Laura is instructed in many judicial review applications in healthcare law, particularly in the mental health arena. Her academic background means she is particularly good at untangling the interrelationship between the many statutes in this complex area of law. She represents hospital Trusts, local authorities, the Official Solicitor and patients, giving her an excellent overall view of all parties’ positions – often very useful tactically.
Mental health cases
Laura appears before First-tier Tribunals (Mental Health) (usually in complex cases involving restricted patients), and is regularly involved in appeals to the Upper Tribunal. She was instructed for the successful nearest relative Applicant in one of the first ever appeals to the Upper Tribunal. She also appeared for the Appellant in the very first appeal to the Court of Appeal from the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber in a mental health matter.
Laura’s other mental health work includes nearest relative displacement applications, in which she has substantial experience. She carries out inquest work involving psychiatric patients and vulnerable adults involving failed care. For example, she represented the family of a young learning disabled soldier at an inquest into his death in a week-long jury inquest against the Ministry of Defence.
Habeas corpus applications
Laura receives regular instructions in habeas corpus applications, largely arising out of defects in detention procedure contrary to the requirements of the Mental Health Act 1983. She also has expertise in cases resisting the disclosure of medical records and Data Protection Act cases.
Human rights claims
Much of Laura’s work involves human rights, which was the focus of her doctoral studies at Cambridge. For example, she successfully challenged the failure of a London Trust to fund cancer treatment for an elderly patient, resulting in a U-turn and the provision of treatment. She also brought a successful damages claim on behalf of an informal patient subjected to unlawful restraint and forcible injection whilst he visited friends on a hospital ward.
Research and Academia
Laura has published extensively, and has recently edited a commissioned 500 page volume (The Routledge Handbook of International Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing (London: Routledge), in Press), to which she has also contributed 4 of her own chapters, joining almost 30 other international experts on public health. She has undertaken empirical qualitative research on trauma and justice in northern Uganda along with Clinical Psychologist Dr Helen Liebling. For several years she has been a regular Visiting Academic Research Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
International development consultancy work
Laura is also an international development consultant with particular expertise in public health and disability, including mental health and mental capacity matters. She deals with all aspects of justice, the rule of law, and human rights (including child rights, women’s rights and refugee rights), particularly where mental health issues are involved. In 2013 she was a consultant for the government of Rwanda, spending seven months in-country undertaking a situational analysis, advising on policy, and drafting the country’s first mental health law.
Laura regularly speaks at conferences and lectures on mental health and mental capacity law, both through Chambers and more widely. She also conducts training. For example, she trained Best Interests Assessors on the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (‘DOLS’) at London Metropolitan University, and provided comprehensive training days to Leicester City Council on the DOLS and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. She is happy to provide tailor-made seminars and training.
Conversational French and Spanish
“Well regarded in the market, and noted for her academic excellence in human rights and mental health law. She is adept at handling serious medical treatment cases and disputes around the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments. She’s a doughty fighter.”
Chambers and Partners
“A popular junior with a strong academic grounding in mental health law and human rights. She is frequently instructed in Court of Protection work by health trusts, local authorities and the Official Solicitor. Extremely good. She is an effective, assertive advocate who is always entirely up to speed with the issues and knows how to get the result for her client.”
Chambers and Partners
“Highly valued for both her strong commitment to cases and her academic background. It is difficult to find someone as grounded as Laura in mental capacity and mental health law, or as practical or positive. She is incredibly hard-working, dedicated and entirely approachable. She is very energetic and will go the extra mile.”
Chambers and Partners
“An extremely confident advocate who is endlessly energetic. A tough opponent who fights hard for her client.”
Chambers and Partners
“Laura Davidson is a mental health and human rights expert. Sources commend her work for local authorities, and she also acts for trusts, individuals and the Official Solicitor. Capable and feisty, you are pleased when she is on your side, said one instructing solicitor.”
Chambers and Partners
“Laura Davidson is praised for the ‘technical precision’ she applies to her instructions, her warm nature and the ‘tenacity’ with which she approaches every aspect of her work. She is a noted authority on mental health and capacity legislation.”
Chambers and Partners
AM v Partnerships in Care Limited and Secretary of State for Justice  UKUT 0659 (AAC)
Appeal to the Upper Tribunal on errors of law and a tribunal’s need to make findings of fact.
RH v South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Secretary of State for Justice (Court of Appeal)  EWCA Civ 1273
The first mental health appeal to the Court of Appeal from the Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber
TTM (By his Litigation Friend TM) v Hackney London Borough Council and East London NHS Foundation Trust and Secretary of State for Health  EWHC 1349 (Admin) QBD (Admin) (Collins J) 11/6/2010
Laura represented the Claimant in this ground-breaking case where the Court had held that it did not follow that a patient’s detention was unlawful even where their admission was unlawful due to the objection of a nearest relative which had resulted in the issue of a writ of habeas corpus. Collins J found that such a detention was not void ab initio, but only became unlawful when the court so declared.
AA v Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, ZZ and the Secretary of State for Health, Upper Tribunal Decision (2009) UKUT 195 (AAC)
One of the first appeal cases in the Upper Tribunal (Mental Health), in which Laura acted for the successful nearest relative.
R v East London NHS Foundation Trust and Hackney London Borough Council, ex parte M  MHLR 154
Successful habeas corpus proceedings arising out of a failure to comply with the admission process under the Mental Health Act 1983
R v South Region MHRT, ex parte B  EWHC 2356 (Admin) (2008) ACD 91
A judicial review of a Mental Health Review Tribunal on behalf of a patient on the basis of bias/the appearance of bias
R v Cygnet Healthcare and Another, ex parte BB  EWHC 1259 (Admin)  MHLR 106
A successful habeas corpus application due to a breach of the Mental Health Act 1983
R. v Huntercombe Maidenhead Hospital and Others, ex parte SR  EWHC 2361 (Admin); (2006) ACD 17
Laura acted for the Official Solicitor in successful expedited judicial review proceedings brought on behalf of a 15 year old patient detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983
- Inaugural International Academy of Law and Mental Health’s Annual Junior Scholar Award in recognition of distinguished contribution to Scholarship in law and psychiatry (XVI Congress on Law and Mental Health, Montreal)
- Bar School: Lincoln’s Inn Gluckstein Competition for Advocacy (2nd place), Eric Crowther Shield for Public-Speaking (3rd place), Lincoln’s Inn Barclays Bank Debating Competition (finalist)
- Selected during Bar School to represent Lincoln’s Inn in the Middle Temple Reid Shield Competition for ex tempore public-speaking (2nd place).
- Lincoln’s Inn Scholarships and Awards: C.P.E., Hardwicke, Pre-pupillage Wolfson, Sir Thomas More, and Denning Society Scholarships, and Scholar’s Accommodation Award.
- Ph.D (Cantab): ‘An examination of the rights of the mentally disordered in English law in the context of Articles 3 and 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’
- M.Phil (Cantab): ‘An examination of the rights of the mentally disordered offender in the English criminal justice process: public protection, risk and dangerousness’
- LL.M in international law (Cantab): International Human Rights, Environmental Law, International Commercial Litigation (papers), Public Law (Thesis): ‘The development of international mutual assistance in criminal matters with particular reference to the letter of request’
- Bar Vocational Course, Inns of Court School of Law, Advanced Dip.Law (Distinction)
‘From Pipe Dream to Reality: A Practical Legal Approach Towards the Global Abolition of Psychiatric Coercion’‘
Chapter 5 in Michael A. Stein, Faraaz Mahomed, Vikram Patel and Charlene Sunkel (Eds.) (2021), Mental Health, Legal Capacity, and Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
Book chapter on Article 12 (equal recognition before the law) and Article 14 (the right to liberty) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Available at:
‘A key, not a straitjacket: The case for interim mental health legislation pending complete prohibition of coercion on the basis of psychosocial disability in accordance with the CRPD.‘
Harvard Health and Human Rights Journal, 22(1): 163-178 - June 2020
Article offering a practical way out of the impasse on compliance with the CRPD). Available at:
‘Duty of care: Inadequate safety nets‘
NLJ, 168(7849): 11-12 - 19th July 2019
A critique of the ECtHR’s recent failures in Fernandes de Oliveira v Portugal (2019) ECHR 106 to (1) apply relevant case law establishing the state’s duty to take basic precautions to protect life pursuant to Article 2 of the ECHR, and (2) give reasons for distinguishing between different types of patients). Article offering a practical way out of the impasse on compliance with the CRPD). Available at:
‘Patients at risk: revisiting the extent of public bodies’ duties’
SJ (online) - 4 June 2019
Article on Fernandes de Oliveira v Portugal (No.78103/14, 31 January 2019) which has finally established that the right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR applies to voluntary and involuntary psychiatric patients alike.
The Routledge Handbook of International Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing
(Abingdon: Routledge) June 2019
Sole editor of entire book by over thirty global experts in the mental health field, and author of four chapters:
Chapter 1: ‘The Global Mental Health Imperative and the Role of the World Health Organization within the UN 2030 Agenda’ (co-written with Shekhar Saxena, former director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization).
Chapter 2: ‘The Rights to Mental Health and Development’ (co-authored with Lawrence O. Gostin (Professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University).
Chapter 20: ‘International Monitoring and Enforcement Mechanisms for Violations of Human Rights in the Global Mental Health Context.’
Chapter 21: ‘The Law as Sword and Shield: Upholding the Rights of those with Psychosocial Disability in National and Regional Court Systems’.
‘Mental health laws would diminish stigma and improve the lives of millions‘
Laura publishes frequent articles in academic journals and more widely. For example, she has had a solicited piece published in the Guardian online on the importance of mental health legislation in meeting UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and wellbeing.
‘The experiences of survivors and trauma counselling service providers in northern Uganda: Implications for mental health policy and legislation’, Davidson L., Liebling H., Akello, G.F. and Ochola, G.
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 49(A): 84-92 - Nov-Dec 2016
Capacity to consent to or refuse psychiatric treatment: An analysis of South African and British law, South African Journal of Human Rights, 32(3): 457-489, 11 Jan 2017. Article comparing UK and South African compliance with international human rights obligations in terms of the mental capacity of detained psychiatric patients
‘Survivors and service providers’ experiences of trauma counselling services in northern Uganda: Implications for Mental Health Policy and Legislation’, Davidson L., Libelling H., Akello, G.F and Ochola, G.
International Journal of Law and Society (2016)
Article considering the new Ugandan mental health Bill and the implications for mental health policy in the context of research on psychological therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in northern Uganda.
‘Fact-finding hearings in the health and social context’
S.J. 160(7) - 23rd Feb 2016
Article considering the law on when fact-finding is necessary in Court of Protection proceedings and in those before a First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health) in the light of In the Matter of AG  EWCOP 78 and AM v Partnerships in Care Limited and Secretary of State for Justice (2015) UKUT 659 (AAC).
‘False Imprisonment Part 2: Are our rights stronger in Europe?’
S.J. 159(27) - 14th July 2015
Second part of article on the implications of Lee Bostridge v Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust  EWCA Civ 79 for future claims for damages based on Article 5 of the ECHR. With kind permission from the Solicitors Journal:
‘False Imprisonment Part 1: A Right to Compensation’
S.J. 159(23) - 16th June 2015
Article on the implications of Lee Bostridge v Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust  EWCA Civ 79 for future claims for damages flowing from Article 5 of the ECHR. With kind permission from the Solicitors Journal:
‘Improvements to National Health Policy: Mental Health, Mental Health Bill, Legislation and Justice’, Liebling, H., Davidson, L., Akello, F.G., and Ochola, G. (2014)
African Journal of Traumatic Stress 3(2): 55-64 - 2014
Article on qualitative trauma counselling research on psychological interventions in northern Uganda and the implications for law and policy.
‘Statute of Liberty’
S.J., 155(14) - 12th Nov 2011
S.J., 154(41): 8-9
Article on the effect of RB which the Upper Tribunal found that discharge from detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 did not mean discharge from a deprivation of liberty.
S.J., 154(33): 13-14 - 7th Sept 2010
Article about Laura’s campaign to amend the Mental Health Act 1983 so that a tribunal may order a move to lesser security.
Article on the ground-breaking judicial review case, R v Hackney London Borough Council and East London NHS Foundation Trust and the Secretary of State for Health, ex parte TTM  EWHC 1349 (Admin) QBD. With kind permission from the Solicitors Journal.
‘Order of the Day’
S.J., 154(30) - 3 Aug 2010
Article considering the lack of clarity with respect to the recall and discharge provisions relating to community treatment orders.
‘Nearest Relative Consultation and the Avoidant Approved Mental Health Professional’
JMHL, Spring 2009, 70-80
Article on three key cases concerning the requirements relating to nearest relative consultations.
NLJ, 158: 1066-1068 - 25 July 2008
Article on the incompatibility between the covert medication of patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 and the statutory provisions on treatment without consent.
‘Mental health and mental capacity: the new overlap’
S.J., 151(45): 1520-1522 - 30 Nov 2007
Article on the application of Mental Capacity Act principles to detained patients.
‘Human rights v. public protection – English mental health law in crisis?’
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (2002), 25(5): 491-515
‘Mental Health Law and the Human Rights Act 1998’
Garwood-Gowers, et al (eds.) (2001), Healthcare Law and Practice; The Impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 (London: Cavendish) (Chapters 11 and 12)
Laura co-founded the UK’s first mental health research charity dedicated to funding research into mental illness with John Grace QC and Professor Clair Chilvers in 2008 (Mental Health Research UK, registered Charity No.1125538). The charity’s aim is to fund University research in order to develop better treatments for mental illness with fewer side-effects.