HHJ Burrows sitting in the Court of Protection considered the case of ZK, a man with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare condition sometimes known as acquired aphasia with epilepsy. People with Landau-Kleffner syndrome can typically hear, but have significant difficulties in speaking or understanding spoken language. ZK was being supported to engaged in British Sign Language for twelve hours per day with his carers.
The court considered both the lawfulness of the local authority making a best interests decision to remove ZK from the family home in the absence of a court order, and ZK’s interim best interests with respect to residence and care. The court concluded that where ZK wanted to leave the family home, his removal was not improper.
ZK’s family argued that it was in his best interests to return to the family home; there was conflicting evidence filed as to ZK’s wishes and feelings. The court considered whether it was in ZK’s best interests to remain in a supported living placement, and found that ZK benefitted ‘hugely from his engagement’ with his sign language education and ‘it would be a significant blow to him if he were suddenly spending considerably less time with the carers and support workers than he presently does. This is not just about recreation or even learning a language. To ZK it is obvious that BSL is the way in which he has been able to engage with and participate in the world.’ The court noted the arguments of the Official Solicitor relating to Article 8 ECHR and the UNCRPD and the need to maximise individual autonomy, and wrote
The whole purpose of the MCA is to enable those whose capacity is absent, seriously inhibited, or just emerging to be a participant in making decisions for themselves as much as possible. In this case, ZK is learning how to communicate with the wider world. He seems to like what he sees. He now has the linguistic tools to comprehend things, to ask questions, to express his views, to reflect, to ruminate, to agree and disagree and to make light of things. He is learning how to be autonomous.
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