Council of Europe. European Convention on Human Rights. 1950. (accessed 26 July 2019)

The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court

08 August 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 15


Richard Griffith, Senior Lecturer in Health Law at Swansea University, considers the recent use of the High Court's inherent jurisdiction to protect capable but vulnerable adults at risk of exploitation, coercion or harm

Since coming into force in 2007, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 has encouraged nurses to promote the autonomy of vulnerable adults in their care by promoting an assumption of capacity, supporting decision-making and accepting the right of a capable adult to make unwise decisions (Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust v JB [2014]).

The Court of Protection (the specialist court that settles disputes over mental capacity and the best interests of those who lack capacity) generally reinforces the principles of the 2005 Act by allowing vulnerable but capable persons to refuse medical treatment even where the consequence of the decision is that the person will die (King's College NHSFT v C [2015]).

There is, however, a limit to how far the Courts are prepared to allow people to neglect themselves. On such occasions, the need to protect a vulnerable but capable adult is so essential that the High Court will intervene using its inherent jurisdiction (F v West Berkshire HA [1990]).

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