- Mental Health Law Online (MHLO). MHLO is by far and away the most useful legal resource for mental health and mental capacity law on the net. It’s got everything: statutes, judgments (far more than BAILII for this area of law, and with a very helpful system of indexing by subject, case summaries, links to subsequent and antecedent judgments in the same case, links to any newspaper articles, blogs etc about a case, and even a list of cases with ‘missing’ judgments!), it’s got a glossary of technical terms, links to statistical resources and links to consultations. You can have MHLO send updates to you by email, or to your Kindle, you can pose your questions to a discussion list where you might find answers or a sympathetic ear, it’s got an in-house CPD scheme, job adverts, hell – it’s even got a bookshop. I fully expect this website to start serving me my morning coffee in the new year. The most amazing thing about MHLO is that it’s almost entirely the work of one man, Jonathan Wilson, leading open justice into a brave new digital future. To help cover the costs of running MHLO, you can make a donation (see homepage for details). I couldn’t have done half of my research without this website, long live MHLO! [Update! You can purchase now a very reasonably priced kindle or paperback version of MHLO's annual review for 2012.]
- 39 Essex Street Court of Protection Newsletter. It’s no exaggeration to say that everyone in the Court of Protection world reads this newsletter. Each month I get a little bubble of excitement as it lands in my inbox, and I scan through it to read about important new cases. The newsletter mostly covers Court of Protection cases, sometimes even providing summaries of those cases that have no judgment in the public domain, and it also covers relevant cases from other courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. The summaries are well written and accessible, and usually contain interesting comments from the perspective of its editors – all well respected 39 Essex St Court of Protection barristers. MHLO has produced this handy catalogue of all their back issues, with a list of which cases are summarised. Earlier this year they also produced a bumper edition, summarising all the judgments they had covered to date. I find that document immensely useful when I’m wondering whether I’ve missed any cases on contact or sex or something, as it’s searchable. If you read this every month, you won’t miss a thing.
- The Court of Protection Law Reports, published by Jordans. I like these for three reasons. Firstly, the Court of Protection deserves a proper law reporting series, secondly they contain the very, very, few published judgments that aren’t on MHLO, and thirdly it looks great on my bookshelf. It’s not cheap, but if you prefer to have your judgments in a book and not in electronic form, then this is your guy.
- The Mental Capacity Act Manual (AKA ‘the Bible’) by Richard Jones, so new it doesn’t even have a picture on Amazon. Everyone has a copy of this, everyone. Actually, I’m still saving up for the 2012 edition, but the 2010 edition is extremely useful. It’s structured by the Act and its associated regulations, but contains summaries of relevant cases and helpful interpretations of the many and various legal ambiguities of the MCA. It’s also got a very good index. My only quibble is that the print is too small, and there have been complaints on twitter that the glue binding it together isn’t great. I heard a rumour you can get it in eBook form for iPads, but I’m waiting for the Kindle edition.
- Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Guides. SCIE occupy a real gap in the market for good quality, well researched, accessible and free information for people working in social care. They produce a number of guides, for example here’s their guide to the deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS), to accessing the Court of Protection and on commissioning Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy Services. These are great materials to supplement training.
- Google alerts. If you’re super-keen to stay on top of developments, you can get Google to send you an ‘alert’ whenever something is published on the web which mentions a particular key term. For example, I have Google Alerts set up to tell me when there is a news story which mentions “Court of Protection” or “deprivation of liberty safeguards”. If you’re of an academic bent, you can also set up Google Scholar Alerts, which is how I keep informed about research and academic commentary on the MCA, the deprivation of liberty safeguards and Article 12 CRPD. Google Scholar Alerts pick up a lot of the ‘grey literature’ and not just traditional academic publishing, which generally is great although you can end up with some weird stuff in your inbox. I tend to let them all stack up along with the Court of Protection newsletter and deal with everything once a month.
- The Essex Autonomy Project. I first heard about EAP when Wayne Martin was interviewed on the radio talking about the philosophy behind the MCA, so of course I had to sign up to some of their events to find out more. As well as hosting various excellent workshops, seminars, summer schools and conferences, EAP also write (free) research briefings and Green Paper Reports which provide an overview of various topics connected with the MCA and the DoLS. They cover the legal side of things very well, but also give a historical and philosophical flavour to the issues.
- Mental Health Foundation MCA literature review. This was published fairly recently by the MHF, and it’s a great resource if you want to know what research has been done on the MCA. I do hope they keep updating this, I use it all the time. The Foundation have also produced a great large-scale empirical study of best interests decisions in association with the universities of Bradford and Bristol.
- The Mental Disability Advocacy Center. If you’re the kind of person who hungers to know what they do about mental capacity type stuff in Kyrgyzstan, then there’s probably an MDAC report on it. As well as helping to bring some of the most important European Court of Human Rights cases on legal capacity and institutionalisation of recent times (Shtukaturov v Russia, Kiss v Hungary, Stanev v Bulgaria, Kędzior v Poland, Bureš v The Czech Republic, Sýkora v The Czech Republic...) MDAC also conduct research on guardianship and institutions in Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. You can search their guides on the resources page, and you can donate to support their work. And if that still isn’t enough for you, Neil Crowther recently introduced me to these ‘Country thematic reports on the fundamental rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with mental health problems’ for all the EU member states, produced by FRA (the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights). I realise I’m wondering off on an ‘everything international’ tangent here, but the ECtHR also produces various research reports handy guides to its case law, including a recent one on Article 5 and one on non-discrimination.
- Twitter. Yep, Twitter. I’ve learned loads on Twitter. Asked questions, got answers. If you’re not into Twitter, then it seems a bit of a strange world initially. Ok, sometimes it is a bit of a strange world. But you make what you will of it by choosing who you do (and don’t) follow. In my nerdy way, I made a list of people and organisations that tweet (sometimes at least) about stuff connected with the MCA, the deprivation of liberty safeguards, and legal capacity in the international sphere.
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958
'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.' Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958