By Celia Kitzinger, 15th January 2021
At a brisk 17-minute hearing on 30 December 2021 before Mr Justice Keehan (Case no. 12803319), the judge approved the applicant local authority’s order to place P in a hotel with a package of 24-hour care as a temporary measure, pending his move to a permanent placement.
Use of a hotel to temporarily house P was apparently not in itself particularly remarkable. Ian Brownhill said that the local authority had previously placed service users in this same hotel.
The particular concern in this case arose from the fact that P (who has “mild learning disability”, “autistic spectrum disorder” and “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”) was currently in prison – on this occasion for the offences of criminal damage and common assault and battery, and he has previously been convicted of sexual offences against children. He was due to be released the next day.
At an earlier hearing on 23rd December 2020 before Mr Justice Keehan (I blogged about it here), the proposal to move P into a hotel was opposed by the Official Solicitor (represented by Joseph O’Brien) who described it as “fundamentally flawed” and by the National Probation Service (represented by Fiona Paterson). The judge’s view was that the proposed plan of the hotel simply will not do.” (Mr Justice Keehan). He urged the local authority to find another solution and to return to court if they could not.
At this hearing the local authority asked the judge to approve a draft order authorising P’s care at a hotel. There was simply no other option.
The Official Solicitor expressed “a real feeling of discomfort” about what the hotel would be told about P and about the sustainability of this arrangement beyond a very short period.
The local authority did not intend to tell the hotel anything about P’s offending history – only that he is homeless and needs to receive social care intervention.
“Beyond that, the local authority doesn’t believe it’s necessary to tell the hotel any more. We would go further than that: we don’t believe it would be lawful for us to disclose to the hotel P’s legal history” (Ian Brownhill)
He referred to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the Data Protection Act 2018 and the overarching protection of Article 8. It was, he said “unnecessary and possibly unlawful to disclose more to the hotel”.
On behalf of P (via the Official Solicitor) Joseph O’Brien expressed concern that:
“P may be able to place himself in a position where his carers are not around him, and he himself makes disclosures about his offending history [as he has done in the past]. The hotel might then become extremely concerned that they haven’t been given the full picture and terminate the arrangement at very short notice.” (Joseph O’Brien)
He added that “there is no contingency plan if, in fact, this placement fails on Day 1 or Day 2” but, “the local authority will no doubt one day have to answer for it if it all goes horribly wrong with the hotel.”
The judge intervened with a pragmatic suggestion that (as it turned out) was acceptable both the local authority and to the Official Solicitor.
“I can’t see why the hotel can’t be told that for the benefit of P and others he requires 24 hour supported care. The hotel can be told he’s not to leave the hotel or wander around the common areas of the hotel without his carers. And if hotel staff found that he was wandering around the hotel, or attempt to leave it, then they should call the police, or contact the care providers. They don’t need to know what the risks are, but they do need to know what’s permitted.” (Mr Justice Keehan)
All parties accepted this as an acceptable way forward.
My understanding is that, after less than a week at the hotel (without any incidents of concern), P was moved to his permanent placement.
I’m glad the hotel worked out and that P is now satisfactorily settled in a suitable placement, but this entire incident demonstrates vividly the pressures faced by adult social services.
Celia Kitzinger is co-director (with Gill Loomes-Quinn) of the Open Justice Court of Protection Project. She tweets @kitzingercelia