Man With Low IQ Banned From Having Sex


by guest
6th February, 2011 at 1:05 pm    

This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

This is one of the strangest cases I’ve heard of since I started blogging. It seems to be not so much surprise that a disabled person knows what sex is, but a feeling that he doesn’t understand what sex means.

A 41 year old man, known only as Alan, has been banned from having sex because he has an IQ of 48 and a ‘moderate’ learning disability. Alan started a romantic relationship with another man, Kieron, who he met while living in a home provided by his local council. However, in June 2009, Alan’s local town hall decided that he lacked the mental capacity to have contact with Kieron, and began court proceedings to restrict their contact with each other. Since then, Alan has been closely supervised to prevent him from carrying out any further sexual activity, except when he is alone in his bedroom.

This is the latest case to be brought before the Court of Protection, which has the power, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to make life or death decisions for people who lack the intelligence to make them for themselves. Usually, this court can force people to have abortions or life saving surgery, use contraception or switch off life support machines.

Alan is described as ‘sociable’ and ‘able’ but his mental functionality is described as ‘seriously challenged.’ His sex drive is described as ‘vigorous’ and ‘inappropriate.’ There were apparently two reports of Alan making inappropriate gestures to children, but police did not take any action. A psychiatrist told the judge in the Court of Protection that Alan thinks sex causes ‘spots or measles’ and that babies are ‘delivered by a stork or found under a bush.’ The psychiatrist added that sex education would leave Alan ‘confused.’

Based on these statements, the judge ruled that Alan ‘does not have the mental capacity to consent to and engage in sexual relations’ at this time, but that he should be given sex education in the hope that he gains this capacity.

Alan had said that he would ‘feel happy’ if his relationship with Kieron was allowed to continue, and had asked for the judge to be told that he wanted to kiss his partner again.

The judge said that this case was legally, intellectually and morally complex as sex is ‘one of the most basic human functions’ and that the court must handle the case carefully. But he said that a test of a person’s capacity to consent to sex could be carried out based on their understanding of the act itself. This requires an understanding of the ‘mechanics of the act,’ an understanding that there are health risks involved, and an understanding that sex between a man and a woman leads to pregnancy. He highlighted the fact that the court cannot prevent people making ‘unwise’ decisions.

Now, my views. It’s obvious to me, from all these reports, that Alan’s understanding of sex is extremely limited. However, he obviously understands the ‘mechanics’ of sex, and he knows that there are some health risks involved. Since he has a male partner, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of him getting anyone pregnant- or as much point in teaching him about pregnancy as there would be if his relationship was with a woman. Importantly, he appears to understand what it means to have a sexual relationship with one partner. Surely, if the information was simplified to fit his level of understanding, someone could explain the need for him to use contraception? Apart from that, Alan clearly understands that the relationship makes him happy- he has said so himself. Surely that is all that really matters?

Sex, like all other really important things, is a human right. Even if it’s physically impossible for a person to have sex, everyone understands it at some level, and, at some point in life, everyone wants to have sex with someone. I think this is council protection gone even more mad than usual. There are some things that courts and councils should not have a right to interfere in, reduce or ban. You may not agree, but I, for one, think sex- and happiness- are two of those things.

Sunny adds: There’s a more nuanced view on the court judgement here. (via @press_not_sorry)


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  6. Mark Ottewell

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  7. Nurse Jayne

    Pickled Politics » Man With Low IQ Banned From Having Sex: A 41 year old man, known only as Alan, has been banne… http://bit.ly/dF50Ap




  1. Graeme Harrison — on 6th February, 2011 at 2:19 pm  

    It might help if people actually read Mostyn J’s judgment (as opposed to an article in the Daily Mail which was itself a rip off of a badly written article in the Daily Telegraph) in this case before writing about it. A copy of the judgment can be found here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/COP/2011/101.html
    When you read the judgment, you’ll discover that the man has not been banned from having sex. The local authority that cares for him has been instructed to put in place measures to prevent him from having sex. This is for his protection and for that of, for example, the 9 and 10 year old girls he touched up (something he apparently enjoyed). The orders the court made are temporary and will be reviewed in 9 months once sex education work has been done with him.

  2. Farah — on 6th February, 2011 at 3:07 pm  

    The Daily Mail with yet another misinformed and sensationalist headline, now there’s a surprise. I second the above comment. Also, I somewhat disagree with the author, I think it’s only right the authorities assess this man’s capacity to understand the mechanics of sex – both in consequence to him and others.

    It would be these very people raging if he was then to commit a sexual act with a child if it turned out he could have been prevented.

  3. Nils Boray — on 6th February, 2011 at 3:50 pm  

    Graeme – While I’d always recommend reading the full judgement as opposed to relying on reported versions, I think the summary of the judgement given here is pretty much spot on.

    This man clearly HAS been banned from having sex at least temporarily (as you clearly state in your next sentence). The 9 and 10 year old girls that he allegedly touched up – and it is only allegedly – no police action has been taken, are something of a side show – even convicted sex offenders are not usually barred from having sex with consenting partners. It’s a red herring.

    This is sadly a not entirely unusual situation, although the intervention of the courts distinguishes it. In many cases the families of people with learning disabilities effectively prohibit sexual activity for their often mature children, usually in the name of protecting them from what they do not understand.

    There is also a very strong emphasis on the protection of vulnerable adults, and care staff in residential homes are very anxious not to fall foul of the regulations. The idea that one service-user could leave his or her room in the middle of the night, to have sex with another is one which in theory should be fine, but in practice fills staff with dread. If either service-user, their families, or the local authority were then to complain that this person had been forced to have sex against their will, then the repercussions would be enormous, and could well lead to dismissals and perhaps the closure of the service.

    It’s understandable that they go to some lengths to prevent sexual activity.

    But if they don’t have sex in each others rooms, then where will they ever ? and why shouldn’t they ?

    I find Farah’s comment a little prejudicial to Alan’s case, and somewhat naive of the authority’s competence in being able to assess his capability. To begin with the use of IQ as a measure of anything, is rarely seen outside the pages of newspapers. That this man has moderate learning difficulties would tell most practitioners in the field that he is pretty much capable of understanding the mechanics of sex, but may well struggle with the emotional and social aspects. But hey ? Don’t we all ?

    It seems very sad that we as a society are so quick to label anyone with a slight difference in their sexual behaviour as a paedophile or a threat to society. I strongly suspect that he is nothing of the sort.

    Fortunately the judgement handed down is not a permanent one and will allow for a more thorough assessment to be made – I would hope that it will be one which has more respect for Alan as an individual human being.

  4. sarah — on 6th February, 2011 at 4:02 pm  

    “even convicted sex offenders are not usually barred from having sex with consenting partners.”

    A very good point, and one that I didn’t think of making. Thank you.

  5. Jookymundo — on 7th February, 2011 at 2:03 am  

    Matthew 8:28

    28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[a] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

    30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

    32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region

  6. Graeme Harrison — on 7th February, 2011 at 8:10 pm  

    Nils, I find your attitude to child protection alarming. Time and again, I’ve dealt with cases involving paedophiles who convince parents to allow them to have unfettered access to their children by arguing that, as there’s no criminal conviction, they haven’t abused children. This, even where for example, the evidence of guilt is clear but a prosecution can’t proceed (for example, because the child is too young to give evidence or is too traumatised by the abuse to do so). Waiting until a child has been abused and a conviction secured basically gives abusers free reign to destroy the lives of children. That’s not a situation I’d be happy to support, especially if I was the child who was being abused.
    I very obviously don’t say he’s been banned from having sex: the court’s orders were directed to the local authority, not Alan. If Alan does have sex, he’s not liable to any form of punishment, contrary to what a lot of commentators seem to believe.

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