A judge has called for tighter controls in the Court of Protection after highlighting two cases that each cost around £9,000 a month.
The Honourable Mr Justice Peter Jackson said the two cases heard on consecutive days illustrated ongoing problems with delay and expense in the court.
Both cases concerned young men living semi-independently but who lacked the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
In one case, 18-month proceedings incurred legal costs of £140,000, of which £60,000 fell on the local authority, £11,000 on a legally-aided family member and £69,000 on the man himself, paid from his damages.
In the second case, total costs of around £530,000 included £250,000 paid for out of legal aid, £169,000 charged to the local authority and £110,000 paid by a family member.
Jackson said the overriding objective of saving expense and ensuring cases are dealt with expeditiously and fairly was ‘not remotely achieved’ in either case.
He added that the cases reflected a developing practice of addressing every conceivable legal or factual issue, rather than concentrating on the issues that really need to be resolved.
The judge said he had publicised this ruling to express the view that case management provisions in the Court of Protection rules have proved ‘inadequate’ on their own.
Instead, he suggested more robust case management, use of experts only where necessary, judicial continuity and a statutory time limit.
In other courts, he said, such measures have halved the length of care cases, yet Court of Protection proceedings ‘commonly start with no timetable at all for their conclusion, nor any early vision of what an acceptable outcome would look like’.
He said the same disciplines should apply to the Court of Protection as exist in the family court and sent a copy of the judgment to Sir James Munby, president of the court of protection.
‘Whether we are spending public or private money, the court and the parties have a duty to ensure that the costs are reasonable,’ added Jackson.