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Britney Spears: Conservatorship like this would be very rare in UK, says lawyer
24 June 2021, 15:39
Mental Capacity Solicitor Gary Rycroft has told LBC that it would be 'much rarer' in the UK to have the equivalent of Britney Spears' conservatorship, which extends to decisions over her health.
It comes as Britney Spears has asked a judge to end the conservatorship which is doing her "way more harm than good" because she "deserves to have a life".
The court-ordered legal arrangement was set up in 2008 after the pop star suffered a series of mental breakdowns.
This has allowed Britney's father Jamie to control many elements of his daughter's life and career despite her efforts to oust him from the role.
Speaking to Shelagh Fogarty, Mr Rycroft said: "Here in the UK, people are encouraged to make their own choice while they have the capacity, about who they would like to support them with decision making if they lose capacity, and that's by making a 'lasting power of attorney'.
"If you don't get around to doing that, the court can appoint a deputy - a deputyship order - which is very similar to a conservatorship order in the US. You can have an order for property and finances, much rarer here is an order for health and welfare decisions, because the court here take the view that [these] matters should be assessed on a case by case basis."
Shelagh then said that whereas in the UK where the NHS or social services may consider the welfare of the person, it doesn't seem to be the case for Britney Spears. "Her father controls anyone who comes near her?" Shelagh pointed out.
Mr Rycroft responded: "Dare I say, it does seem a bit like the Wild West.
"Here it's enshrined in law that we should assume that everybody has capacity unless it's proved otherwise, and we should support people as far as possible to make their own decisions.
"It wouldn't be inconceivable for people to carry out normal functions, even singing in a concert, but not actually deemed to have capacity to look after their finances. Because here in the UK, capacity is time and decision-specific, that means it depends on the nature of the decision."
Shelagh then asked Mr Rycroft what he would do if Britney Spears came to him to ask what she needed to argue to get out of her conservatorship.
"I would say what we need to be doing is show that you have the capacity to make your own decisions," he said.
"In order to show that someone has the capacity to make a decision about any given thing at any given time, they've got to show that they understand, they can retain the information, they can weigh up the decision, and they can communicate it."
On Wednesday, the singer made an eagerly anticipated virtual appearance at a court in Los Angeles, where she told judge Brenda Penny she wants to end the arrangement without the need for a further medical assessment.
Following her testimony, Judge Penny praised the singer for speaking out, saying: "I certainly am sensitive to everything you said and how you're feeling and I know it took a lot of courage for you to say what you had to say."