The National Deprivation Of Liberty Court

Published date31 March 2023
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Law Department Performance, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Performance, Management
Law FirmWeightmans
AuthorDavid Birch

What are the latest trends we can take from the data?

We are now nine months into the one year pilot of the National Deprivation of Liberty Court, and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory ('NFJO') have published their briefing highlighting the 'Latest data trends - February 2023', and a study detailing the needs and characteristics of the children subject to Deprivation of Liberty ('DoL') applications 'An analysis of the first two months of applications at the national deprivation of liberty court'.

The creation of the National Deprivation of Liberty Court

The National Deprivation of Liberty Court was set up to improve the process for considering applications for children to be deprived of their liberty under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. Its purpose is not to consider a DoL under the Mental Capacity Act, nor a detention under the Mental Health Act.

A DoL occurs when restrictions are placed upon a child's liberty that are beyond what would normally be expected for a child of the same age. This may include them being required to live somewhere they are not free to leave, being under continuous supervision and control, and subject to restraint or medical treatment without consent. DoL applications under the inherent jurisdiction are made when other statutory powers are not available in the situation, such as when there are no beds available in secure children's homes and local authorities have to look elsewhere.

In early 2022, the NFJO published research which showed that the number of High Court applications to deprive children of their liberty, by placing them in unregulated settings, had seen a rise of 462% in the three years to 2020/21. Lisa Harker, the director of the NFJO, said "The use of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is intended as a last resort, yet last year hundreds of children were deprived of their liberty in this way, ... We need an urgent rethink about how we improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in our society, and to be clear about the purpose of depriving young people of their liberty."

In June 2022, it was announced that, from 4 July 2022, all new application seeking the authorisation of a DoL under the inherent jurisdiction would be issued in the Royal Courts of Justice. When announcing its launch, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, said "This is important, sensitive work and the continued growth in the number of these applications to the family courts requires the creation...

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