A solicitor appointed to manage the financial affairs of a woman lacking capacity has been removed from the case after a judge found he had failed to act in her best interests.
Sitting in the Court of Protection, district judge Matharu ordered Alan Cryne, of Temperley Taylor solicitors, should be replaced as deputy for the woman because it was “entirely unclear” how several of his actions were in her interests.
Cryne had failed to take steps to support the woman, Mrs P, to see her pet dog Bobby when she moved into a nursing home, the judge said.
This had been Mrs P’s express wish, as outlined in her care plan. Her social worker told the court: “I would recommend that of single most importance in her life is her dog and having some form of contact with her dog in the future if possible”.
Cryne’s firm had responded to a request for Mrs P to see the dog with “brutal and insensitive” comments, the judge said, adding: “The deputy only has to read any single reference in reports, assessments or statements of Mrs P [to know] of how important Bobby is to her.”
The court heard Cryne’s firm also took weeks to respond to a request for funding for new clothes and food to meet her welfare needs, only to do so with a “brief” letter that referred to one of Mrs P’s accounts being empty despite having had nearly £7,000 in it nine months earlier. The nil balance on the account was “troubling” and the delay in establishing Mrs P’s financial position “inexplicable”, the judge said.
In a statement Temperley Taylor said it was considering an appeal. The firm said the dog was “well looked-after”, Mrs P’s affairs had been handled “professionally” and the observations made in the judgement were “not a true reflection of the work undertaken” for her.
‘Love and devotion’
Cryne was appointed deputy of Mrs P’s property and financial affairs in March 2016, after she was assessed as lacking capacity to decide where to live. At the time, she owned her own home, a number of pensions and investments in bonds.
The court heard that after Mr Cryne’s appointment, care plans and assessments “repeatedly raised” the need to buy gluten-free food for Mrs P, who is a coeliac sufferer, and new clothes. The assessments also made clear that Bobby the dog was “the only living being” with whom Mrs P shared any love and devotion.
On 6 June, the official solicitor’s representative requested Cryne make arrangements for Bobby to visit Mrs P. A request was also made for £500 to be provided for Mrs P to buy clothes and “more varied food” to meet her welfare needs.
The deputy failed to respond to these requests until 5 July, when Temperley Taylor provided the letter that referred to one of Mrs P’s accounts as being empty.
A barrister who visited Mrs P reported back to the court that she “has no money, the bank account is empty, the credit card is in the red, the only asset in her house, and unable to trace pension”.
On 13 July Cryne’s firm responded to the request for Bobby to visit Mrs P. The email stated that Bobby had been rehomed and “in the absence of any factual information about Bobby, his owner, or the home’s policy on animals, it would seem irresponsible in the extreme to suggest that a dog visits a care home for elderly and frail people”.
Judge Matharu described this response as “blunt” and insensitive. He concluded that Mr Cryne should be removed as Mrs P’s deputy because it was “entirely unclear” how he had acted in her interests.
He said: “The court is particularly troubled about how Mrs P, and the things that she needs, are to be provided for.
“What is known is that her wishes and feelings before her second stroke were very clear. She enjoyed a good quality of life, she loved her dog, likes to be made to feel glamorous. Now she is wearing ill-fitting clothes, and financially unable to pay to have her feminine needs attended to, such as having her hair and nails done.”
The judge added: “Based on what the court has seen and heard, the court is satisfied they are not working in her best interests…their sole focus should and can only be Mrs P, yet they appear to be working against the Litigation Friend and not with them.”
In a statement, Temperley Taylor said: “Temperley Taylor has extensive expertise of working with elderly and vulnerable clients.
“The firm believes that the observations made in the Judgment are not a true reflection of the work that was undertaken on behalf of Mrs P. Her affairs were handled professionally, her pet was well looked after and no moneys have been received by this firm.
“We are deeply saddened by the adverse comments that have been made.”