Head of Court of Protection
Maria is passionate about helping individuals achieve the best possible solution to their issue, and about promoting equality for the vulnerable.
Maria advises and represents both the individual seeking support, and their family members. Where the individual lacks the capacity to instruct a solicitor for him/herself, Maria is instructed by a litigation friend, usually the Official Solicitor. Maria is recognised in Chambers and Partners for her Court of Protection work and has particular expertise in:
- Mental capacity and best interests
- Deprivation of liberty safeguards
- Court of Protection health and welfare matters
- Challenging social care or continuing healthcare assessments
- Direct payments
- Complaints to the Local Government and Parliamentary and Health Ombudsmen
- Appropriate provision of services within the home or in supported living/residential care
- Disabled facilities grants
- Judicial review of local authorities and NHS Trusts
Click here to watch Maria’s GN Law TV Videos
- Legal Practice Course, London Metropolitan University
- University of Nottingham, BA Law (Hons 2:1)
- Maria has provided training to professionals in the field on the Mental Capacity Act 2005, assessing capacity and determining best interests
- GN Law, Director (June 2012-present)
- GN Law, Solicitor (July 2010-present)
- GN Law, Trainee Solicitor (2008-2010)
- GN Law, Paralegal (2007)
Professional Accreditations and Memberships
- Accredited member of the Law Society Mental Capacity (Welfare) Panel
- Member of the Court of Protection Practitioners Association
- Group member of the Mental Health Lawyers Association
- Member of MIND
Maria represented AB in this case, by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor. The case is ongoing, but at this particular two day hearing the court was concerned with how and when AB should move from a temporary care home placement back to her home. The court held that it was in AB’s best interests to move back to her home with a 2:1 package of care during the day, and 1:1 support at night, and that the move should take place within 8-12 weeks of the date of the hearing.
Maria represented PB in this case, by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor. PB was an elderly lady who wished to reside with her husband of many years. The case concerned very difficult issues of capacity as PB was so articulate and intelligent. The judgment also raises interesting points, some controversial, about the use of the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction.
Maria represented the patient in an application by an NHS Trust for declarations relating to a treating clinician’s decision not to impose a blood transfusion on the patient, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, detained in a secure psychiatric hospital. The patient was considered to have capacity and had made an advance decision refusing blood transfusions if he lost capacity. The court respected the patient’s capacitous wishes and agreed that the transfusion should not be forced upon him.
This case, in which Maria represented the father, concerned a vulnerable young lady with Down’s Syndrome who was the subject of safeguarding investigations by her local authority. It is one of few cases in which the Court of Protection awarded costs against the local authority following its poor approach to the safeguarding investigations and the proceedings.
Maria represented two of the incapacitated adults in this High Court case before the Vice President of the Court of Protection. The case concerned whether the two adults’ residence and care arrangements were in their best interests, and whether there was a deprivation of liberty arising as a result of the care arrangements, and which required authorising. The case also addressed a number of significant issues about how such cases should be dealt with generally, including whether the adult should be a party to proceedings, who can act as their litigation friend if so, and what information the court requires to make decisions on behalf of the adult.
Maria represented NLH in this case, instructed by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor. The proceedings concerned NLH, who was suffering in the late stages of the degenerative neurological condition known as Prion disease. The local authority applied to the Court for an order permitting the taking of samples from NLH to assist with DNA testing. An order made by another judge sitting in the family court had declared that the outcome of the DNA tests would be of vital importance to the resolution of proceedings in that court. The results would be important not merely to establish paternity of the child in question but also because it was considered important that any child of NLH should be aware that there was a possibility that he or she might have inherited the disease so that, when the child was older, a decision could be taken about genetic testing. NLH lacked capacity to consent to the taking of the DNA sample, and the local authority asked the court to determine that this would be in his best interests. The court did decide that it would be in his best interests, and this was non-contentious. However, the court delivered this judgment because the DNA Company in question had in fact gone ahead and taken the sample before the court had made its decision. This judgment is therefore a reminder for “practitioners, carers and those involved in taking samples in these circumstances that, where the patient lacks capacity and an application has been made to the Court of Protection for an order authorising the taking of a sample, it will be unlawful for the sample to be taken without the Court’s permission.”
Maria represented IM in this case heard in the High Court, instructed by IM’s litigation friend, the Official Solicitor. IM had moved from England to Ireland with her grandson, and was now residing in a care home in Ireland. The Health Service Executive of Ireland (HSE) was concerned regarding the circumstances of the move, and in particular whether IM had capacity to decide to move, and/or whether she had been moved against her wishes. The HSE issued proceedings in the Court of Protection. The first question for the court to determine was whether IM was still habitually resident in England, in which case the court would have jurisdiction to determine whether it was in IM’s best interests to remain in Ireland or return to England, or whether IM was now habitually resident in Ireland. The court concluded that IM was now habitually resident in Ireland. It was noted that the move was not organised by IM’s grandson by stealth or in an overly hasty manner, and whilst IM had expressed reservations about moving to her GP, this was not unnatural and not necessarily indicative of an involuntary move. The court also observed that IM was now settled in the residential home in Ireland and was seemingly content to remain there. It will now be for the High Court in Ireland to decide on IM’s best interests regarding her residence and care.
Personal Interests and Activities
Maria likes travelling, reading (and is part of GN Book Club), theatre, music, and cooking.
Chambers & Partners Reviews
- “Maria’s ability to communicate, alongside her wonderful compassion for vulnerable people in difficult situations, is hard to equal.” “She is able to get difficult litigants to engage like no one else I’ve ever seen.” – Chambers & Partners 2022
- “Maria Nicholas is a brilliant solicitor.” – Chambers and Partners 2021
- “She’s very empathetic, good at working with vulnerable clients and is pragmatic in dealing with public bodies.” – Chambers & Partners 2020
- “She is a very good and very thorough” lawyer who is “really on the ball.” – Chambers & Partners 2019
- She has a very calm and measured approach.” – Chambers & Partners 2018