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23 August 2022

Dedicated Deprivation of Liberty Court opens to children applications

4 mins

On Monday 4 July 2022, the Deprivation of Liberty Court at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) opened its metaphorical doors to applications in respect of children.

All new applications for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard Orders (DoLS) in respect of children made after this date will now be heard by the dedicated DoLS Court, which is headed up by Mr Justice Moor (Moor J).

Moor J will be supported by two High Court, or Deputy High Court judges, each week and a dedicated administrative team based in the Royal Courts of Justice to deal with the children law applications.

What is a Deprivation of Liberty Order?

A Deprivation of Liberty Order is an order that deprives an individual of some, or all, of their freedom to do certain things.

DoLs can be made in respect of both adults (dealt with exclusively by the Court of Protection) and children (dealt with by both the Family Court and the Court of Protection, in certain circumstances).

Here in the Bindmans LLP Family Law team, we predominantly deal with applications in relation to children.

An application for a DoLS Order is made under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The High Court’s inherent jurisdiction in relation to children is a vast power that the court has to protect children in areas where statutory remedies are inadequate. Our family lawyers are experts in this area of law, with experience at the highest levels.

The need for a DoLS Order

DoLS are considered to be fairly draconian orders that affect a person’s fundamental rights of autonomy, which are enshrined within the European Convention on Human Rights. As such, they will only be made in exceptional circumstances.

Deprivations of liberty will vary depending on the age of the child and their individual characteristics, needs and circumstances.

Examples of deprivation of liberty safeguards are where:

  • The doors of the child’s accommodation are kept locked, or removed
  • Restraint is allowed
  • A child is under strict supervision e.g. receiving 2:1 care
  • A child is not permitted use of a mobile telephone, or internet use
  • A child has certain belongings, clothing, toiletries or furniture removed from their room

DoLS Orders are permissive orders and so the order allows the caregiver to implement the restrictions but does not demand that they do so.

It will be appropriate to apply for a DoLS Order if there are concerns about a child being at risk of harm if the order is not made. The order must be necessary and proportionate and should be reviewed regularly.

What are the changes to the process?

This latest update is thought to have been borne out of the ever-increasing number of applications for DoLS Orders in the Family Court. At the moment, local family courts are dealing with DoLS applications for children, often as part of ongoing Children Act 1989 proceedings.

The changes detailed by the President of the Family Division are an attempt to streamline the process and ensure that trained judges are allocated to cases where a DoLS Order is sought in respect of a child.

In tandem with the launch of the new court, the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory will publish the relevant data as part of the ongoing effort by the President to ensure transparency in the Family Justice System.

The relevant links to the announcement and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory are below:

For more information get in touch with our Family and Matrimonial team by visiting their web page here. 

Nathan Baylis, Paralegal in our Family and Matrimonial team contributed towards this article.

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