Sophia Roper KC

Call 1990 | Silk 2022

Sophia Roper KC | Call 1990 | Silk 2022

Back to Our People

Overview

Sophia’s specialist Court of Protection practice draws on her comprehensive knowledge of the law and extensive practical experience from private practice and public authority work. She is Joint Head of the Court of Protection team alongside Michael Mylonas KC She is a counsel of choice for exceptionally complex and unusual Court of Protection cases, both welfare and property and affairs, drawing on her knowledge of public and mental health law in other areas of her work, including inquests, community care and mental health. Recent legal directory says Sophia is “a class act: wise, clever and a formidable advocate”. She is also the co-editor of Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law, 4th edition (a leading textbook on medical decision-making in its legal context).

“Sophia is fantastic. She is the right balance of commercial, sensitive to client needs and a brilliant advocate.”
Chambers & Partners

Sophia was recently instructed by the Official Solicitor in an unusual and challenging case where she successfully argued that an order made in the Scottish courts awarding guardianship of a vulnerable adult to her mother should not be recognised in English law on grounds of public policy: Aberdeenshire Council v SF & Ors (No. 2) [2024] EWCOP 10. Please see here for the judgment.

Experience and expertise

Sophia’s core practice is in the Court of Protection, and covers the whole spectrum of cases including medical treatment, personal welfare, deprivation of liberty and property and affairs.

Sophia specialises in medical treatment and welfare cases in the Court of Protection, on which she is regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor, Trusts and other health bodies, and local authorities, as well as by private individuals. She advises on urgent and other medical treatment cases in respect of adults and children, in the Court of Protection, Family Division, and under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court.  Sophia works mainly on more legally complex welfare cases, such as hybrid welfare and property and affairs cases, and cases involving a cross border issue, mental health or community care law, and potential Human Rights Act or judicial review claims.

Sophia also advises on property and affairs issues including deputyships, lasting and enduring powers of attorney, and all relevant capacity issues, including retrospective capacity assessments.

Sophia’s practice includes community care and mental health law, including funding obligations and disputes as to the public authority responsible for funding health and social care; she has been instructed to advise urgently where a family member has been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, with no prior warning, and on cases involving displacement of the nearest relative under s29 MHA 1983.

Sophia undertakes inquest work, especially where there is a mental health aspect of the case. She has recently been instructed on an article 2 inquest arising out of a suicide where wide ranging criticism was made of multiple public services, and on an inquest arising out of a domestic homicide where both the victim and her partner had serious mental health problems.

Cases and work of note

Sophia is currently instructed in a number of complex Court of Protection cases including claims for breach of human rights, and cases where two family members lack decision making capacity and the Court must balance the competing interests of each. She has also advised on a range of applications to carry out medical treatment on incapacitated adults and children, including one involving cross border issues and several emergency applications.

Cheshire & Wirral NHS Trust v Z: Sophia was instructed by the Official Solicitor on behalf of a woman with chronic and severe anorexia (‘Z’), on an application by the Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Z had suffered from anorexia since she was 15, and was now in her 40s. The Trust proposed three alternative options: forcibly feeding Z by restraint, doing the same by sedation, or discharging her from hospital and allowing her to return to live with her parents, and receive treatment only as and when she wished. The first two options were fraught with physical risk, because of Z’s frail condition; both the Trust and the instructed expert, Dr Glover, also considered forcible feeding by either route to be inhumane, because of the acute distress it would cause to Z. Z was known to do better at least emotionally when she was left to herself and not given compulsory or coercive treatment. The Trust therefore wished to discharge Z from detention and to implement this third option. Hayden J agreed and approved the proposed care plan, saying that this was ‘the only proposal which carries any vestige of hope and most effectively preserves Z’s dignity and autonomy.’

In HN (Out of Hours Application) [2016] EWCOP 43, Sophia was instructed by an acute Trust which needed to carry out urgent surgery on a woman following her attempted suicide. The application had to be made ex parte and out of hours. Sophia drafted the required documents and advised on the necessary evidence; the outcome was that the application was successful after a short telephone hearing without oral evidence being required, and the surgeons were able to operate the next morning.

Whilst at the Official Solicitor’s office, Sophia had conduct of several cases of lasting significance including:

  • A NHS Trust v Dr A [2013] EWCOP 2442: an application to force feed an Iranian asylum seeker who had gone on hunger strike in an attempt to force the UKBA to return his passport. This is a critical case on the interface between the MHA 1983 and MCA 2005, identifying the new ‘gap’ between MCA Sch 1A and the MHA in the case of patients detained under s3 MHA who require a further deprivation of their residual liberty in order to receive treatment for a physical disorder. The case is an authority for use of inherent jurisdiction for patients who fall into this gap.
  • NHS Trust & Ors v FG (Rev 1) [2014] EWCOP 30: the leading case on applications for the court’s approval of obstetric treatment plans including caesarean section; Keehan J provided key guidance as to the procedure which applicants in these cases should follow. The guidance has since been applied to other serious medical treatment cases where deprivation of liberty or restraint is an issue.
  • AJ (Deprivation Of Liberty Safeguards) [2015] EWCOP 5: key judgment (described as ‘Neary No.2’) on articles 5(1), (4) and 8 ECHR, and the role of local authorities, RPRs and IMCAs in challenging a deprivation of liberty.
  • Re N [2015] EWCOP 76: the daughter of a lady with advanced multiple sclerosis sought withdrawal of CANH to enable her mother to die with dignity. This was a landmark judgment in the evolution of the law relating to withdrawal of CANH in those with minimal consciousness, as the courts had previously sanctioned withdrawal only in cases where the patient was in a persistent vegetative state.

Seminars / lectures

Sophia has given a number of talks and training seminars including a talk on The Rule of Personal Presence – Involvement of P in Court of Protection Proceedings; and training to IMCAs on medical treatment cases and how to be a litigation friend.

Reflections

The work I am lucky enough to do reaches far into people’s private lives and thoughts. Few of us ever expect to end up in court over matters such as where we live, what medical treatment we have, and who we see, marry or have sex with. At the same time, the prevailing mood of austerity in public services casts a long shadow into the courtroom and creates an underlying tension as to how people who need public services can best be looked after. For the lawyers, it is interesting and demanding work, but for those caught up in proceedings, it is an intrusive and stressful experience. Lawyers need to be sensitive to that.

“I love researching intricate legal points, but I always remain pragmatic and remember what my client wants and how the court will view what we do.”

Whichever party I am for, I like to consider the case in overview, to see where it is going and how to get the best result for my client in the long run. Sometimes there are other routes to a good solution such as some form of mediation, which may allow fractured relationships between public authorities and those who use their services to rebuild for the future, when the case is long over but those people still have to work together. Or there may be different legal routes using other areas of law (such as community care, judicial review, international treaty obligations), which can cut through the need for long and expensive court proceedings.

If we may be going to court, it’s my job to consider how the case will appear to the judge, who will have other sides to the story to think about. I love digging down to the bottom of a case, and I love researching intricate legal points, but I always remain pragmatic and remember what my client wants and how the court will view what we do. That’s the way I can fight my client’s corner best.

Recommendations

Sophia is recognised as a leading junior by both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

Recent directory editorial has included the following:

  • she cares about her clients deeply;
  • incredibly responsive and thoughtful;
  • she’s the person every instructing solicitor needs;
  • very good with clients;
  • she is a go-to advocate for really complicated welfare cases. She is great with clients and has an encyclopaedic knowledge;
  • a class act: wise, clever and a formidable advocate;
  • she works collaboratively and is great at coming up with unique practical solutions;
  • she is like the Encyclopaedia Britannica of COP cases;
  • always prepared;
  • very experienced;
  • is insightful and very perceptive;
  • very tactical in her thinking;
  • very responsive and takes a proactive role in cases;
  • she picks up very difficult matters very quickly;
  • really good at seeing the bigger picture in a case;
  • very sensible;
  • her advocacy is very impressive;
  • her knowledge of the law is excellent;
  • a calm and collected advocate;
  • she thinks deeply about cases and provides advice that is really concise and clear;
  • very responsive which when you are dealing with urgent, sometimes medical treatment cases;
  • a very supportive barrister;
  • her drafting is really good;
  • can put family members at ease;
  • has a real insight into how the official solicitor works in practice;
  • knows the strengths and weaknesses of the case;
  • thorough and tactically astute; and
  • she has a phenomenal knowledge of the law.

Publications and Articles

Sophia co-edited the fourth edition of Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law with Christopher Johnston KC and written by 27 members of Serjeants’ Inn.

A test for our time, STEP Journal
Consent to treatment—autonomy of disabled persons (B v D (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) and another),
LexisNexis PSL
Decide for yourself, Solicitors Journal
Power of Attorney still fit for purpose amid the big intergenerational wealth shift – Lawyers,
Wealth Briefing

Academic

Sophia studied at King’s College, Cambridge, doing an English degree (MA) before studying Law, in which she has a First. She also has a postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Laws degree (BCL) from New College Oxford.

PRivacy

Sophia adopts and adheres to the provisions of the privacy notice which can be accessed here.

Further Information

For further details of Sophia’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: 26029
Registered Name: Sophia Roper
VAT Registration No: 263408901