of court of appeal applications which would have been costly.

“Children’s social workers are often not that familiar with deprivation of liberty safeguards so there would have had to be training and court cost implications.

“The court quite rightly said that cost implications are quite rightly not a legal defence - that is a matter for government - so our issue about resources was in a sense irrelevant but for local government as a whole, it would have potentially had a big implication.”

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