Giving a chilling account of the power of Britain’s so-called secret courts, the ex-husband of a Portuguese grandmother in jail for refusing to release her 81-year-old brother to the jurisdiction of a county council has explained how the woman has, in essence, done nothing wrong.
“Teresa has power of attorney over Manuel’s affairs”, Chris Kirk explained to us from his Algarve home.
“She is legally entitled to make choices for him, as he suffers from Alzheimer’s and has dementia.
“But Devon County Council have seen to it that she has had to go to jail in order to stick to those choices.
“It’s disgusting”, he said, adding that “if Manuel didn’t have his own property, the council would never have brought this case.
“Since Teresa started having these problems, I have been looking into these secret courts, and you would not believe the number of retired people whose money is taken by county councils in England. We’re talking of billions. You just cannot believe it.
“This is the same county council that left Manuel in a house that was filthy. It was like something out of a film. If Teresa hadn’t brought him out of there, and taken him into her home, he would have ended up being found dead at the bottom of the stairs one day”.
But as has been reported in UK – albeit under restrictions – Devon County Council did not agree with Mrs Kirk’s decision-making over her brother (click here).
When the 71-year-old, originally from Madeira, decided to sell her brother’s home – in order to buy a smaller home for the two of them in UK where she could be his carer – the council put a block on the deal, and have since frozen all Manuel’s assets.
With the upset of these wrangles ongoing, Teresa and Manuel came to the Algarve on holiday. Manuel became ill and spent three days in Faro hospital. When he was discharged, his sister “realised he needed 24/ 7 professional care”, explains her ex. “She located a fantastic care home in the area, and Manuel has been a resident ever since.
That was August of 2015.
“The home nursed him Manuel back from the brink”, said Chris Kirk. “Now he is looking 10 years younger and extremely fit for a man of 81.
“None of this would have happened without Teresa’s devotion towards her brother, and the dedication and professionalism of the staff undertaking Manuel’s care”.
“They have been wonderful”, Chris Kirk told us. “The British social workers went there, asked all sorts of questions, but the home refused point blank to let Manuel go unless they got instructions from Teresa” – and that’s despite payment problems due to the freezing of Manuel Martins’ estate.
“Teresa would rather die in jail than give those instructions”, Chris Kirk affirmed. “Her brother is in great hands. He is happy. He is being treated better than he would ever be treated in UK, that’s for sure.”
“I know Portuguese people well enough to know that when they think they are right, they can be dead stubborn. And Teresa doesn’t just think she is right, she is right! She will never agree to signing the papers that are at the root of her conviction.
“She is resigned to serving her sentence”, said Mr Kirk. “She should be getting out on Christmas Eve”.
But as to how his former wife is bearing up in Middlesex’s Bronzefield prison, Mr Kirk said he was “not sure”.
“Our daughter doesn’t want to make too much of a fuss”, he explained. “She has four children, and she is terrified that if she sticks her neck out, she could lose them”.
“These stories in the press about parents losing their children for any old reason – it happens”, he told us. “It’s the reason why Teresa is in jail. She’s just lucky that the publicity about her case has got things moving”.
A “top class barrister” has become involved, and yesterday (Wednesday) this barrister informed Chris Kirk that all the necessary papers that Mrs Kirk has to sign in order to submit an appeal have been sent to Bronzefield.
“She could be out by next week. That’s what I am hoping”, her ex-husband told us, adding: “Communication is difficult. Everything is so secret. It is like Teresa is lost in the system. But I am hoping with this new barrister and a really good solicitor that we’ve got onboard, things will change”.
Referring to cases highlighted in national media of Portuguese parents battling to recover children taken into care by British social services, Chris Kirk told us: “Unless they have good representation they don’t stand a chance. I wouldn’t go back to England for anything. After this story, I just wouldn’t feel safe”.
Devon County Council’s position is that any decisions regarding where people considered to be “vulnerable adults” should live, should be a matter for the Court of Protection.
This is a power enshrined in former British prime minister Tony Blair’s Mental Capacity Act, which allows the court to “decide the affairs of people who cannot make decisions for themselves”, overriding even the wishes of relatives.
Sentencing Mrs Kirk to six months for refusing to acknowledge the court’s instructions, Mr Justice Newton said he felt he had “no alternative”, although he said he had “made it perfectly clear” that he did not wish to pass such a judgement.
John Hemming, the former Liberal Democrat MP who has long campaigned against the powers of Britain’s secret courts, has said in his opinion the case “stinks”, while Chris Kirk says simply: “The Court of Protection is out of control”.
PHOTO: Taken of Teresa and Manuel at the Sol e Mar Residência care home, Carapeto in December, 2015, after Manuel had been ‘nursed back from the brink’.
In an email to the Portuguese embassy dated August of this year, Teresa Kirk stressed: “Manuel has said to me on several occasions that he does not want to return to the UK”.
The Resident is unaware what if any reply Mrs Kirk received to this mail in which she requested embassy “intervention to stop this miscarriage of justice happening”.
As it was, Teresa Kirk was arrested by police and commited to prison shortly afterwards.