In the recent case of Re IH (Observance of Muslim Practice), the Court of Protection had to consider the degree to which a person who lacks capacity should be assisted to adhere to religious practice.


Background

IH is a 39-year-old Muslim man with autism and who suffers from a profound learning disability, functioning intellectually at the developmental level of a one to three-year-old.

IH was born in Pakistan but has lived in West Yorkshire all his life. Up until 2013, IS had lived at the family home where he was raised by his family within the Sunni denomination of Islam. In 2013, IH moved to a supported living environment provided by the Local Authority and funded by the local Clinical Commissioning Group.

When IH was living at home, he participated in and was exposed to the religious practices and observances of the family.


Issues for the Court

The Court was asked to deal with two issues:

1) An application by IH (through his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) that it was not in IH’s best interests for him to fast during the daylight hours of Ramadan; and

2) An application by IH’s father that it was in the best interests of IH for his axillary (underarm) and pubic hair to be trimmed in accordance with Islamic cultural and religious practice, insofar as it was safe and reasonable to do so.


Positions of the parties

Fasting during Ramadan

The parties agreed that it was not in IH’s best interests to fast during Ramadan.


The trimming of IH’s axillary and public hair

IH’s father was anxious that IH should follow religious observance and custom, as fully as possible. When IH had been living at the family home, and for one year following his move to the supported living accommodation, IH’s father had shaved IH’s axillary and pubic hair.

The Official Solicitor, acting as litigation friend for IH, accepted the religious significance of this practice for a person with capacity but argued that, as IH did not have capacity, there was no religious obligation or significance for IH. They further argued that there was a risk that IH or others could be harmed in attempting to trim the hair.


Expert evidence

Dr Mansur Ali, a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cardiff University, provided expert evidence to the Court. Dr Ali advised that there is no religious duty or obligation on a person who lacks capacity to trim or shave his or her axillary and pubic hair. Dr Ali further stated that IH would derive no religious benefit from the procedure as he would not understand the religious significance of it, there would be risk of harm to IH or his carers in undertaking the procedure, and that it would expose IH to additional stress.


Decision

As had been agreed by the parties, the Court found it not to be in IH’s best interests to fast during Ramadan.

The Court also found that it was not in IH’s best interests for his axillary and/or pubic hair to be trimmed.


How can Conroys Solicitors LLP help someone in a similar situation?

Conroys Solicitors LLP specialise in Court of Protection matters. We offer free 30 minute consultations during which we can advise on whether we can assist you with your legal issue. If you would like to arrange a meeting, please contact our office on 01872 272 457.

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