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Alison Meacher
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"…gets to the heart of the matter and gets on really well with clients and opponents alike

Chambers UK

Alison practices across a broad spectrum of public and human rights law and traditional chancery.

The focus of Alison’s public and human rights law practice relates to the needs of vulnerable adults including mental capacity and mental health law, community care and adult social services, social housing management and allocation, health care law, NHS continuing health care, care homes, charging for care home fees, safeguarding, social welfare entitlement, public procurement and local government powers and duties within these areas.

She has a wealth of experience advising and representing local authorities, charities and commercial organisations providing services in the health or social care sector.  She is also instructed by individuals, the Official Solicitor (as litigation friend to an incapacitated adult), attorneys, deputies and family members.

Alison is instructed in a wide range of public law challenges and regularly appears in the County Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and as well as Upper and First Tier Tribunals.

The focus of Alison’s traditional chancery practice is on residential property disputes, wills, estates and trusts, including trust of land applications, contentious probate, application of the rules of intestacy and Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 disputes.

Alison has a particular passion for and detailed understanding of the law, guidance and policy affecting vulnerable adults and is able to provide specialist advice and representation in respect of the mental capacity law which affects a vulnerable adult’s property and financial affairs and their health and welfare.  She is a member of the Court of Protection Practitioners Association (CoPPA) London Region sub-committee (established in 2015).

Alison regularly appears in complex cases concerning vulnerable adults in the Court of Protection, as well as in the Family or Chancery Division, where applicable.  Alison also has experience of applications under the Inherent Jurisdiction and applications for Forced Marriage Orders.

Alison’s expertise in her field of practice is reflected by her recommendations for a number of years in the Legal 500 for administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights and social housing, and in Chambers & Partners for court of protection: health and welfare, and social housing.

Community Care

Alison has a busy administrative and local government law practice, which includes regular instructions to appear in court and advise in matters of community care such as needs assessments, entitlement under the Care Act 2014, financial assessments, recovery of unpaid care home fees and the safeguarding of vulnerable adults.

Alison frequently appears in the Court of Protection and in the High Court in cases where there is a dispute as to whether a person should live in a care home or whether they should return to live in the community and what care package the person will be provided by the local authority. This requires Alison to have a detailed knowledge of the extent of a local authority’s duties and powers under the Care Act 2014 and the Mental Health Act 1983, as well as the obligations of local health authorities and any obligations under the statutory housing provisions.

Alison also has significant expertise in the field of welfare benefits and the financial assessment of liability to contribute to care and care home fees and the recovery of unpaid debts.

She is regularly instructed by local authorities, the Official Solicitor, domiciliary care providers, registered providers of social housing, claimants or their family members, who benefit greatly from her wide knowledge of different aspects of social welfare law, including welfare benefits, social housing, community care, care home fees, as well as her knowledge of property, probate and the law of trusts.

Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act Claims

As well as matters of general residential property, Alison’s chancery practice incorporates a wide range of contentious and non-contentious work including; providing advice and representation in relation to resulting and constructive trusts, beneficial ownership of land, proprietary estoppel, trust of land applications, contentious probate, the rules of intestacy and Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 disputes.

On the non-contentious side, given her background in social welfare law, Alison regularly advises attorneys and deputies regarding on-going liability for care home fees, and testators or executors in relation to estates where potential/beneficiaries are entitled to means tested welfare benefits.

Examples of cases where Alison has provided advice or representation include:

  • A financial settlement between husband and wife, where the wife lacked capacity to divorce her husband and needed to release funds from a jointly owned property to meet her care home fees;
  • Appointment of new trustee of a Will Trust or executors;
  • Challenging the validity of a will for undue influence or lack of capacity;
  • Defending a claim from the purported wife of the deceased, who claimed to have married the deceased in a traditional marriage in Ghana and was therefore entitled to a share of deceased’s estate under the rules of intestacy;
  • Entering into a tenancy agreement or care home residence contract on behalf of individuals who lack capacity;
  • Nature and extent of beneficial interest in property purchased by unmarried partners;
  • Negligent settlement of 1975 Act claims;
  • Power of trustees of a Will trust;
  • Post mortem variation of a Will and disclaimer of pecuniary legacy to preserve entitlement to means tested welfare benefits;
  • Recovery of care home fees from a family member who used general power of attorney to put funds out of reach of care home provider in an attempt to force the local authority to meet the resident’s care home fees;
  • Recovery of care home fees from an insolvent trust where resident made gift of half assets shortly before death;
  • Settlement of 1975 Act claims;
  • Settlement of claim by mother against son for the provision of gratuitous care, where son lacked capacity to manage his finances;
  • Validity of lifetime gift and ownership of estate property where local authority seeking to recover unpaid care home fees from deceased’s estate;
  • Validity of pecuniary legacy to charity that no longer exists;
  • Whether a solicitor was in breach of duty to client in the sale of property and whether client lacked capacity;
  • Whether the deceased made a gift mortis causa.

Court of Protection

Alison was an early convert to the protection afforded to her clients by the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  She is instructed in cases involving the Act by local authorities, social housing providers, care home providers, the Official Solicitor, attorneys, deputies and family members.

She is one of few practitioners at the Bar who has experience of appearing and advising in relation to both aspects of the Court of Protections’ jurisdiction (health and welfare and property and financial affairs).

Consequently, Alison is well placed to advise financial attorneys (family members and professionals) in matters where there is also a dispute as to P’s welfare, and to provide advice as to P’s financial affairs, if this arises in a welfare dispute.

She also has experience of advising in disputes that involve cross-border issues and travel out of the jurisdiction.

Whether advising and representing a local authority, the Official Solicitor or a family member, Alison’s knowledge of the law relating to adult social care, social housing and property ownership provides an invaluable resource and lends itself to the successful and amicable resolution of most disputes.

The majority of Alison’s instructions in cases do not lead to reported cases and in many cases she provides an advisory role, especially for local authority clients.  Examples of issues on which Alison has provided advice or representation include:

  • Allegations of abuse or exploitation of P (sexual and/or financial abuse);
  • Application by attorney or deputy to make a gift;
  • Application for authority to deprive a person of their liberty;
  • Application to revoke a LPA;
  • Application for a statutory will;
  • Application to challenge a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS);
  • Application to settle money into a discretionary trust;
  • Contact with family members where prevented by care home provider;
  • Contested application for appointment of health or financial deputy;
  • Determination of issue of capacity, including capacity to marry; to consent to sex; contact with family members; provision of care;
  • Dispute as to whether in best interests of P for care to be provided by a local authority in a residential setting or by family members in the community;
  • Dispute as to whether in best interests of P to reside with a particular family member;
  • Jurisdiction to make decisions if P subject to the Mental Health Act 1983;
  • Jurisdiction to make decisions as to residence and care of P, if P is provided with s.117 Mental Health Act 1983 after care services.

Social Welfare & Benefits

Alison undertakes all aspects of work in matters that concern the affairs of the elderly or people with disabilities. These disputes frequently encompass issues of private law and public law, such as issues of property ownership or whether a power of attorney has acted properly and the duties of public bodies to provide community care services. These cases often involve intractable disputes between the individual, their families and public bodies.

She regularly appears in the Court of Protection for a diverse range of clients in proceedings involving adults who lack capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Recent cases include complex questions about capacity, deprivation of liberty, where a person who lacks capacity should reside and what care they should receive, and the overlap between the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Mental Health Act 1983.   Alison also has experience of acting in inherent jurisdiction cases that may arise in cases which involve such disputes.

Directory recommendations

Alison is recommended for Court of Protection & Community Care, Administrative & Public Law as well as Civil Liberties & Human Rights in Legal 500. She is also recommended for Social Housing in both Chambers UK and Legal 500. The directories state:

  • “Robust and clear-thinking, she’s great for Court of Protection housing work” (Chambers UK)
  • ‘Her drafting is thorough and she is a firm advocate in court and in negotiations.’ (Legal 500)
  • Innovative, very knowledgeable and very competent in Court of Protection cases.’ (Legal 500)
  • Very skilled on mental capacity and mental health law.’(Legal 500)
  • Pairs well-researched briefs with clear, confident and straightforward advocacy.’ (Legal 500)
  • “Extremely thorough and picks up on issues others miss” (Chambers UK) 
  • “She is patient and helpful with litigants in person” (Legal 500)
  • “Extremely personable and has a thorough grasp of the law surrounding her cases” (Legal 500)
  • “A firm advocate in court and in negotiations outside of court” (Legal 500)

Professional associations

  • Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA),
  • Bar European Group (BEG),
  • Court of Protection Practitioners Association (CoPPA),
  • Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, Euro Group
  • Property Law Bar Association (PBA),
  • Social Housing Lawyers Association (SHLA),
  • Social Security Practitioners Association (SSLawPA)

Publications

Author of chapter on Housing and Relationship Breakdown, in Social Housing Law in Practice (LexisNexis, 2015).

Qualifications

  • College of Cardiff University of Wales (1997 LLB Joint Hons Law/Politics);
  • JP Warner Scholar (2000 Lincoln’s Inn);
  • Sarah Wadham Bursary (1999 Lincoln’s Inn).

Career history

  • Research assistant – Messrs Taylor Wessing, Corporate Department, Brussels
  • Trainee – European Court of Justice, Luxembourg (JP Warner Scholar);
  • Trainee – Council of the European Union, Brussels.
  • Volunteer – AIRE Centre (providing advisory work in areas of European Law and the European Convention of Human Rights);
  • Judicial assistant – The International Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), The Hague, Netherlands.

CSR

Alison regularly accepts instructions via the Bar Pro Bono Unit in cases within her spheres of practice.

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