I am Alex Ruck Keene. I have been in practice at 39 Essex Chambers in London for 15 years and for the last 10 have increasingly specialised in the field of mental capacity and mental health law. For full details of my practice, please see my Chambers webpage. This site, however, exists not to promote my practice, but rather my passions.
That having been said, you may want to know a little about why it is that I think that I am allowed to speak with some authority about the law relating to mental capacity. I have been recognised for several years by the legal directories as an expert in this field, and in both 2015 and 2016 was singled out as one of the ‘star juniors’ in the Court of Protection Health and Welfare category by Chambers and Partners. I have been instructed by individuals (including on behalf of the Official Solicitor), NHS bodies and local authorities, and I am one of the very few practitioners who has experience of appearing/advising upon all aspects of the Court of Protection’s jurisdiction (i.e. health and welfare and property and affairs, as well as its international jurisdiction). I have been instructed in cases involving the MCA 2005 at all levels up to and including the Supreme Court, in Aintree University Hospitals NHS Trust v James  UKSC 67  3 WLR 1299, the first case in which the Supreme Court considered the MCA 2005, and also N v ACCG  UKSC 22, considering the interaction between the Court of Protection and the Administrative Court. I have also been instructed in other ground-breaking cases exploring the limits of the Court’s jurisdiction – a good example being Re MN  COPLR Con Vol 893, the first case in which the international jurisdiction of the Court was the subject of detailed examination.
Whilst I relish the challenges of defining and applying the law in the courtroom, I have increasingly realised that my real passion is the promotion of better practice and better knowledge of the MCA 2005 and mental capacity law more generally. To that end, I write extensively, including: (1) editing and co-writing (for Legal Action Group) the Court of Protection Handbook; (2) co-writing (for Oxford University Press) a book on the international protection of adults; (3) writing chapters in Jordans’ annual Court of Protection Practice textbook; (4) writing chapters in the second edition of Mental Capacity Act Law and Practice (Jordans 2012); (5) writing chapters in the third edition of the BMA/Law Society Guide to the Assessment of Mental Capacity (BMA/Law Society 2009). I also co-edit the Court of Protection Law Reports series published by Jordans. Together with Victoria Butler-Cole, I set up a monthly Mental Capacity Law newsletter which is now widely distributed amongst legal practitioners, members of the judiciary, clinical and social work professionals, advocates, and others concerned with the MCA 2005. We now edit it with Neil Allen, Annabel Lee, Anna Bicarregui and Simon Edwards, three colleagues from my Chambers, and two Scottish experts, Adrian Ward and Jill Stavert. The newsletter is available free here, where you can also find a searchable database of our case comments. It has been described by Chambers & Partners as a ‘bible’ for solicitors working in the area, and was the subject of judicial endorsement by the President of the Court of Protection (see paragraph 21 of this judgment). A selection of my papers and articles on the MCA 2005 is available here.
I have dedicated an increasing amount of time over the past few years to working on policy matters. To this end, I helped develop the new procedures for handling applications concerning deprivation of liberty following April 2009, sat on the committee established in 2010 by the President of the Family Division to review the Court of Protection Rules, and sit on the new committee established in July 2014 to look again at the Rules. In November 2013, I gave oral evidence to House of Lords Select Committee considering the operation of the MCA 2005 as part of a panel of legal experts, and in February 2014 was commissioned by the Department of Health to produce guidance for non-legal professional advocates and family members considering acting as litigation friends in proceedings before the Court of Protection. I have been appointed to the Mental Health and Disability Committees of the Law Societies both of England and Scotland (the first such appointment) as well as to the Court of Protection sub-committee of the Mental Health Lawyers Association. Finally, I was appointed a consultant to the Law Commission’s major project on reforming the law relating to mental capacity and deprivation of liberty, which published its report in March 2017.
The final string to my bow (or ingredient in the cocktail) is the educational work that I do in relation to the MCA 2005. I spend a significant proportion of my time lecturing and training lawyers, members of the judiciary, clinicians, social workers and others concerned with the MCA 2005. I have been appointed an Honorary Research Lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Manchester, a Visiting Research Fellow and a Wellcome Research Fellow at Kings College London (working on the major Mental Health and Justice project). I am also a Research Affiliate at the Essex Autonomy Project. I also, increasingly, involved in the education of future generations of lawyers and clinicians, seeking to instil in them something of my knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Act. From September 2017, I will be teaching on the Mental Health, Ethics and the Law MSc at King’s College London, and I have been a guest lecturer at courses at Queen Mary University of London, Keele University and Auckland University (New Zealand).
Photo by Carmel King (www.carmelking.com)