“Absolutely excellent and incredibly clever… has a good approach with witnesses. One of the best cross-examiners at the Bar.”
Chambers & Partners 2017
Featured by the Sunday Times/Debretts as one of a handful of lawyers in the “500 most influential people in Britain” list, 2016.
Experience & Expertise
Bridget’s practice covers all aspects of mental illness, injury and death throughout the civil courts. She is well known as a leading practitioner in the Court of Protection and Coroners Courts and also specialises in psychiatric negligence, as well as bringing and defending civil claims related to mental health legislation or under human rights law.
In addition to her Court of Protection practice, which covers the entire range of serious cases that come before the CoP, Bridget is regularly instructed in high profile inquests and inquiries of significant complexity and sensitivity. Her experience of managing countless heavyweight cases engaging rights under Articles 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 ECHR means she is particularly sought after when public bodies are facing difficult and searching inquiries.
Bridget also has considerable experience of acting as Counsel to the Judge / Coroner in inquests and inquiries heard under intense media scrutiny; most recently in the fresh inquests into the deaths at Deepcut Barracks of Private Cheryl James (held in 2016) and Private Sean Benton (to be held in early 2018). In 2015 she was Counsel to the Coroner in the seven British inquests following the murders of 40 men by Al-Quaeda linked terrorists at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria – a role which earned her The Lawyer’s ‘Barrister of the Year’ award.
Bridget also has extensive public law experience, advising and appearing in judicial review cases related to Coronial Law, Human Rights Law and the Mental Health Act. That she sits part-time as a Coroner and a Mental Health Tribunal Judge gives Bridget a particular insight into how to approach the most challenging of cases. Her extensive legal knowledge is put to good use as editor of the Inquest Law Reports and the popular UK Inquest Law Blog.
Whilst she is always keen to work towards a compromise decision that can avoid both the expense and the emotional burden of litigation for her client, she nevertheless relishes courtroom advocacy, using her many skills in cross-examining witnesses and persuading judges when cases go to trial.
Cases and work of note
Bridget’s Court of Protection practice covers all aspects of health and welfare work. She is often instructed in the most serious and complex of cases involving the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment from those who lack capacity. Recent notable cases include:
- Re JM  4 WLR 64, series of test cases, regarding the need for r.3A representation following the Cheshire West judgment;
- Re Mrs X  EWCOP an important ‘test case’ considering whether there is a requirement to bring the issue of withdrawal of life sustaining nutrition and hydration before the court where parties are in agreement on best interests;
- B v D and the Ministry of Defence  EWCOP 15 regarding whether a brain injured man could undergo unlicensed and experimental stem cell treatment in Eastern Europe.
Bridget’s inquest practice includes all types of sensitive and substantial cases that come before a Coroner, including deaths following clinical negligence, in accidents at work, deaths after restraint and fatal self-harm by detainees. Recent cases in 2017 include:
- CW Inquest : acting for an NHS Trust in a substantial Art 2 inquest where police were investigating alleged fraudulent entries in medical records following the death of a patient in a secure unit;
- FW Inquest : representing a Consultant Psychiatrist in a four week inquest where, despite the Coroner having referred the matter to the CPS to consider corporate manslaughter charges, the inquest jury eventually made no criticism of Bridget’s client, who was the patient’s responsible clinician;
- SL Inquest : representing a private care home where administration of incorrect medication had allegedly led to an elderly resident’s death;
- Sean Benton Inquest [2017-18]: Instructed as Counsel to the judge coroner.
Recent notable civil claims brought under HRA include:
- Achieving HRA damages of £10,000 from a Local Authority for a man with Down’s syndrome who was wrongly denied sex education and so was required to cease sexual relations with his wife for over a year – Re CH  EWCOP 12;
- Negotiating a substantial payment for breaches of Art.2 and Art.3 ECHR for the family of a young woman who killed herself after being wrongly denied admission to a psychiatric unit.
- Representing Mrs D, a disabled client wrongly removed from the care of her husband in breach of her Art.5 and the couple’s Art.8 rights: after securing her client’s return home a compromise agreement saw the couple achieve £27,000 in damages under HRA.
Awards and Directory quotes
Recognised as a leading practitioner in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for her work in the Court of Protection, in Inquests and Inquiries and Clinical Negligence. Bridget was named “Barrister of the Year” at The Lawyer awards in 2015 following her work as counsel to the In Amenas inquests. In 2016 she has been noted as one of the 500 most influential people in Britain today in the Debretts/Sunday Times list and was also one of the 400 invitees to the “Women of the Year” assembly.
Recent directory editorial has included the following:
“Absolutely excellent and incredibly clever… She’s very clear and precise, and has a good approach with witnesses. One of the best cross-examiners at the Bar.”
Chambers & Partners 2017
“Very bright and knowledgeable, with a good feel for what is likely to happen.” “She doesn’t miss anything and gives the impression of being a couple of steps ahead of everyone else.”
The Legal 500 2016
“Her advocacy skills are excellent and she clearly enjoys being in the courtroom. She is measured and knows when to take points and when not to. Skilled, tenacious yet graceful.” “Even under huge amounts of pressure she has a calm, controlled and collected approach.”
Chambers and Partners 2016
“Passionate about her work, she’s a thorough and utterly reliable counsel, who is able to deliver digestible advice in tricky cases.” “She is utterly dependable and has a keen eye for important details missed by others.”
Chambers and Partners 2015
“A delight to work with and has comprehensive knowledge of the law.” “She is smart, perceptive and absolutely excellent with clients”
The Legal 500 2015
“Her attention to detail produces impressive results. She knows the law inside out and she knows how to work it in her favour and pull all the stops out.”
Chambers and Partners 2015
“A user-friendly team player.”
The Legal 500 2014
“A go-to for heavyweight medical cases… She provides well thought-out advice, is very pragmatic and is good at cross-examining experts and asking the right questions.” “She is wonderful on cases overlapping with mental health; she’s an absolute authority there. She’s good with more troubled clients, has a lovely manner and is patient.”
Chambers and Partners 2014
“Highly rated… very sensible, approachable and open. She is ‘the kind of advocate that judges like.'”
Chambers and Partners 2013
I consider myself really very lucky to have enjoyed both my careers so much. As a psychologist for 13 years before I came to the bar my focus was on understanding why people acted as they did and helping them to manage their problems. I regard myself as having developed rather than changed my career when I came to the Bar as so much of my work as a barrister draws on the skills I learned in my clinical practice. I still see my main role as helping people or organisations with problems in situations they either can’t or haven’t been able to sort out by themselves.
I never wanted to be a black letter lawyer; arguing over contracts or bricks was never going to be for me. I am fundamentally a people person and it is helping people with life problems that gives me satisfaction. My core practice in the Court of Protection, Inquests and Mental Health law provides me with a satisfying balance of interesting, and still developing law alongside the very important human aspect in some of the most heart wrenching and difficult of cases. The immense variety between cases, the personalities and the emotions involved keeps me fresh.
“I am fundamentally a people person and it is helping people with life problems that gives me satisfaction.”
Teamwork is my thing; I believe barristers should work cases with the solicitors, and not in addition to them. I have seen that, whether the case is big or small, it will always benefit from pooling our joint views, thoughts and perspectives. We all have our particular skills and outlook and so I look to foster a truly collaborative team approach and try to be available for quick chats and emails as the case develops. So those “phone a friend” calls to me are always welcome at any stage of a case.
Bridget has a first class honours degree and a doctorate in Psychology, graduating in 1984. She was awarded a PhD in 1989 for her study of the socio-cultural factors underlying bulimia nervosa. From 1984 to 1997 she worked as a psychologist at St George’s Medical School, London. She completed her part time Law Conversion Course at Brighton University and her bar finals at ICSL whilst still working as a Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at St George’s. She joined Serjeants’ Inn as a pupil in 1997, taking silk in 2016 after 18 years in practice.
Seminars / lectures
Coming from an academic background Bridget has a passion for communicating the law to others through education and so thoroughly enjoys lecturing and contributing to seminars. She has been commissioned to deliver training at all levels for High Court Judges, Senior Coroners and Mental Health Tribunal Judges through to undergraduate students. She is always happy to work with solicitors firms and public bodies to devise and present custom-made training.
Recent highlights include:
- High Court Judges: commissioned by the Judicial Studies Board to deliver specialist training to Family Division Judges on the MCA Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
- Mental Health Tribunal Judges: commissioned to devise and present several one day training courses on ‘Decision making and reason writing’ for tribunal members.
- Senior and Assistant Coroners: delivering five seminars as part of the Chief Coroner’s compulsory training course.
- IPCC: devised and presented a one day training course on Inquests.
- Navy Legal Service: Seminar on Article 2 inquests.
- Section 12 MHA course for Psychiatrists: Trainer on a bi-annual course re: Human Rights Act & Mental Health Law and the Mental Capacity Act.
- Royal College of Psychiatrists: delivering MCA DOLS Assessor training.
- NHS Trusts: Inquest, DOLS and MHA training for clinical staff at a number of NHS Trusts.
PRO BONO AND DIRECT ACCESS WORK
Bridget accepts pro bono mental health, Court of Protection and Inquest cases, including providing representation for families at inquests, via the Bar Pro-Bono Unit and mental health charities. She is also Direct Access accredited and accepts direct access work in the Court of Protection and Coroners Courts.
Bridget has written 3 books and over fifty academic articles: A selection of her publications include:
Medical Treatment Decisions and the Law (2016) Johnston C (Ed). Co-author of two chapters and editor of three others. Bloomsbury, London
Forensic Mental Health Concepts Systems and Practice (2009) Chapter: Law and the Mentally Disordered Offender: an Overview of Structures and Statutes. Bartlett and McGauley, Oxford University Press (co-authored with Martin Wrench)
Disclosing confidential clinical information (2004) Psychiatric Bulletin, 28, 53-56, Gaskell, London
An introduction to the law relevant to Mentally Disordered Offenders (2004) Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, S12-18, Wiley, London.
Review of Treatments for Severe Personality Disorder (2003) Home Office, London (co-author of report commissioned by the Home Office/Dept Health)
The Mental Health Act 1983 explained (2001) Dolan B & Powell D, Stationery Office, London (Second Edition)
For further details of Bridget’s practice please click on the links to the left or contact a member of the clerking or client service team.
Bar Council Membership No: 37139
Registered Name: Bridget Maura Dolan
VAT Registration No: 739831693