When a local authority could see that an elderly woman had been browbeaten into going into a care home against her will, it considered that she had not given a valid consent and challenged the move.
The woman’s son had lived with her and exercised a huge degree of control over her – even to the extent of telling her which parts of the house she could go into and preventing her from going out. He exerted great pressure on her to go into a care home.
The local authority brought a case against the son, alleging that his behaviour constituted psychological abuse. It sought an injunction to restrain him from interfering with his mother’s decisions. His mother opposed the action, but the council proceeded nonetheless.
Normally, such applications would be brought under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, but this deals with people who do not have mental capacity (i.e. cannot make decisions for themselves). In this case, the woman had mental capacity but was being dominated by her son.
The Court of Appeal decided that the courts do have the power to step in to protect vulnerable adults whose capacity to act for themselves is impaired by coercion or undue influence, even if they cannot be said to be people who lack mental capacity.