Victory for the #FreeBritney movement looks to be near – but wider questions remain about conservatorships

It will be for Judge Brenda Penny alone to decide if Britney Spears’ conservatorship does finally come to an end.

But the application filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court by the singer’s father Jamie seems to signal that the controversial arrangement is now on its last legs.

Jamie Spears has always been seen as the villain of this story to the fans who built their support for the star into a global #FreeBritney movement.

For 13 years Mr Spears, 69, has been the court-appointed decision-maker with extensive control over his daughter’s finances and private life.

Britney Spears attends the Clive Davis and The Recording Academy Pre-Grammy Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. Pic: AP
Spears has been under a conservatorship agreement since 2008. Pic: AP
Jamie Spears, father of singer Britney Spears, leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Oct. 24, 2012. Pic: AP
To Britney Spears’ fans her father Jamie has always been the villain. Pic: AP

The arrangement, usually reserved for those unable to make their own decisions, was put in place in 2008 after Spears went through a series of high-profile crises.

But unease has continued to grow among supporters who alleged she was being held against her will in that arrangement. The documentary Framing Britney Spears this year added impetus to their campaign.

They wondered, how could a performer who was grossing millions of dollars in record sales and sell-out concerts not be able to make decisions about her own life?

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It was this summer, during two extraordinarily intense court hearings in Los Angeles, that the world finally heard from Spears herself as to what she thought of the conservatorship.

It was “abusive”, she said, during her first impassioned address to the court. She said she had even been kept on birth control against her will.

Mr Spears has denied all of those allegations and said he had only ever acted in his daughter’s best interest.

Last month he offered to stand down from his role as conservator even as his lawyer told the court: “The public does not know all the facts and they have no right to know.”

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For the #FreeBritney movement it was vindication and, they hoped, the beginning of the end to an arrangement that had curtailed a stellar career.

But as important, they say, is the light they have thrown on the wider questions about conservatorships and the complex and labyrinthine court processes that operate around them.

It is estimated that 1.3 million people in the US are living under conservatorship or guardianship arrangements with some $50 billion of assets tied up in them.

Not many of them can count on an army of fans to make a noise on their behalf and that is why #FreeBritney is about far more than Britney Spears alone.

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