Lawyer urges families to seek advice about relatives in care and nursing homes after exposure of flaws in the Mental Capacity Act

The head of one of the region's most prominent Mental Health law teams has urged the families of vulnerable people whom they believe are being unlawfully detained to urgently seek specialist legal advice.

The recommendation was delivered by John Lancaster, a Partner with leading North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, which has offices in Wrexham, Oswestry and Llangollen. It follows a report to a House of Lords select committee this week which claimed tens of thousands of vulnerable people are being detained unlawfully due to the complexity of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA).

Mr Lancaster said he was not at all surprised by the evidence presented to the committee by lawyers, that showed the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) provisions of the MCA to be ‘voluminous, overly bureaucratic, difficult to understand and providing only minimum safeguards'.

"The MCA is seriously flawed in many ways," says Mr Lancaster, "and there is a general lack of awareness among people as to who should be assessing whether a DOLS order is required.

"As a result a great many vulnerable people are being unlawfully deprived of their liberty, and to boot the Court of Protection, which exists to deal with cases concerning people who do not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions, is inflexible, costly and so far removed from the experience of most family carers that few know to turn to it for help.

"The complexities of the Mental Health Act are so great that for the layman they are a minefield to work through. It is of grave concern to me and to other lawyers that so many vulnerable people are being detained in care and nursing homes unlawfully, just because they and their families are unclear about their rights and do not understand how the system works. I cannot stress too greatly the importance of these people seeking specialist advice at the earliest juncture."