Supreme Court hears case considering the capacity to understand consent


The Supreme Court today heard the case of A Local Authority v JB. The case concerns JB, a 38 year-old single man with a complex diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder combined with impaired cognition who would like to have a girlfriend and a sexual relationship. On the basis of his alleged previous behaviour towards women the respondent local authority has concluded that he cannot have unsupervised contact with them.

The Court of Protection initially held that JB has capacity to consent to sexual relations. The Court of Appeal disagreed with this and held that in order to have capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to engage in sex a person needs to understand that their partner must have the capacity to consent to sexual activity and must consent before and during the sexual activity. JB is appealing this decision in the Supreme Court.

Helen Law is acting for the appellant (‘JB’) in this case, with John McKendrick QC and Ian Brownhill.

Richard Whittam QC is acting for the respondent (‘A Local Authority) in this case, with Vikram Sachdeva QC, Alexander Ruck Keene and Fiona Paterson

Tim James-Matthews is acting for one of the intervenors, the Centre For Women’s Justice, with Victoria Butler-Cole QC.