The Court of Protection is a special segment of the United Kingdom's court system that handles the affairs of the mentally incapacitated. Established by the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, the Court of Protection is in charge of the determination of mental capacity as well as make decisions, principally dealing with legal and financial aspect, on the behalf of a person under the Court's protection. The creation of the Court of Protection overtook an earlier system with the same function, which operated out of the Office of the Public Guardian.
In order to more comprehensively serve the mentally impaired segment of the population, the new Court of Protection was created as a separate entity with distinct powers. Prior to its invention, the original department handled only legal and financial decisions, whereas issues of welfare and health care were handled by another court mechanism. The new system combined these functions, both for greater efficiency and ease of use by the people the Court serves.
There are many decisions that the Court of Protection has jurisdiction over, in addition to the determination of mental capacity. Court officials can make financial and legal decisions for people under their care, appoint qualified deputies to take charge of these decisions for the person in question, and remove caretakers, deputies, or those with power of attorney who are not fulfilling their duties. For people who have not granted power of attorney to a chosen representative, the Court can act as an executor for financial and legal matters.
The Court of Protection usually handles the affairs of adults, but sometimes can be applied to for decisions regarding minors. Normally, minors already have guardians, such as parents, that can legally act on their behalf. If a child will need a long-term decision maker and does not want to rely on his or her current guardians after reaching adulthood, the Court of Protection can sometimes step in to appoint a different deputy. Some provisions of the Children Act of 1989 also give other courts the ability to transfer certain cases involving minors to the Court of Protection.
It is not always necessary for the principal party under the jurisdiction of the Court to be the main applicant for judicial assistance. Oftentimes, it is the guardian, deputy, or person with power of attorney that will file an application for the Court's attention. There is typically a fee for court services, which must be paid by the applicant.