Judge raises concern about media coverage of Court of Protection case

A judge in a specialist court who is considering whether a mentally ill woman is still able to consent to make love with her husband of more than 25 years has raised concern about media coverage of the case.

Mr Justice Hayden has been told how a specialist has concluded that the woman’s mental health has reached the stage where she is no longer capable of understanding the “sexual act”.

Lawyers representing the woman want him to make a declaration saying she “lacks the capacity” to consent to sex.

The judge has analysed the case at recent hearings in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London.

He has heard submissions from lawyers representing social services bosses at Tower Hamlets Council, who have responsibility for the woman’s care, and lawyers representing the woman.

Staff at the Office of the Official Solicitor, who help vulnerable people caught up in litigation, have instructed lawyers on the woman’s behalf.

Mr Justice Hayden says he will announce his decision at a later date.

But he has outlined detail in an interim ruling published online, in which he raises concern about coverage.

Mr Justice Hayden said the case had “unfortunately” attracted a “great deal of media coverage” following a hearing in March.

“A great deal of the comment was sententious and, in some instances, irresponsible,” he said.

“It is considered, by the Official Solicitor and the applicant local authority, that the impact of that publicity frightened (the woman’s husband) very considerably, leading him to believe that he was likely to be sent to prison.”

Mr Justice Hayden says the couple, who live in London, cannot be identified in media reports of the case.

The woman’s husband had initially offered to give an undertaking not to have sex with her.

But the judge said evidence had to be explored in detail before decisions were made.

He has been told that the man had moved out of their home and the woman was being looked after by carers and relatives.

The judge says he wants the couple to understand that everyone involved in the litigation wants to try to help them in the best way possible.

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