Ipswich/Westminster: Former Liberal Democrat candidate Manuela Sykes wins landmark dementia case
17:30 25 February 2014
An 89-year-old former Liberal candidate for Ipswich who suffers from dementia and wants to be looked after in the flat where she has lived for 60 years because she is “miserable” in a care home has won a court fight.
A Court of Protection judge has ruled that Manuela Sykes – who became a Labour a member of Westminster City Council in London in the 1970s – can return home on a one-month trial basis.
District Judge Anselm Eldergill also ruled that Ms Sykes could be named in media reports – in line with her wishes and after journalists argued that identification would be in the public interest.
Lawyers representing the pensioner said the judge’s decision to allow identification was “rare”.
Ms Sykes fought the Ipswich seat for the Liberals in 1957, 1959, and 1964.
Detail of Judge Eldergill’s decision has emerged in a written ruling following a Court of Protection hearing in London.
Court of Protection judges analyse cases involving vulnerable and sick people. Hearings are often held in private and people involved are not normally identified because of their vulnerability.
Judge Eldergill concluded that a one-month trial of home-based care would be in Ms Sykes’ best interests – even though social workers from her local authority, Westminster City Council, had raised concerns about her welfare if she left a care home.
The judge said if a trial was not attempted she would never again have the chance to live in her own home.
And he said all viable alternatives should be explored before a conclusion could be reached that it was in Ms Sykes’ best interests to spend the rest of her life in a care home.
Judge Eldergill said his decision to lift the “usual veil of anonymity” had been “finely balanced”. But he said the case was “relatively unusual” and Ms Sykes’ personality was a critical factor.
He said she had always “wished to be heard”, would want her life to end with a “bang not a whimper” and had a “last chance to exert a political influence”.
He also said “archival photographs” of Ms Sykes could be published – although not a current picture.
Anne-Marie Irwin – a specialist Court of Protection solicitor from law firm Irwin Mitchell, who had represented pensioner’s interests during litigation – said Ms Sykes had been a “leading dementia campaigner” who now suffered with the illness and was “miserable” in a care home.
“Manuela is firmly of the view that with the right kind of care package, she could be supported to return home safely,” she said.
“Although the kindness of her carers was praised, Manuela was miserable at the care home, and we asked the court to consider if it is truly in her best interests to remain deprived of her liberty.
“The court was asked on her behalf – what is the point of being kept safe, when to do so is also making you miserable?”
She added: “We are confident that with specialist dementia carers Ms Sykes can greatly benefit from returning to her own home.”