Woman with learning difficulties granted freedom to consent to sexual relationships

A Court of Protection judge has given a woman with learning difficulties a chance to find love.

Eight years ago Sir Mark Hedley concluded, following a hearing in Leeds, that the woman did not have the mental capacity to “consent to sexual relations” or make decisions about contraception.

But he says she has made “considerable progress” over the years.

She no longer lived in a care home, but in supported-living accommodation, and the judge has decided that she now has the capacity to consent to sex and make contraception decisions.

Court of Protection judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions.

Sir Mark has explained his decision in a ruling published online after reconsidering the woman’s case at a hearing earlier this year.

He has not named the woman.

The judge said he had a “conversation” with the woman during the hearing.

“She very much appreciates the accommodation that she presently has and the support that surrounds it and the security that all that brings to her,” said the judge in his ruling.

“But what she is anxious to do is to have a much greater control over her own relationships.

“She wants to be able to develop relationships in a way that simply has not been possible because of the declarations that have been in place.”

He added: “It is right that (she) should be given the maximum freedom that consenting to sexual relations is intended to bestow.”

The judge said the woman lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about other aspects of her life and still needed protecting.

He said social workers could decide whether people she had contact with were “appropriate”.

But he said it was not a judge’s job or a social worker’s job to ensure that the woman lived a “moral life”.

“What they may not decide is how (she) then behaves once that contact is authorised,” Sir Mark added.

“That is for her and it is for her to make her own decisions for good or ill as to how she then conducts herself.”

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