Hope for blind war veteran in High Court battle to leave care facility

A blind 97-year-old Second World War veteran embroiled in a High Court battle because he wants to leave a care facility might be able to return home.

Former Royal Navy gunner Douglas Meyers, who lives near Southend, told a judge he was unhappy in the care facility and wanted to end his life in the bungalow which was his home for 40 years.

Mr Justice Hayden has concluded that the “ideal solution” would be for Mr Meyers to return home with a “suitable package of support”.

He outlined his thinking in a ruling after analysing evidence in a trial at the Family Division of the High Court earlier this month.

The judge, based in London, oversaw the hearing in a Southend courtroom normally used by magistrates so Mr Meyers could attend.

Mr Meyers, who served in the Italian and north African theatres during the 1940s, sat in a wheelchair at the front of the court wearing a row of campaign medals.

Social services bosses at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council have welfare responsibility for Mr Meyers and lawyers representing the council had asked the judge to make a decision about what was in the veteran’s best interests.

Two lawyers – barrister Parishil Patel QC and solicitor Laura Hobey-Hamsher, who works for law firm Bindmans – represented the pensioner for free.

Both sets of lawyers agreed that Mr Meyers, a widower who turns 98 in March, had the mental capacity to make decisions.

Barrister Katie Scott, who led the council’s legal team, said he had gone into the care facility a few months ago after being found in difficult circumstances at home.

She said the case was “extraordinarily difficult”.

Mr Meyers had rejected offers of care at his home, and social services bosses had taken the view that they could not “force” care on him.

Mr Patel told the judge: “His instructions are quite clear – he wants to go home.”

Mr Meyers did not address Mr Justice Hayden at the trial, but he spoke to the judge by telephone at preliminary hearings.

“I am a veteran and I am due the respect of a veteran who wants to end his life in his home,” he said.

“I did six years in the Navy during the war. I think I deserve some respect at my age.

“I still have my senses. I know what I am doing. I am strong enough to look after myself.”

Mr Justice Hayden described Mr Meyers as an “extraordinary man”.

Social services bosses said they had “discharged their obligations” to Mr Meyers under legislation relating to social care and human rights.

Mr Justice Hayden disagreed and suggested more could be done.

“I do not intend to be prescriptive as to what the local authority should do,” he said in his ruling.

“The ideal solution here, it seems to me, would be for Mr Meyers to return to his bungalow with a suitable package of support.”

Mr Justice Hayden also identified a problem with the behaviour of one of Mr Meyers’ relatives.

He suggested that social services bosses should take legal action to exclude that relative from Mr Meyers’ home.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.