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The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards 2009 (DOLS)

Supreme Court DOLS Judgement – March 2014

Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice logoThe Mental Capacity Act 2005 (the Act) came into full force on 1 October 2007. It provides a statutory framework to empower and protect vulnerable people aged 16 years or older who are not able to make their own decisions.

The Act replaces existing common law governing the treatment of people without capacity. It covers a range of choices from day-to-day decisions such as what to wear or eat, through to serious decisions about where to live, having medical treatment or what to do with a person's finances or property.

The Ministry of Justice provides introductory information on the Mental Capacity Act.

The Act is underpinned by five principles which all decisions should be tested against:

  • a person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity
  • a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him or her to do so have been taken without success
  • a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he or she makes an unwise decision
  • an act done or decision made under this Act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done or made in his or her best interests
  • anyone acting or making a decision under the Act must first consider whether their purpose can be achieved effectively in a way that is less restrictive of the person's rights and freedom of action.

The Act is supported by the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice (pdf 1,650KB) with which all those working in a professional or paid role are under a legal duty to comply. To use this file you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this on your computer, please use our advice page.

You can also order a copy of the Code from the Stationery Office by phoning 0870 600 5522 or emailing customerservices@tso.co.uk.

Mental capacity assessment

In order to decide whether or not a person has mental capacity, there are a number of tools which must be used. These can be downloaded here:

Information booklets

A series of information booklets has been published that provides introductory information on the Act.

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