Pensioner who was jailed by a secret court can finally tell the story of how she tried to protect her brother because, shortly after these photographs were taken, he died
- Teresa Kirk defied order to bring brother Manuel back from Portugal care home
- Court of Protection jailed her for protecting Manuel, who had vascular dementia
- She spent seven weeks in prison that once housed Rose West but appealed term
- But court used secrecy laws that banned her from even publishing his obituary
Teresa Kirk with her brother Manuel at his care home in the Algarve, Portugal
Fighting back the tears, Teresa Kirk tenderly takes the hand of her 81-year-old brother and rests her cheek gently against his head as the sun pours in through the windows of his old people’s home in Portugal. It will be the last photograph of the two of them together and it is, by any measure, an unbearably poignant image of sibling devotion.
But behind it lies an astonishing story that has come to represent all that is wrong with Britain’s shadowy Court of Protection (CoP). A court so powerful that, until yesterday, Teresa was forbidden from placing an obituary notice to inform friends of her brother Manuel’s death.
When this photograph was taken late last year, Teresa, who is 71, had just been released from jail — her punishment for defying British social workers who had decreed that her brother, who had dementia, must spend his twilight years in a Devon care home rather than the Portugese idyll that she wanted for him in the country of his birth.
She was sentenced to six months for refusing to sign legal papers giving social services control over the life of Manuel. Only a campaign by the Daily Mail and Teresa’s lawyers secured her an early release, with High Court judges ruling that she should never have gone to jail.
They returned her confiscated passport, which had been seized at her sentencing, so she could fly to her brother for that emotional reunion.
Last week, Manuel was buried at a funeral organised by Teresa and attended by friends from the home, The Sun And Sea, near Faro on the Algarve. Yet still Teresa was barred from telling her shocking story, thanks to that draconian ruling imposed by the Court of Protection which decreed — even posthumously — that it was in Manuel’s ‘best interests’ for him to remain anonymous.
Even placing an obituary notice in Devon, where Manuel had worked at a hotel for nearly 50 years, would have put her at risk of being returned to prison.
In its earlier reports about Teresa’s battle to help her brother and her imprisonment, the Mail was prohibited from giving his name or saying they were brother and sister. He could only be described as a ‘man’ — and even the name of his pet cat, Tuna, could not be made public.
Only yesterday, with the lifting of the reporting restrictions by the Court of Protection, can the story of Teresa and her brother Manuel Martins finally be told.
Teresa, a retired accountant and grandmother of four from Brighton, recalled how her ordeal unfolded after she refused to sign the legal papers transferring responsibility for her brother’s life from herself to social services.
‘I was never going to sign the papers giving social workers the power to say where Manuel had to live. When I was a little girl, he would put me on his shoulders and run with me through the countryside near our parents’ home on the Portuguese island of Madeira.