Meg Wynn Owen case: how can I report an attorney?

read time: 4 mins

Actress Meg Wynn Owen was suffering with dementia when her appointed attorney, Brian Malam, took approximately £65,000 from Ms Owen’s accounts over a period of four years. 

This article advises how you can report an attorney if you have concerns about their actions.

Background of the case

Meg Wynn Owen, whose real name was Margaret Wright, appeared in a host of popular TV shows and films including Doctor Who, Upstairs Downstairs and Love Actually. Ms Owen sadly suffered from dementia and capacity issues, as a result of which her long-time friend Brian Malam was granted a lasting power of attorney (‘LPA’) for her property and financial affairs.

Ms Owen noticed a number of issues with her finances, including being unable to make everyday purchases such as buying clothes and getting her hair cut. It was then discovered that Mr Malam had been using his access to Ms Owen’s finances for his own personal gain. Mr Malam had taken approximately £65,000 from Ms Owen’s accounts over a period of four years, leaving her with an overall negative bank balance. 

What was the outcome?

Mr Malam was sentenced to 32 months in prison as a result of his actions. The judge hearing the case found that Mr Malam had abused the trust placed in him by the legal system as well as the trust of Ms Owen. The judge commented on Mr Malam’s reliance on Ms Owen’s isolation, having had little to no contact with other friends and family in her later years, and his clear belief that his actions would not be discovered.  

What is a lasting power of attorney?

If you appoint an attorney under an LPA, you are giving the attorney the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. LPAs can be granted in regard to property and financial affairs or personal health and welfare. The person who is granted an LPA is known as an attorney. LPAs can be granted to just one individual, a sole attorney, or several individuals, also known as joint attorneys. 

Attorneys have certain legal obligations and responsibilities to the donor (the person who needs the LPA). The primary one is to make decisions and act in the donor’s best interests. If an attorney fails to carry out their legal obligations to the donor, they stand to face certain consequences.  

How can I report my concerns?

Anyone can report a deputy or attorney to the Office of the Public Guardian (‘OPG’) if they have concerns about their actions.

You should include the following information when contacting the OPG:

  • The donor’s details (including full name, address and date of birth)
  • The date you first became concerned
  • Any evidence you have to support the concern – for example, financial records
  • What you know about the donor’s mental capacity, including copies of any mental capacity reports or names of who might have these
  • Your contact details

What is the OPG?

The OPG is, amongst other things, responsible for investigating concerns and allegations of abuse against attorneys, deputies and guardians. It is important to note that the OPG can only act on allegations if the vulnerable person lacks capacity to make decisions for themselves. If the person has capacity, the OPG has no power to intervene.

What is the OPG’s decision making process?

The OPG must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suggest that the best interests of the donor are not being met.  If it is, it will carry out an investigation into the actions of the attorney or deputy. This process currently takes up to three weeks, depending upon the initial information provided and whether the OPG requires further preliminary information. Following this process, the OPG will either accept or decline the request to investigate the attorney/deputy’s actions. 

If the OPG declines the request, the person who raised the initial concern will be provided with the reason why it was declined and, if appropriate, signposted to other potential courses of action available to them. This may include the concerned person making an application for an appropriate order in the Court of Protection. 

If the OPG accepts that an investigation is necessary, the person who raised the initial concern will be informed of the outcome and be sent a copy of the final report. However, information about the investigation is confidential and therefore will only be released to the donor’s guardian or attorney as appropriate.

For further information, please contact our wills and inheritance disputes team.

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