Sheila Carrick’s Profile
I qualified as a solicitor in 1987 and since pursued a dual career in both crime and mental health work.
Having graduated from Exeter University and Chester College of Law, an intense 5 years of training in all aspects of law followed. Working amidst the housing estates of West Yorkshire and in the scenic but impoverished Welsh valleys, valuable skills were learnt which meant that I was able to manage a diverse legal portfolio in subsequent years.
After moving to Bath in 1991, the focus was on criminal work, initially freelance then joining Mowbray Woodwards and qualifying as a duty solicitor in 1999. During subsequent years at the firm, whilst remaining a part of the criminal team, I rapidly developed the profile of the mental health work.
Having qualified as a mental health panel member in 2001, I went on to represent many hundreds of patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, throughout the south west region. Determined to ensure the rights of vulnerable clients were protected, it was not long before the early years of training were put to good use, and opportunities to pursue challenges arose in judicial settings beyond the reach of non-solicitor tribunal representatives. These achievements became recognised and led to invitations to assist with the training of medical and social work professionals regarding the role of the legal representative in tribunals.
In 2008, I joined the committee of the Mental Health Lawyers Association. The Association represents 85% of mental health providers and holds an influential role in developing policy and practice in the work. On frequent occasions, I took part in the ongoing battle against cuts in legal aid, supporting local practitioners and challenging the impact of arbitrary rules preventing access by the client to their known lawyer.
The arrival of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 brought further opportunities for the use of diverse legal skills. By this time, I was in a position to be able to represent clients in several jurisdictions: at Magistrates court level, County and High Court, the Court of Protection and tribunals. It was not unusual for cases to involve a range of legal procedures. The benefit to the client in having a representative able to comprehend all aspects of the case was considerable.
Most recently I was invited to join the Law Society working party developing the new Mental Capacity (Welfare) accreditation panel. This panel was launched in Autumn 2017. In February 2018 I qualified as an accredited panel member. I continue to work for the Law Society as a panel assessor. The chief purpose of the new panel is to identify those practitioners capable of representing mentally incapacitated clients in the absence of the historic intermediary, the “litigation friend”, a role often taken by the Official Solicitor. Known as the ALR (Accredited Legal Representative), the panel member is qualified for appointment by the Court of Protection as the Rule 3A representative.
Throughout the years of developing a formidable mental health practice, I was concerned not to lose contact with the core concept of the work-the loss of an individual’s liberty. For thirty years, I have continued to represent clients under arrest at the police station, a task managed on a 24 hour, 365 day a year basis. And I have spent many hours sitting with mentally ill patients, stripped of their ability to make fundamental choices and unable to refuse physically invasive treatments.
The start of 2018 saw a new chapter opening by joining Allen Hoole, a well respected criminal practice operating in Bristol, Bath and Cheltenham, thereby bringing an in-depth knowledge of mental illness and the mental health system as a significant additional angle to the challenging world of criminal justice.