Grandmother-in-jail for protecting 81-year-old brother now being denied access to lawyers

The extraordinary case of a 71-year-old Portuguese grandmother secretly jailed in UK for trying to protect the 81-year-old brother over whose affairs she has Power of Attorney, appears to have taken an even more accentuated turn towards the “Kafkaesque”.

The UK’s Daily Mail reports today that Teresa Kirk is being denied access to the lawyers who are trying to present her appeal against a six-month jail sentence for ‘contempt of court’ (click here).

Only three days ago, we heard from the woman’s ex-husband that he had managed to speak with his former partner and that he was still hopeful that she would be released “very soon”.

But what seems to have happened since is that documents awaiting Mrs Kirk’s signature – so that an appeal can be lodged – are simply not getting through.

Chris Kirk told us from his home in Tavira last week that the documents were already ‘on their way’ to Middlesex’s Bronzefield prison.

Three days ago, he reported that they were in the prison’s “administration” and that Madeiran-born Teresa was “hoping to read and sign them today”.

But that is where the Mail’s story comes in: according to conversations with Mrs Kirk’s lawyer Colin Challenger, she is being “denied access to the legal papers she needs to sign to start the process”.

Challenger is reported to have told the High Court that it makes him “shudder” to think a system is allowing an elderly woman to be kept in jail for doing what she believes is the very best thing for her even older brother.

As the Resident explained in previous stories, the case rests on the fact that Mrs Kirk has placed her Alzheimer and dementia sufferer brother Manuel in a Tavira care home, and Devon County Council considers this is wrong.

Manuel used to live in Devon, and the council believes he should be in a home there. They have frozen Manuel’s assets and taken a case out against his sister. Her refusal to comply with the council resulted in her being jailed over two months ago for contempt of court. The situation, however, remained hidden from public knowledge until two weeks ago.

Barrister Colin Challenger has now taken up her case and appeared this week in the High Court in a bid to “order prison bosses to bring Mrs Kirk to court so that he could take instructions from her”, explained the Mail.

But the judge “said he should first write to the prison”. Thus the extraordinary delays perpetuate.

Former Liberal democrat MP John Hemming – a champion of people condemned by what are known as Britain’s ‘secret courts’ – labelled the case Kafkaesque when it first reached the public domain, albeit in a very watered down context due to reporting restrictions.

British journalists are barred from explaining Mrs Kirk’s relationship to Manuel, and indeed Manuel Martins’ name is reduced to the initials ‘MM’ in stories.

UK papers have also been barred from mentioning that in having Power of Attorney over her brother’s affairs, Mrs Kirk should never have been put into the position that she is in.

Since the Resident revealed the identities of the people at the centre of this wrangle, a reader has been in touch, to say: “I am not aware of any reason that a member of the public cannot appeal to the Court of Appeal in connection with someone else, so that is what I have done.

“As I see it, the courts are out of order here because the UK’s Court of Protection does not have jurisdiction in Portugal”.

In the meantime, we are trying to make contact with Mrs Kirk’s husband Chris in Tavira, to see what progress if any he has managed.

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PHOTO: taken last December showing Teresa Kirk with Manuel, 81, who has been “nursed back from the brink” by the care home in Tavira where he is a resident, and is “extremely happy among people who truly care for him”, says his former brother-in-law.