Welcoming Claire Martin and Kirsty Stuart

13th May 2021

We’re delighted to bring on board two new members to join the core group of the Open Justice Court of Protection Project – Claire Martin (left photo) and Kirsty Stuart (right photo). Both have already provided key inputs into the Project and are keen to continue. They will help to shape the development of the Project over the coming months. Welcome both of you!

Claire Martin is a clinical psychologist who has spent her career working with older people in the NHS. She currently leads the older people’s psychology team in Gateshead. Principally, she considers herself a jobbing clinician, and, in addition to being a clinical psychologist and a member of both the Faculties for the Psychology of Older People and Neuropsychology of the British Psychological Society, she is trained in psychological therapies of Cognitive Analytic Therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). She is a keen advocate for older people being able to access the same psychological support and therapies as younger people. Working with people who are in distress and finding ways to help make sense of their experiences and to address, manage or come to terms with things has been the mainstay of her working life. Most recently, she has developed an interest in the impact of psychological trauma in later life.

Part of working as a psychologist in older people’s mental health services involves providing opinions and assessments when a person’s mental capacity to make decisions about their life is in question. Day-to-day she sees first-hand the interwoven intricacies of people’s history, relationships and long lives that have an impact on the way they navigate their later years, their wishes and values. Thinking about recording one’s wishes in Advance Decisions can be part of this work and so a broad understanding of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 is needed to be a psychologist working with older people. She has always chosen to work in older people’s services because of the variety of experiences that older people bring with them and the rich complexity of working with people who have lived long lives – as well as a belief that our society does not treat older people well and that their own voices and value are often side-lined. In the end, it is just so interesting and rewarding working with older people, being alongside as an ally and champion at times that can be so difficult.

The Open Justice Court of Protection project caught her eye during the COVID pandemic as an opportunity to get involved in learning more about our justice system and mental capacity – especially as a lot of Court of Protection cases involve the rights, care and wishes of older people when they have lost capacity to make certain decisions for themselves. So, a ‘bit of CPD’ became a regular drive to observe, learn about the application of the law and then, bit by bit, join in with the wider conversation around the complex issues involved. A broad understanding of the MCA 2005 is just that – it leaves a lot to learn. So, she’s found the experience of attending hearings, and seeing the compassion and real attention to ‘P’s’ own values in life, a huge education. Being part of a growing and stimulating network of interested and engaged people who want to observe, understand and challenge their own and others’ thinking has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and devastating year – so being able to be part of the core team and continue that conversation is exciting and a privilege.

Claire has published many blog posts based on her observations of Court of Protection hearings – including “When Expert Evidence Fails” (with Celia Kitzinger, Beth Williams and Katy Dobia), “Covert medication” (with Alan Howarth), “Visual monitoring, Deprivation of Liberty and human rights” and “Bringing Lucy home“. She tweets @DocCMartin

Kirsty Stuart is an Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. She has worked within the Court of Protection sphere for more than 5 years and represents those who are the subject of proceedings as well as family members on a regular basis. She represents in a range of matters from deputyship to capacity and best interest disputes to serious medical treatment cases. Alongside this, Kirsty also advises on community care matters and human rights act claims as well as cases in the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court.

Prior to working at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, Kirsty worked for several years as a Mental Health Solicitor and so uses her cross working knowledge and leads in her firm on matters for autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities detained in Assessment and Treatment Units. Kirsty has a passion for disability rights and exploring new ways of ensuring the rights of those detained in hospital are upheld and will regularly use Makaton with clients and is developing ways to ensure that the client is always at the centre of the cases and able to actively participate.

Kirsty is an active member of a campaign group called #right2home which campaigns and advocates for homes not hospitals for those who are autistic and/or have a learning disability. Through this, Kirsty has co-authored the #right2home leave guidance for those in in-patient settings, care homes and independent supported living placements as a reaction to the pandemic and regularly holds webinars and events to help empower parent carers and advocates to support those in these units as well as leading on campaign days in respect of raising awareness of human rights for those in Assessment and Treatment Units.

Kirsty has developed a network for lawyers with additional caring responsibilities. As a parent of two children with additional needs and a carer for her mum with a rare type of young onset dementia, she has first-hand experience of the pressures of balancing work and home life. Kirsty started a network for others to get together virtually and share experiences. The aim is to share experiences and understanding but also to highlight the positives and unique skill set that people like herself can bring to our clients such as using Makaton or an understanding of syndromes, rare genetic conditions and the battles that clients face.

Kirsty has written about” Lived Experience and Professional Expertise as a Lawyer in the Court of Protection ” and she is active on social media, particularly twitter. She tweets @mrsarcticride and @LACRnetwork

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