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Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) were introduced into the Mental Capacity Act 2005 by the Mental Health Act 2007.

DoLS provide a framework for approving the deprivation of liberty for people who lack the mental capacity to consent to necessary treatment in a hospital or care home. The Supreme Court determined that deprivation of liberty occurs when:

  • The person is under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave, and the person lacks capacity to consent to these arrangements. P (by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Cheshire West and Chester Council & Anor [2014] UKSC 19).

DoLS ensure that people are only deprived of their liberty in a safe and correct way, and that this is only done when it is in their best interests and there is no other way to provide necessary care and treatment.

The safeguards provide a statutory framework for authorising a deprivation of liberty, including six separate assessments by designated professionals, and subsequent rights of review.

There have been recent changes affecting DoLS. A Supreme Court judgment in 2014 significantly widened the definition of deprivation of liberty, meaning more people were subsequently considered to have their liberty deprived. There was a ten-fold increase in the number of deprivation of liberty applications following the judgment.

In March 2017, the Law Commission published a report and Draft Bill recommending an overhaul of the DoLS process. The Law Commission recommends that DoLS are repealed as a matter of urgency, and are replaced by a new scheme called the Liberty Protection Safeguards. The new safeguards would streamline the process for assessing whether a deprivation of liberty is necessary, and obtaining the required authorisation. The Government is due to publish its response to the recommendations.