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Summary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cheshire West and P & Q

By Laura Davidson

The Supreme Court judgment in P & Q and P v Cheshire West has finally been handed down. P & Q (otherwise known at first instance as Re MIG and MEG [2010] EWHC 785 [Fam]) involved two sisters. MIG was 18 years of age and was placed with a loving foster family. MEG was 17 years of age and was one of four residents in a small residential placement. They both had severe learning disability and required high levels of support. MEG was at times aggressive and was prescribed medication to allay her anxiety. The girls were transported to and attended college. For their own safety, both would have been prevented from leaving their placements had they so attempted, and they were under continuous supervision and control. Both girls appeared content in their environments and did not seek to leave.

Mrs Justice Parker held that neither girl was deprived of their liberty because of the ‘relative normality’ of their placements, and the fact that the restrictions would have been the same wherever they lived, as the relevant comparator was someone with the same complex difficulties. The fact that the purpose of the restrictions was benign was also held to be relevant to the decision whether or not they were being deprived of their liberty. The official solicitor appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld Parker J’s decision…

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