Use of an injunction to protect a vulnerable adult

In a judgment dated 5 September 2019, Mr Justice Cobb reviewed whether it had been appropriate for interim injunctions under the inherent jurisdiction to be made to protect a vulnerable adult.

P, aged 32, lived at home with her parents until January 2019 when her mental health deteriorated and she was admitted to hospital. Whilst there she made allegations about her home life, significantly against her father. Upon discharge she was expecting to have to return there, but threatened to end her life if she was not given protection. P was assessed as having capacity to make decisions about returning home, and about her contact with others (including her parents). However, she was confused and vulnerable, and possibly subject to parental influence which was disabling her from making true choices.

The local authority obtained an ex parte interim order restraining P from living with her parents. The order was continued at the next hearing three days later, at which P and her parents participated. P subsequently moved into local authority accommodation, the local authority were committed to her continued protection and her parents agreed to limited contact. The injunctive orders were, therefore, discharged.

It was held appropriate to use the inherent jurisdiction to make interim orders but the injunction against P had been inappropriate.

Before trying to stop someone doing something by way of an injunction under the inherent jurisdiction, especially where they are mentally unwell or vulnerable, local authorities should consider three questions (and support with evidence):

  1. Whether they are likely to understand the purpose of the injunction;
  2. Whether they would receive knowledge of the injunction; and
  3. Whether they would appreciate the effect of breach of that injunction.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, the injunction is unlikely to have any effect as a breach of the order could not be enforced. Therefore, it should not be applied for or granted.

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