The words ‘Free Britney’ are often seen across social media without further explanation as to what the movement is about. The movement was started by a group of fans who believe that Britney Spears is being controlled by her father and others, and it is not in her best interest for this to be the case. Some people in the movement consider that Britney has been sending fans coded messages about her captivity through her social media accounts.
Britney is currently under a ‘conservatorship’. A conservatorship is where a judge (in the USA) appoints an individual or organisation to care for another adult who is deemed to unfit to care for themselves or to manage their own finances. Britney’s her father has been appointed to manage her finances following her public mental health breakdown in 2008.
Britney had previously been detained in a psychiatric hospital for mental evaluation. In 2008, Britney’s father petitioned the court for an emergency, temporary conservatorship, alleging that Britney was unable to care for and manage herself. He was given the legal right to oversee and make decisions regarding Britney’s finances, health, business deals and personal life. Despite the original application being temporary, Britney’s conservatorship has continued ever since.
This has come to back to the media’s attention as the US court has recently rejected Britney’s attempt to have her father removed as conservator of her estate. Britney’s lawyer stated that she was “afraid” of her father and that she would not perform as long as he remained as her conservator. Britney’s father, argued that he had always acted in his daughter best interests. The judge stated that she would consider future appeals for his dismissal or outright removal of the conservatorship. In the meantime, Britney’s financial company has been appointed as co-conservator.
Britney Spears is not the only celebrity that is currently under a conservatorship. Amanda Bynes was placed under a conservatorship after psychiatric detentions in 2013 and 2014. Amanda Bynes regained financial control in 2017, but is still subject to a conservatorship over her “person”, meaning her mother makes Amanda’s medical and housing decisions. Amanda plans to appeal this.
Comparatively, in England and Wales, a ‘deputyship’ application is required when someone is deemed to lack mental capacity to make decisions regarding their property and affair and/or health and welfare. There is a dedicated court, the Court of Protection, which appoints someone to act as someone’s deputy. In England and Wales, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects individuals who are deemed to lack capacity. Any decisions made on behalf of someone else must always be in their best interest. If someone has applied for deputyship, and someone does not consider they are suitable for the role, they can object to the appointment. The court will weigh up all the factors and, if they do not find any available relatives or friends suitable, a professional deputy (for instance, a solicitor) can be appointed to manage a person’s property and affairs.