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Researchers meet the training needs of specialist lawyers

A new training film aims to improve communication between specialist lawyers who work in the Court of Protection and the people they are representing.

A screen cap of three people talking around a table.

Researchers based at the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (ICPR), at Birkbeck’s School of Law, have developed a training film for specialist lawyers who work in the Court of Protection. ‘Communication and Participation in the Court of Protection’, which is now available on YouTube, features lawyers and people with learning disabilities and autism in role-plays and roundtables, demonstrating how to enhance communication and achieve better quality evidence for the court. The film is part of the Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law project and was developed in association with leading charity VoiceAbility.

Dr Camillia Kong, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Fellow at ICPR, 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 SpeakOut Leader, who appears in the film alongside his colleagues Anne Hunt and Bill Jones said: “The film is 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.”

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.”

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

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