Couple concerned about relative’s dementia care lose case to disclose details

A couple who have concerns about the way the care of a relative who suffers from dementia has been managed by health authority bosses have lost a free speech fight in a specialist court.

The couple want to be allowed to disclose information about the man’s case, including his name plus confidential medical and social work reports, to an MP.

They also want to speak to journalists and allow the media to name the man, a former steel works shop steward, in reports.

Health authority bosses with responsibility for the man’s care have raised objections.

They are concerned about the man’s private medical and financial information emerging into the public domain amid fears that publicity could cause harm.

A judge in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to take decisions for themselves are considered, was asked to make a ruling.

Mr Justice Hayden ruled against the couple on Wednesday after analysing competing arguments at a hearing in London.

The judge, who has barred journalists from identifying anyone involved in reports of the hearing, said the case involved balancing the human rights to free speech and to respect for private and family life.

Lawyers said the case raised issues about people’s rights to enlist the help of MPs – and journalists – when they have complaints about decisions made by public authorities.

Barrister Nageena Khalique QC, who represents one of the man’s relatives, said evidence showed that, before losing the mental capacity to take decisions, the man himself had raised complaints about his care and had wanted to get his MP involved in his case.

She said evidence also showed that he had been a “true socialist” and active union member who had been interested in politics and “about the individual fighting against the state”.

“The balance lies in favour of disclosure and publication,” she said.

“(The man) should not be disadvantaged from doing what an adult with capacity could legitimately do, namely ventilate his concerns to his MP and the media.”

She said the media’s “freedom to report” would be an issue of “great significance” to the man.

Barrister Joseph O’Brien, who is representing the interests of the man, echoed those arguments.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.