Who? Hal Branch, partner at LSGA Solicitors, London.
Why is he in the news? Acted for 71-year-old Teresa Kirk, who was released from prison having been jailed for contempt of court. Kirk had been ordered in the Court of Protection to sign a release form for a patient from a nursing home in Portugal so he could be sent to a UK nursing home.
Kirk refused because she believed it to be in the patient’s best interests to remain in Portugal. The case is subject to reporting restrictions which means the relationship between the patient and Kirk cannot be revealed. The Court of Appeal ordered Kirk’s immediate release, having granted the appeal of the order for her imprisonment and permission to appeal the order of which she was in contempt.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The case raises numerous issues about how the CoP operates and how we treat people who refuse to comply with a court order when they believe that they are doing so in the best interests of the parties.
‘The Court of Appeal is of the view that this issue needs to be addressed urgently, not only in the CoP but in family cases too. Mrs Kirk says she will never sign the release form. She risks being returned to prison as a result.’
Dealing with the media: ‘There is a frustration that the full facts of this case cannot be reported, such as the relationship between Mrs Kirk and the patient. Unless a successful application for reporting restrictions to be lifted is made, this will continue to be the case.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I was always interested in the law but after university I was working in a wine bar when a solicitor offered me a job in his firm. It would have been rude to refuse.’
Career high: ‘Obtaining the release of Mrs Kirk from prison was definitely a highlight.’
Career low: ‘Access to the courts is becoming more difficult for most. It started many years ago with the effective ending of legal aid for numerous types of claim, extending more recently to the end of the recovery of success fees from the losing party and the increase in court fees. It seems there is a real determination to limit access to justice.’