Bridget Dolan QC

Call 1997 | Silk 2016

Bridget Dolan QC | Call 1997 | Silk 2016

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Overview

Alongside her extensive practice in Judicial Review of coronial decisions Bridget’s public law work also encompasses a wide variety of actions and claims brought under the Human Rights Act. Drawing on her previous career as a forensic psychologist, she stands out for her specialist work at the interface of European Convention law and psychiatry.

Public & Administrative

“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

Named by The Lawyer as the ‘Barrister of the Year’ for 2015

Experience and Expertise

Judicial Review
Bridget is particularly sought after to advise on judicial review of Coroner’s decisions. In Chambers v HM Coroner Preston [2015] Inquest LR 1, acting for the Senior Coroner, she successfully defeated arguments that alleged procedural irregularity and lack of expert evidence required a fresh Art.2 inquest. In Tainton [2016] 4 WLR 157, she again defeated the application for a fresh inquest in a case that made ground-breaking findings as to the wider scope of inquest conclusions when shortcomings are admitted and Art.2 duties are engaged.

Her clear and sound advice at early stages of a claim often successfully resolves matters for her client without the need for expensive litigation (Eg Re Clapson [2017] where the court refused permission for Judicial Review after reading Bridget’s detailed response to the claim, Re McLean [2016] where she successfully defeated a challenge to the adequacy of a Coroner’s inquest by a robust response to a letter before action, and Re An NHS Trust, where the Coroner readily conceded her errors in respect of a neglect finding and agreed that a fresh inquest should be held on receiving Bridget’s ‘Grounds for Judicial Review’).

Human Rights Act & ECHR Law
A human rights theme underlies much of Bridget’s work in her specialist areas of Mental Health Law and Coronial Law. Whether appearing in the Administrative Division of the High Court, the Court of Protection, or other civil courts, she creatively uses the Human Rights Act to achieve the best outcome for her client.

Bridget acted for NHS Trust in the ground-breaking case of RC [2014] Med LR 260, regarding the extent of a doctor’s duty to prevent the death of a self-harming detained patient who was refusing a blood transfusion where the patient’s Art.9 ECHR rights to freedom of religious expression were engaged. She also appeared in GU [2012] EWHC 3531 (COP): A seminal case considering the scope of the safeguards required to preserve the Art.8 rights of persons lacking mental capacity who are subject to extremely restrictive care plans under MCA/DOLS authorisations.

Recent notable claims brought under HRA include:

  • Achieving significant HRA damages on behalf of a detained psychiatric patient after a Social Worker wrongly revealed extremely sensitive confidential information about him to his neighbour, in breach of his Art.8 rights.
  • Representing a disabled client wrongly removed from the care of her husband in breach of her Art.5 and the couple’s Art.8 rights: the couple achieved £27,000 damages under HRA.
  • 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.
  • A large settlement in a claim for misfeasance in public office and breach of Art.3 and Art.5 on behalf of a patient who was knowingly unlawfully ‘re-sectioned’ and secluded in a psychiatric unit after his discharge by a criminal court.
  • Achieving HRA damages of £10,000 for a man with Down’s syndrome who was wrongly denied sex education and required to cease sexual relations with his wife. 

Bridget also acts and advises in Mental Health Act cases; she represented the NHS Trust in the first mental health case heard in the Upper Tier Tribunal: an appeal against a MHT decision relating to the disclosure of documents which considered the issues of the UTT’s jurisdiction and established the procedure to be adopted for disclosing confidential records in MHTs.

Bridget often advises in cases involving challenges to the adequacy of the judicial reasoning – and in 2014 and 2015 was commissioned by the JSB to teach seminars for Senior Coroners and for Mental Health Judges on how to write proper reasons for their decisions.

Inquiries and inquests
Bridget regularly appears in inquests and inquiries of the greatest complexity and sensitivity acting for bereaved families, individual interested persons and for public or corporate bodies. Her experience of managing countless heavyweight ‘Article 2’ inquests 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 some very high media profile inquests and inquiries. In 2015 she was Counsel to the Coroner for 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 ‘barrister of the year’ award ). More recently she has been appointed Counsel to the Inquest 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).

She has been commissioned to conduct independent inquiries on behalf of NHS Trusts and is currently instructed as “Counsel to the Investigation” in a government commissioned judge led Article 2 investigation following a near death of a young person in custody.

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.

recommendations

“Absolutely excellent and incredibly clever, she knows how the coroner will approach a matter. 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 & Partners 2016

“She is sensible in court and takes a practical approach to the issues in the case and how to deal with them. She also has a solid base of clinical knowledge.”
Chambers & 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 & 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

“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 & Partners 2014

“‘Highly rated’ … ‘very sensible, approachable and open.’ She is ‘the kind of advocate that judges like.’”
Chambers & Partners 2013