Intellectually disabled man granted urgent appeal aimed at halting wardship inquiry
Posted on 25th February 2020 at 21:55
Man (40s) objects to wardship and order that prevented his civil legal marriage last June
The Court of Appeal will hear an urgent appeal by an intellectually disabled man aimed at halting an inquiry into whether he should be made a ward of court.
The inquiry is scheduled for next month, before any hearing of his challenge to the constitutionality of the High Court’s wardship jurisdiction and its ban on his civil marriage.
The man, aged in his 40s, objects to wardship and the order which prevented his civil legal marriage last June to an intellectually disabled woman described as high-functioning with whom he has been in a relationship for several years.
High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly last January refused an application by lawyers for the man to adjourn the wardship inquiry and fixed it for hearing on March 12th.
Frank Callanan SC, instructed by the Free Legal Advice Centres, sought the adjournment pending a hearing of their application for a protective costs order against the State, aimed at ensuring the man would not be liable for costs should his constitutional case fail. If a protective costs order was refused, that case would not proceed, counsel indicated.
The man’s siblings and a charity providing services for him opposed any adjournment and said they wanted the wardship inquiry to proceed.
Mr Justice Kelly refused an adjournment, saying it was in the man’s best interests and the interests of justice that the wardship inquiry should proceed. Until it is decided, the man remains in “a legal limbo” concerning his welfare and his substantial estate in circumstances where six doctors have all reported he lacks capacity to manage his person and finances, he said.
One report, by a consultant psychiatrist asked by the man’s side to assess him, concluded he met the “narrow” criteria for wardship but had demonstrated a “basic but sufficient” level of understanding of marriage for him to be deemed to have capacity to marry his intended bride.
The judge said the man’s estate is “already jeopardised” as a result of the constitutional case being issued in his own name and the court had “no idea” how he gave instructions to bring those given the views on his capacity.
On Tuesday, the judge was informed that the Court of Appeal has agreed to hear an appeal on March 10th over the adjournment refusal.
Felix McEnroy SC, for the charity, and the man’s sister, both supported the wardship inquiry proceeding on March 12th as fixed. His sister said she believed the appeal was “more delaying tactics”.
Mr Justice Kelly said he would leave wardship inquiry date in place as there was an element of urgency and the inquiry, directed last September, had already been delayed for much longer than what was desirable.
The Court of Appeal may, in light of the appeal, consider the inquiry should not proceed on March 12th and it was for that court to make whatever directions it considered appropriate when the appeal comes before it, he added.
In proceedings initiated last December, the man is challenging two Acts — the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871, which regulates the High Court’s wardship procedure, and the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811, under which any marriage entered into by a ward of court is automatically void.
His intended bride, who is not subject of any court order, has taken separate proceedings claiming the marriage ban order against him breaches her rights.
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