Russell-Cooke has a long history of working with clients who struggle with mental health issues, whether chronic or acute.
World Mental Health Day is recognised by the World Health Organisation on 10 October every year. Mental health issues are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK while mental ill health amongst children and the elderly are on the increase. Mental ill health arises irrespective of gender, age, social status, race etc.
The firm's broad practice involves many areas of law affecting individuals for whom such issues require special support and counsel, as well as specific legal advice.
Rita Bhargava, private client team
Rita specialises in capacity issues. She acts for clients of all ages who may have suffered a brain injury at birth or are suffering from a mental illness such as dementia, MS, or motor neurone disease. These clients often cannot speak for themselves. Rita advises on applications to the Court of Protection (where judges can make decisions on behalf of someone who can't make a decision for themselves) to appoint a trusted person to protect and empower them to make their own decisions to the fullest extent possible. This involves liaising with doctors, mental capacity advocates, social workers and case managers to ensure clients receive the help that they need and gives them as much independence as possible.
Gareth Ledsham, trust and estate disputes team
Gareth Ledsham is an expert in mental capacity law. Mental health issues arise in many aspects of his work. Where mental health issues affect a person's ability to manage aspects of their day to day lives – be that decisions about where they should live or the ability to manage their property and financial affairs - this can leave people open to abuse. Gareth's work will often involve applications to the Court of Protection.
Of course, a mental health problem does not automatically mean someone can't make their own decisions; Gareth also acts for clients living with mental health problems whose capacity to manage their own affairs is being challenged. He enables them to ensure their voice is heard and their agency is not compromised.
Martin Rackstraw, fraud and criminal litigation team
Martin and team regularly advise people with mental health issues or learning difficulties, with conditions including drug/ alcohol-related disorders, PTSD and age-related illnesses. This often involves close collaborative working with other professionals – such as Appropriate Adults at the police station, Intermediaries in court proceedings, psychologists and psychiatrists – or simply working with parents or relatives to ensure that clients receive the best support possible during their case.
At the very outset of a case, at the police station, it is essential to identify issues of vulnerability so that the client's welfare is safeguarded and their interests protected. As a case progresses, to ensure the best outcome for the client their mental health issues will often need to be assessed by a suitable expert. This will ensure that we address any particular communication issues as we handle the case, that we identify any legal issues that may be relevant as a result of our client's particular mental health issues and, if appropriate, ensure that the Court and prosecuting authorities are also aware so those issues to ensure that the best possible outcome for the client is achived.
Sarah Richardson, children and education law team
Sarah Richardson is one of the firm's specialists used to representing people either experiencing mental health challenges themselves or living and/or caring for family members with mental health challenges. She assists families in crisis when mental health struggles have become overwhelming and caused families to fracture. These struggles often lead to court proceedings, social workers being involved, children being excluded from school, children being removed from their families and family members being hospitalised. Sarah and the team have deep experience of helping people with mental health struggles and all the difficulties that come with those struggles and are able to help clients navigate the legal problems which arise.
Fiona Read, family team
Fiona Read and team have a long history and experience in representing clients who are suffering from a mental health issue whilst going through a divorce or separation. Mental health issues are often triggered or exacerbated by the emotional trauma a person experiences in the breakdown of a relationship. Sometimes this is long-term and other times temporary. Making important decisions about the future is exceptionally challenging and more difficult for this group of people at this time. It is however essential for them to be able to do this for their long term wellbeing. The family team are adept at putting in place mechanisms to enable people who are in this vulnerable position to do this. They have worked with the Official Solicitor and Court of Protection as well as other teams in Russell-Cooke who specialise in this area to create solutions that work for them.
The best interests of the client and their long-term well-being are at the heart of all advice given by the team in these circumstances.
Managing partner Jonathan Thornton says: "Russell-Cooke is a values-driven law firm. We balance being a commercial organisation with a commitment to access to justice, and this includes access to justice for those for whom everyday decision-making has become impossible, or difficult, because of their mental health issues or other vulnerabilities. For us, doing the right thing means giving those people the right legal advice and support but also bringing our humanity to work – treating everyone with respect and empathy irrespective of the context or particular challenges."