A GRANDMOTHER has been freed after one of the country's top judges slammed the decision to jail her for helping out an elderly friend.

Teresa Kirk, 71, from Brighton, was given a six month sentence in August for taking the elderly alzheimer's sufferer out of his care home in the UK.

She took him to his native Portugal, where he had a large circle of friends and support.

Mr Justice Newton found her in contempt of court at the Court of Protection im August and jailed her.

But yesterday, Court of Appeal judges criticised the decision arguing the system had failed in Mrs Kirk's case.

Lord Justice McFarlane said the process had been "mechanical" and added: "No-one at any stage of it has stood back and said 'what are we doing here? "Sending this 71-year-old lady to a six-month prison sentence in order to achieve a welfare benefit for (the elderly man)'?"

Sir James Munby, the judge who headed the appeal panel, concluded by saying: "She is to be released forthwith. The system has failed in this case."

He said the panel would give their full reasons for release at a later date.

The grandmother had been held at Bronzefield prison in Ashford, Middlesex, which has previously housed the likes of serial killer Rose West.

At the earlier hearing lawyers representing Devon County Council, where the man was housed in a care home, told Mr Justice Newton how social services bosses had responsibility for an elderly man with dementia.

They complained that the grandmother by taking the man to Portugal was in breach of court orders.

The court had heard that the man was from Madeira and had a "large circle of friends" there.

It had previously been reported that she had encountered problems getting legal aid to mount an appeal.

A barrister, Colin Challenger, represented her for free.

After the hearing, Mr Challenger said: "Sir James was right. The system failed in this case."

He said he was disappointed the Devon council and the Official Solicitor's office had not backed Mrs Kirk's appeal.

He added: "Mrs Kirk isn't a martyr who wants to be in prison. She simply wants to do her best for someone she cares about.

"This is a superb decision by the appeal court."


HMP Bronzefield was once home to Rose West and now houses, among others, Joanna Dennehy, the Peterborough ditch murderer.

Since August this year it has also been home to 71-year-old Brighton grandmother Teresa Kirk.

Mrs Kirk had been looking out for a loved one when she moved him from his home to Brighton and then back to Portugal.

He was suffering with Alzheimer’s and she thought it best that he had a support network around him.

But on hearing he had been taken to Portugal, Devon County Council demanded he be returned.

The case ended up in court and Mr Justice Newton, who said he was left with no alternative, jailed her for six months.

Colin Challenger, of Lamb Chambers in London, caught wind of the story and knew he had to get involved.

Although a skilled barrister, it was hardly his field of expertise.

He normally deals with commercial and property disputes but he said: “I heard the story and thought, ‘That’s not right’.”

Mrs Kirk meanwhile was attempting to launch an appeal but was struggling to access legal aid.

Mr Challenger went to visit her and offered to represent her for nothing.

He said: “She is a very principled woman. She was doing what she thought was right.

“I went to visit her in prison and it was immediately clear that she is a very tough cookie. She was certainly putting on a brave face.” I asked her if she was OK and she said ‘absolutely fine, they can lock me up for the rest of my life if they want’.

“But looking into her eyes I could see she was suffering.”

Last night Mrs Kirk slept in her own bed for the first time.

But as the Court of Appeal judges made clear, she should never have been jailed in the first place.