Researchers meet the training needs of specialist lawyers

Researchers meet the training needs of specialist lawyers

Researchers on the AHRC-funded project, Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law, based at the ICPR, Birkbeck School of Law, have pioneered a training film for specialist lawyers who work in the Court of Protection, ‘Communication and Participation in the Court of Protection', now available on YouTube.  The video, developed in association with leading charity VoiceAbility, utilises role-plays and roundtables with lawyers and people with learning disability and autism to demonstrate how to enhance communication and achieve better quality evidence for the court.

Dr Camillia Kong, Principal Investigator, said:

This video is the culmination of our empirical research which identified the urgent need for more specialist training for legal practitioners.  It represents the importance of facilitating dialogue between academic research, experts with lived experience, and legal practitioners, in order to improve practice so that the voices of persons with learning disabilities and/or autism may be better heard.’

Sean Nightingale,  VoiceAbility Speak  Out Leader, who appears in the film alongside his colleagues Anne Hunt and Bill Jones said:

‘The film was about helping solicitors to support people with a learning disability or autism better. Being able to work and build trust with people with disabilities better than they might do already is really important, it may help people when solicitors are making decisions for them. If they can get to know the people themselves, it will help the person they are working with to trust them. If they get to know you and you feel you can trust them, it makes you feel you can talk to them. You need to trust them first.’

Anne Hunt said:

‘Part of the film is about people with a learning disability and or autism making a decision about moving out but their parents are against the idea and they can’t decide for themselves so they need to get solicitors involved. This is important to me because I wanted to show that people can think for themselves.’ 

And Bill Jones said this:

‘Any court is a scary place, especially for someone with a learning disability and/or autism, it’s somewhere they’re not familiar with, somewhere they would not normally go.

I felt it was important that we get across in the film that it can be scary, but not as scary as some people say it is and that you can have adjustments made if you need them. I hope it will make difference by giving people an idea of how solicitors and the Court of Protection work and that it will be okay once it’s over.’

Mat Culverhouse, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors and co-chair of the Court of Protection Practitioners’ Association said:

‘This film is an invaluable resource for Court of Protection practitioners at all levels, from those starting out in this field to those with many years of experience.  This important project demonstrates the value of training based on rigorous research and learning from those with lived experience, and it is to be hoped that this video will be just the first of many future resources produced by the project team.

Professor Jessica Jacobson, Director of ICPR, commented:

‘This film, arising from the ground-breaking research project on mental capacity law, provides lawyers working in the Court of Protection with invaluable practical guidance and opportunities for reflection. It thus makes a substantial contribution to ICPR’s mission to inform and improve justice policy and practice through applied research.’

Andrew Spooner, Associate Solicitor, Head of Mental Capacity at Biscoes Solicitors said:

‘The video is the most important video on technical practice I have ever seen. It really conveys how to improve communication with a protected party in the Court of Protection and I think it is going to revolutionise practice, thank you again.’

Communication and Participation in the Court of Protection is now available on YouTube: 

The Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law project involves a team of academics from Birkbeck College, University of Bristol, and University of Oxford and the project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.