Grandmother Secretly Jailed for Caring for Alzheimer’s Man, High Court Orders Her Release

The secretive Court of Protection ordered 71-year-old Teresa Kirk to 6 months in prison, charged with looking after her best friend.

Teresa Kirk

A grandmother who was jailed for refusing to move an elderly man suffering with Alzheimer’s from his care home in Portugal, has been freed by the appeal court.

Teresa Kirk, 71, was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to sign legal papers that would transfer responsibility for the old man’s welfare to the State.

I will never sign those papers, and I would go to prison again rather than do so. I know that the way I have looked after him is right,” Kirk said. He loves the sunshine and the life in Portugal, which is where he was born. If he came back to England and was put in a care home here, he would die. He would get depressed because of the weather and stop eating. He is happy where he is.

The order had been issued by the secretive Court of Protection, a UK administration that is responsible for making decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who are unable to make the decision themselves.

The Court of Protection, which is renowned for its illogical and severe sentencing, has the power to order an individual to be placed into a hospital, or a designated care home, if the State deems it to be in their ‘best interests’.

However, most worryingly, the Court of Protection can also compel people to undergo surgery, use contraception, or even decide if a person remains on life-support.

Unsurprisingly, in many cases, the relatives and loved-ones of the individuals in question disputed the ruling of the court. In fact, the family courts’ system imprisons up to 200 people every year, for breaching its secrecy rules or disobeying diktats from social workers.

The Court of Protection carries out its work in partial, or in some cases, complete secrecy. For this reason, some of the details of the case – including the identity and location of the 81-year-old man that Kirk aided and cared for – cannot be published in England.

Prison was a frightening experience, Kirk revealed. There was a riot one day, and another time an inmate set fire to her cell. For days, my family had no idea where I was jailed, and the court kept my sentence a secret.

The man, identified only as MM, was born in Madeira, Portugal. He had moved to the UK as a young man. Although MM has British citizenship, he had always planned to spend his retirement years in his home country.

Kirk describes her relationship with the pensioner as long-term, claiming that she has known him all her life. Believing she had found a place where MM would be happy and cared for, Kirk took MM to a care home in Portugal.

I have been wrongly treated as a criminal. Social workers and the Court of Protection have ridden roughshod over me. I have known this man my whole life and my only interest was finding the best care for him and making him happy in his old age, Kirk explains.

Although MM appeared to be happy and content with his new home – his ground-floor room overlooks a garden, which is filled with flowers and a vegetable patch – social workers insisted that he should be admitted to a care home in the UK.

It is like living in a five-star luxury hotel. He is well looked after and there are plenty of things to do. He speaks Portuguese as his first language, so he can communicate with the other residents. But his English is perfect, too, and there are three others from England there, Chris Kirk, Teresa’s ex-husband, explained.

At the appeal to free Teresa Kirk, Sir James Munby, head of the family division of the High Court, declared that the family court justice system had failed Mrs Kirk. Teresa Kirk had served nearly seven weeks of her six-month sentence before her release on November 8.

Image: Flickr, Carmen Zuniga (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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