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Mary-Rachel specialises in mental capacity and community care law, with a focus on children’s rights cases.

Mary-Rachel has been recognised as a ‘rising star’ by the Legal 500 in Court of Protection and Community Care Law.

"She has a brilliant eye for detail and thinks quickly on her feet."

"Her ability to put vulnerable clients at ease is quite extraordinary."

Chambers and Partners 2022

Mary-Rachel has a busy Court of Protection practice and regularly acts in cases concerning residence, care and deprivations of liberty.  Mary-Rachel has particular expertise in cases involving 16 and 17 year olds in the Court of Protection. Mary-Rachel acts for vulnerable adults, children, their families, and statutory bodies. She is frequently instructed by the Official Solicitor.

Mary-Rachel has a particular interest in disability and children’s rights. She regularly acts in urgent judicial review proceedings for children who are street homeless or otherwise in need of support or accommodation.  She also acts for children in Human Rights Act damages claims against local authorities, including claims arising out of delays by local authorities in issuing care proceedings. She represents disabled children and their parents in judicial review proceedings against local authorities relating to their care packages. 

In 2018, Mary-Rachel was awarded a Pegasus Scholarship by Inner Temple. She travelled to New Zealand for two months to work at YouthLaw, the country’s only dedicated law centre for children and young people. 

Mary-Rachel has contributed to Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook (Legal Action Group, Third Edition, 2020). She also co-authors the Court of Protection updates for Legal Action Magazine. She is a trustee of KIDS, a national charity that provides services to disabled children, young people and their families.

Court of Protection

Mary-Rachel has a busy Court of Protection practice and regularly acts in cases concerning residence, care and deprivations of liberty. Mary-Rachel has particular expertise in cases involving 16 and 17 year olds who lack mental capacity and in cases concerning capacity to engage in sexual relations. Mary-Rachel acts for vulnerable adults, children, their families, and statutory bodies. She is frequently instructed by the Official Solicitor.

Mary-Rachel recently obtained an order from the Court of Protection that it was in the best interests of an elderly woman to urgently move out of jurisdiction, in line with her strong wishes to see out the remainder of her life in her home country, surrounded by her family.

Other key cases include:

  • Re HD (Capacity to Engage in Sexual Relations) [2021] EWCOP 15 - the first case (at first instance) to consider the new test for capacity to engage in sexual relations set down by the Court of Appeal in Re JB [2020] EWCA Civ 735.  Mary-Rachel was instructed by the Official Solicitor as junior counsel (led by John McKendrick QC).

  • A Local Authority v JB (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) - a landmark case heard by the Supreme Court in July 2021 which is considering the test for capacity to engage in sexual relations under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Mary-Rachel acted as junior counsel (led by Aswini Weereratne QC) for the intervener, RESPOND.

  • Mary-Rachel appeared before Senior Judge Hilder in what was the Court of Protection’s first application seeking authorisation to deprive a 16-year-old of his liberty, without any other s16 MCA issues, following the landmark case of Re D (a child) [2019] UKSC 42.

Mary-Rachel co-authors the Court of Protection updates for Legal Action Magazine.

Community Care and Health

Mary-Rachel regularly advises and acts in judicial review proceedings relating to the provision of accommodation and support to vulnerable adults and children, under the Care Act 2014 and Children Act 1989. 

Mary-Rachel also has a growing practice acting for children in Human Rights Act damages claims against local authorities, including claims arising out of delays by local authorities in issuing care proceedings.

Mary-Rachel represents disabled children and their parents in judicial review proceedings against local authorities and CCGs relating to their care packages.  She is happy to provide early advice in such proceedings and has a good track record of obtaining favourable settlement agreements.

Mary-Rachel is happy to undertake work on an urgent basis where required. She frequently acts in urgent judicial reviews for children who are street homeless or otherwise in need of support or accommodation; or for disabled adults without appropriate care packages.  Mary-Rachel is often instructed on behalf of migrant families affected by the exclusions under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. She has successfully secured interim relief for vulnerable children and their families in a number of claims. Examples include:

  • R (AT & KT) v Lewisham LBC: Claim for judicial review of the local authority’s failure to conduct an assessment under section 17 Children Act 1989 and to provide interim accommodation to a homeless single mother and her young children; settled following the authority’s agreement to conduct an assessment and provide accommodation.

  • R (N) v Greenwich [2016] EWHC 2559: Successful judicial review of refusal to provide accommodation under section 17 Children Act 1989 where the mother did not have the right to rent (reported in Legal Action 2016/17, Dec/Jan, 17-21; J.H.L. 2016, 19(5), D71-D72)

Administrative and Public law

Mary-Rachel is regularly instructed in judicial review matters raising community care and discrimination issues. She has appeared both led and unled in the High Court and has appeared as junior counsel in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Mary-Rachel recently acted as junior counsel (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC) on a case of international importance brought by the family of an Irishwoman who emigrated to England in the 1950s, Margaret Keane. Mrs Keane’s family appealed against a May 2020 ruling of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Coventry which had denied them a gravestone of their choice over their mother’s grave. The Court of Arches confirmed that the decision of the Chancellor not to permit the family’s inscription in Irish-only (without an English translation) was irrational under the common law, and in breach of the family’s right not to be discriminated against under the Human Rights Act. The case attracted substantial attention in Ireland, Britain and internationally.

Mary-Rachel was instructed by Just for Kids Law (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC) in a judicial review challenge to the use of children as covert human intelligence sources or ‘child spies’. As a result of the litigation and the campaign by the charity, the Home Office agreed to overhaul its Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Code of Practice to make clear that children  can only be used in exceptional circumstances, with significant new safeguards to protect them. The Home Office’s significant changes to the Code of Practice meant that the legal action settled prior to the hearing.

Mary-Rachel was proud to act as junior counsel (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC) in Re: Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission [2018] UKSC 27, a landmark case concerning access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland.

Education Law

Mary-Rachel has represented parents and local authorities in appeals against Education, Health and Care Plans in the First-Tier Tribunal. She welcomes instructions in related judicial review proceedings.

Public Inquiries

Mary-Rachel has been instructed as junior counsel (led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC), in two strands of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse: in the Nottinghamshire strand,  acting for 44 complainant core participants; and in the Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks strand, acting for the Centre for Women’s Justice.