Can the Court of Protection send me to jail?
You might be surprised to find that the answer is yes.
This case (Case Reference  EWCOP 35) involves an elderly gentleman known as KJ who suffers from dementia. There were concerns about the behaviour of two men, one named Shaun Hill. It appears from the Judgement that KJ was Shaun Hill’s father.
The Court had put in place an injunction preventing Shaun Hill and the other man from contacting KJ directly or indirectly, from obstructing the officers of the local authority or any other professional who provides care to KJ and obstructing them from carrying out mental capacity assessments. A further injunction also forbade Shaun Hill from coming within 100m of KJ’s current residence.
A number of concerns were raised by the local authority. There was evidence from two witnesses that Shaun Hill had been at KJ’s property. The Court accepted the evidence of those witnesses.
There were concerns that drug paraphernalia was found in a spare bedroom at the property and that Shaun Hill had left it there. The Judge was not able to be certain that the paraphernalia had been put there after the date of the injunction and so this point was not proved.
The Judge found that some other evidence around KJ asking for money did not meet the criminal standard of proof either. However, the Judge was able to listen to a recording of a conversation between a man and somebody who worked for BT. The man, who pretends to be KJ, orders landline equipment and tries to order a mobile phone although that does not succeed in that conversation.
To the Judge, what took the connection between the caller and Shaun Hill “well beyond the point of reasonable doubt” is that the call log on the line shows that the landline number had been used on many occasions to call Shaun Hill’s girlfriend. The number had apparently been called 11 times in 9 days. The Judge was satisfied that those calls were made by Shaun Hill and believed that Shaun Hill had pretended to be KJ to order the equipment and was also at the property to make the calls.
The Judge also noted that Shaun Hill had been evasive when it came to receiving service of Orders and in the end the notice of hearing was sent to his girlfriend’s address which was the only known address for him.
The Judge decided that Shaun Hill should receive a sentence of imprisonment and sentenced him to four months. The Judge commented “I have considered whether that sentence ought to be suspended. I decline to do so in circumstances where Shaun Hill has shown contempt for the court and has not deigned to attend”.
It is unusual for a person to be jailed in Court of Protection proceedings but in this case it is clear why that was. There was clearly a history of concern about Shaun Hill’s behaviour towards KJ which led the Court to put in place the injunction in the first place. Shaun Hill seems to have ignored the injunction and gone to the house on a number of occasions, impersonated his father and attempted to interfere with his father’s finances, specifically ordering telephone landline equipment which he later used, and trying to order a mobile phone.
The Court found Shaun Hill’s breaches of the injunctions to be “serious and repeated”. They also involved dishonesty.
Finally, the Court took into account Shaun Hill’s attitude to the Court. It commented “Shaun Hill, in addition, has been evasive when it comes to service of orders on him. He has declined to attend or file any evidence in response to that filed by the applicant. There is no evidence before the court upon which the court can be satisfied that he intends to comply with the injunction order in the future”.
Ignore a Court of Protection injunction at your peril.