Dangers of Digital – Letter published in Law Society Gazette dated 14 January 2019

I write following the excellent article about the Court of Protection. As mentioned in the article, there is an increasing number of attorneys who abuse their powers under Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) to misappropriate funds belonging to the donor. This serious problem is expected to grow due to the increasing number of LPAs and society’s demographics. The number of investigations carried out by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is rising exponentially, clearly with significant resource implications in terms of time and money for the OPG. The OPG’s answer is to make the creation LPAs fully digital so that their staff can spend more time on investigation rather than registration.
Surely, the answer lies in the adage that prevention is better than cure. There need to be rigorous safeguards at the time of making the LPA to ensure that the donor understands the nature and effect of the LPA and is not being forced into making it. The certificate provider must be a suitably experienced solicitor or doctor. At the moment, the safeguards are woefully ineffective.
I am deeply concerned about the current legal journey towards digital processes, I have not encountered any practising solicitor who agrees with it. There is a definite move towards adopting any digital process that makes the system quicker and easier and an unwritten assumption that this achieves a desirable outcome. There are changes afoot in applying for probate, the aim being to make the application online. The safeguards are simply not present. There are serious implications for the Rule of Law which are not even part of any debate.
Let us not go along with the assumptions of the non-lawyer decision makers that fast = good, I propose that we should note the lesson of Emperor’s New Clothes before it is too late.

 

Naomi Pinder
Solicitor at Catherine Higgins Law, Liverpool