Susanna Rickard

Call 2009

Overview

A recognised specialist in Court of Protection work, ranked annually by Chambers & Partners as a leading junior since 2014. Clients appreciate her insightful, down-to-earth approach. Susanna has appeared in some of the most complex ‘life and death’ cases in the Court of Protection and is regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor concerning critical medical treatment decisions.

Court of Protection

“A favourite of the Official Solicitor, who is very highly regarded and gets cases above her call because of that.”
Chambers & Partners

Charlie Gard
Katie Gollop QC and Susanna were instructed by Great Ormond Street Hospital in the Charlie Gard case.
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experience & expertise

Susanna is a recognised specialist in Court of Protection work, and has been ranked annually by Chambers & Partners as a leading junior since 2014.  She has a busy and varied practice covering the spectrum of medical, welfare and financial matters coming before the court.  She is regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor and NHS Trusts in critical medical treatment cases, and has appeared in some of the most complex ‘life and death’ cases, for example the case of Re E, where the court decided that the life of an anorexic woman should be preserved, despite her being already placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway, at her own request, in anticipation of her death. Many of her cases have a high media profile, and she has advised and acted for several celebrity/high profile clients in this and related areas.

Her wider expertise in healthcare and mental health law is brought to bear on her advice in Court of Protection cases. Extremely experienced in urgent and complex medical treatment cases, Susanna can provide clear pragmatic advice at short notice to assist clients in readying a case for court.

Her cases have included the following:

  • Multiple medical treatment cases, involving serious life/death operations and treatment
  • Capacity disputes at the more complex end of the spectrum (medically and legally)
  • ‘Forced caesearean’ cases
  • ‘Force feeding’ cases
  • Jehovah’s Witness cases, regarding refusal of blood products
  • Withdrawal of treatment cases
  • Capacity for sexual relations; marriage; to eat and drink; to decide to consume alcohol
  • Removal into institutional care
  • Disputes as to residence, contact and care
  • Inherent jurisdiction proceedings concerning vulnerable adults

Susanna’s expertise in this area has also seen her acting in complex child medical treatment cases in the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, such as the case of J , concerning the Gillick-competence and best interests of a young teenager diagnosed with HIV who refused to take life-preserving drugs, and matters concerning the withdrawal of treatment from children.

cases & work of note

Folie à deux: capacity dispute
Susanna has recently been instructed for the Official Solicitor in a complex capacity case concerning the diagnosis of ‘shared psychosis’, or folie à deux. A local authority pursues a case involving a son and his father, concerning the son’s capacity to decide on contact with mental health services.

Exploitation by reality TV
WBC v Z (through her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) [2016] EWCOP 4
Social services and very interventionist care were thrust upon a young woman largely against her will, as a result of her worrying behaviour during a difficult period in her life. After her appearance on a popular reality TV programme she had become the subject of negative media attention, and her mental health had deteriorated. She had been deluged with contact through social media from men and it was alleged she had been abused or exploited. She had then come to the attention of local mental health services and social services, and was diagnosed with autism and borderline learning disability. The local authority brought proceedings seeking to remove her from her mother’s home and deprive her of her liberty in her own ‘independent living’ flat. Susanna acted for the Official Solicitor, who advanced a case in line with the young woman’s wishes and feelings. Cobb J. decided that the local authority had failed to rebut the presumption of capacity.

Capacity to drink alcohol: unlawful deprivation of liberty
Susanna acted for J through his litigation friend. J was an exuberant, gregarious, intelligent man in his 60s who had most of his mental faculties in place. He also had a long-standing diagnosis of alcohol dependence disorder. He fell foul of an overly paternalistic approach by his long-standing social worker and psychiatrist and was deprived of his liberty in a care home, and prevented from going out unaccompanied despite evidence that he had been managing to control, though not cease, his drinking. After a two-day hearing at which the court heard from both treating and expert psychiatrists, the court accepted the case put forward on J’s behalf. He is now happily resident in the care home, but no longer deprived of his liberty. A subsequent claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 for a declaration and damages has been settled in his favour.

‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders and life/death decision making
County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust v PP and others [2014] EWCOP 9
Led by Angus Moon QC, Susanna appeared for P, an 85-year-old with a complex medical history, in an early “Do not resuscitate” case. The court had to decide whether an elderly woman should have an artificial feeding tube inserted, or whether the clinicians could lawfully withhold nutrition and choose not to actively resuscitate her in the event of cardiac arrest. The court ruled that the risks of artificial feeding outweighed the potential benefits and that it would not be in her best interests for resuscitation to be attempted.

Forced caesarean section case
Susanna, directly instructed by the Official Solicitor, appeared recently in a case urgently brought by an NHS Trust who were seeking permission to perform a forced caesarean section if it became necessary. The mother was suffering from a psychotic illness and took against the idea strongly when unwell, saying that the baby was the son of Allah. She was very vocal about the possibility that a caesarean section would be imposed against her will, citing it as “disgusting”, “oppressive” and “unfair”.  Susanna has a vast amount of experience in serious medical treatment cases advising and representing both applicant Trusts and respondents.

reflections

The law can be a blunt instrument. Sometimes the court process is unsatisfactory. It doesn’t always give people what they really want. I see this a lot in the Court of Protection, where often relatives are seeking exoneration from past criticism, but the court’s focus is solely P’s interests going forward.

“My cases are just a snapshot of a larger, worrying picture.”

I’ve seen too many cases recently of elderly people unlawfully placed in care homes. I’d say it’s been a theme for me this year. It’s great to have secured the return home (with care packages) of several people who should never have been deprived of their liberty in the first place, but my cases are just a snapshot of a larger, worrying picture.

recommendations

“She’s really intelligent and has a real grasp of complex legal issues. Her approach is very pragmatic, and she’s able to deal with clients very easily.” 
Chambers & Partners

“She’s got something really rare which is a proper earthy grasp of community care issues, and that’s crucial not just for arguing legally but taking a real problem-solving approach to cases. You get better outcomes because she thinks about the real implications of everything.”
Chambers & Partners 

“Exceptionally insightful and effective, she cuts through to the real issues.”
Chambers & Partners

“A strong public lawyer, who garners much praise from market commentators for her work in this area. She punches above her weight and has real poise such as is rarely seen in someone of her call. Very thorough on mental health cases, she is admirable on her feet, as well as being very confident, meticulous and fluent as a speaker.”  
Chambers & Partners