About the Project

The Open Justice Court of Protection Project is independent of any public body or university. The Project is run on a voluntary basis and without funding.

Please note: we are unable to give legal advice.

The Open Justice Court of Protection Project works to promote Open Justice in the Court of Protection – an English court, established in its current form under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, with the authority to determine whether adults have the mental capacity to make key decisions in their lives (such as where they live, whether they undergo serious medical treatment, whether they maintain contact with family members), and to make decisions in the best interests of those deemed to lack capacity. The decisions made by the court on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of society can be life-changing, and the case law it produces impacts the rights of disabled people far beyond the walls of the court rooms. In 2016, the “Court of Protection Transparency Pilot” was launched with the aim of increasing access to the court for the public and the media (click here to find out more about the Transparency Pilot). The Pilot has since been adopted into court procedure, and provides an avenue for public scrutiny of the court’s work, and an opportunity for health, social care, and voluntary sector professionals whose work is shaped by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to gain insights into court practice.

We encourage public access to the court by raising awareness of the rights of Public Observers set out by the Transparency Pilot. We share court listings, with details of hearings that are open to the public; we provide information and practical support for people wishing to observe the Court of Protection in action; we report on hearings we’ve observed; we provide links to published judgments, and updates on developments in the court. We welcome opportunities to engage with others who would like to know more about our project, and/or who share our commitment to promoting the aims of Open Justice in the Court of Protection. Get in touch via our Contact Page.

Our Core Team:

Celia Kitzinger is founding co-director (with Gill Loomes-Quinn) of the Open Justice Court of Protection Project. She is a scholar-activist with a background in academic Psychology and a 40-year academic career behind her.  Her most recent scholarly publications (mostly ‘open access’) can be downloaded here.  Celia’s involvement in issues relating to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 derives from and continues to be inspired by her family experience, since her sister Polly’s devastating brain injury in 2009 (click here). She is co-founder, with her sister, Professor Jenny Kitzinger, of the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre.   She also co-founded, with her wife, Professor Sue Wilkinson, Advance Decisions Assistance, a charity that provides information and support for people wishing to ensure that their decisions not to receive particular treatments have legal force and/or to make their end of life wishes known in a format with a legal standing in best interests decision-making.  For the last decade Celia has been working as a researcher and advocate in relation to serious medical treatment decisions made on behalf of people who cannot make those decisions for themselves.  This has included providing informal support for family members through best interests decision-making meetings and  Court of Protection hearings concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments (including, in particular,  feeding tubes).  She has attended and written about many such hearings – including the first ever all-remote hearing in the Court of Protection in March 2020 (click here).  She contributes to many professional working parties, including the British Medical Association core editorial group that produced the national guidance on clinically assisted nutrition and hydration, the Royal College of Physicians guidelines development group for national guidelines on prolonged disorders of consciousness and (currently) the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death.  She tweets as @kitzingercelia

Gill Loomes-Quinn is founding co-director (along with Celia Kitzinger) of the Open Justice Court of Protection Project. She is a socio-legal scholar-activist with a background in community advocacy. She first encountered the Mental Capacity Act 2005 when it was introduced while she was working as a specialist autism advocate in northern England, and saw how the Act impacted the lives of those of her clients deemed to lack mental capacity to make key decisions for themselves. However, this was prior to the inception of the Transparency Pilot, and the practical workings of the Court of Protection remained hidden from her. During her PhD (“Mental Capacity, Disability, and “Voice”: A Socio-Legal Exploration), Gill was the first researcher to use the Transparency Pilot to access the Court of Protection as a Public Observer. She is passionate about the concepts of Open Justice and Legal Literacy as they relate to the Court of Protection – and their potential to contribute to a politics of justice for disabled people. Her recent relevant publications explore the impact on disability rights of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 framework for research participation (here and here), as well as reporting on her experiences in the Court of Protection for the Transparency Project. She was also lead applicant (with Dr Jed Meers – University of York Law School) on a successful grant application to the University of York Research Centre for Social Science and organised a symposium on the ethical and legal implications of involving people in research who lack the capacity to consent – talks and interviews from the symposium, and related resources are available on her MCAR website. Alongside her research, Gill is proud to be a convener of PARC – the Participatory Autism Research Collective. Gill tweets regularly – @GillLoomesQuinn, having established a community of autistic scholars under the hashtag #AutisticsInAcademia. Her website is http://www.voicespaces.co.uk

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.

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 is active on social media, particularly twitter and tweets at @mrsarcticride and @LACRnetwork

Note: We are aware the links in the Supporting Guidance – we are working to fix it. In the meantime, if you cannot locate any of the linked documents and would like to access them, please get in touch with us and we will endeavour to help.

(Please contact us via the Contact Page if you require our policy or guidance for bloggers in a format other than pdf and we will do our best to help)

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