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Legal incapacitation order amended, international human rights standards must be observed, judges say

The Court of Appeal of Katowice has amended a total incapacitation order issued against a person and dismissed a prosecutor’s motion for his incapacitation. The Court emphasised that in cases involving legal incapacitation, courts should take into account the standards enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the European Convention on Human Rights. The HFHR was a participant in the proceedings.

A prosecutor filed the motion for the incapacitation of A., a young man with a mental disability, though no such measure was requested by members of the man’s family. Thanks to support from his mother, A. was able to properly function within society, and appropriately took care of activities of daily living. Nevertheless, the Regional Court of Katowice ordered his total legal incapacitation, citing the need to protect A.’s best interests. The HFHR has appealed against the ruling and demanded dismissal of the prosecutor’s motion, invoking international standards of protection of rights of persons with an intellectual or mental disability.

The Court of Appeal admitted the appeal filed by the Foundation and A.’s counsel and amended the first-instance ruling. The Court noted that total legal incapacitation, as a measure with far-reaching consequences, should be used only as a remedy of last resort and provided it is absolutely necessary. According to the appellate court, a total incapacitation order would not improve the daily functioning of A., because he is already living a good life thanks to the support of his loved ones.

“The Court observed that such a deep interference with A.’s life as depriving him of legal capacity was not needed because of the favourable circumstances of his life. The Court held that ordering legal incapacitation would violate the essence of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland such as the right to liberty and privacy”, says Jarosław Jagura, a lawyer of the HFHR.

“The ruling of the Kraków Court of Appeal is a landmark decision. What the Court said is that the laws on incapacitation should be interpreted in the spirit of the Constitution and international standards that refer to the need to maximise the autonomy and independence of persons with disabilities. These aspects should be crucial for determination of the appropriateness of incapacitation orders”, Mr Jagura adds.

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