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The NHS Fails to Learn from Their Mistakes

There is no system in place in the UK for our hospital trusts to learn from each others’ mistakes.


Devastating consequences

As a solicitor specialising in the field of clinical negligence, I act on behalf of patients who have suffered serious injury as a result of mistakes or omissions in the management or treatment of their condition/illness. Negligence from our healthcare system is rare but it can have devastating consequences.

We are all aware of the lack of resources facing the NHS and although the number of claims reported has declined over the past two years, the amount paid out in damages and costs for successful clinical negligence claims has increased. It is logical to suggest that if we can decrease the legal costs more can be spent on medical staff, equipment, training etc.

I am aware of the statistics that many patients who are injured, potentially, as a result of medical mistakes do not go to solicitors. Most people feel very uncomfortable at complaining or even thinking of bringing a claim against the NHS, although sometimes they have to because their lives have been effectively devastated and they are unable to work again or live with chronic pain and disability. Some of my clients feel guilty they are pursuing a claim but I advise them that clinical negligence claims play a very important role in ensuring that standards in healthcare are maintained, and mistakes are brought to the notice of practitioners so that they are not repeated, and that there is a learning curve to improve care in the long run.

No system in place to learn from each other

Imagine my shock when I discovered recently from a leading Civil Servant, who is involved in introducing the fixed costs scheme for clinical negligence claims, that there is no system whatsoever in the United Kingdom for the various NHS Trusts to learn from each others’ mistakes and so prevent further injury to patients.

This information appalled me because we see the same incidents of negligence repeated again and again followed by the same defences and yet resulting in an award for damages for the injured patient. Legal costs are effectively driven up by the NHS fighting cases which they have lost in the past. Some examples are failures to carry out the mandatory triple assessment when a woman presents with a breast lump, leading to a long delay in diagnosis and treatment, failures to check blood test results after a patient has been discharged from hospital and ensure that abnormalities are investigated, failures to err on the side of caution and proceed to emergency caesarean section in labour when there are signs of maternal infection and baby in distress, and failures in surgery to check that nicked internal organs are repaired before closing.

Apparently lessons learned from clinical negligence cases may be communicated within a hospital trust but are not shared amongst the other hospital trusts in the UK. So if a mistake injures a patient in Bournemouth the circumstances will not be communicated to Shrewsbury.

The NHS is surely fundamentally failing the public here

We all make mistakes all the time and the important thing is learning from them. This is something we tell our children from the age of infancy. The National Aviation Authority has mandatory occurrence reporting when something goes wrong. Learning from accidents and incidents is part of every safety professional’s toolkit and yet our own National Health System has no provision for this learning. It is the way we all improve. Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. If there are less mistakes there will be less claims and therefore legal costs will be reduced.

Instead the government is trying to reduce its legal costs bill by introducing fixed costs so that regardless of the amount of work undertaken, a solicitor will only be only entitled to a finite sum for their efforts to win a case, and maximise damages for the injured patient.

Many cases we abandon

In order to maintain profitability and remain in business, solicitors will have to ensure they work within the costs limits allowed rather than be paid for the work necessary on a case. I am afraid this will mean that it is not likely to be commercial for us to investigate and scrutinise the case in detail and question both lay and expert witnesses thoroughly, in order to obtain the best evidence. My department has been approaching cases like this for many years and consequently we win far more cases than the national average; we have a reputation for maximising damages and ‘going the extra mile’ for our clients. There are many cases that we abandon following investigation, because we discover the patient has been injured as a result of bad luck rather than negligence. Usually we are acting under a ‘no win no fee’ agreement and do not get paid for the work we have done in investigating the unsuccessful case.

Dropping cases due to lack of expert evidence is part of our work because although we are Law Society and AvMA panel specialist clinical negligence lawyers, we are not specialised doctors and we really only know whether a case is likely to be successful once we have instructed the correct medical expert who has the specific intrinsic knowledge to provide an opinion upon what went wrong in a particular case. For example, if a patient suffers paralysis because red flag symptoms were missed indicating urgent spinal surgery, you need to go to a Consultant Neurosurgeon with significant experience in operating in these circumstances.

The fact the government is putting its energy into effectively cutting legal fees available to injured patients, rather than firstly ensuring they learn lessons from the mistakes that are made time and time again, strikes me as a complete misunderstanding of the key issue causing the injuries in the first place.

Safety is a cheap and effective insurance policy

I have acted for a 40 year old mother of four children who was running a family business with her husband and was erroneously prescribed a huge overdose of high dose steroids which effectively left her disabled and in chronic pain for life, and requiring care and therapies for the remainder of her life.

I have acted for children who have sustained permanent brain injury because their deliveries were not managed properly and practitioners did not err on the side of safety.

I have acted for the families of many patients who have died due to negligent surgery, failure to recognise and treat sepsis, long delays in diagnosing cancer and even IV overdose of paracetamol in hospital leading to liver and multi organ failure.

Proud of our NHS

These claimants and their families were not after a “fast buck” by being litigious but their lives had been devastated by the injuries they shouldn’t have sustained.

As proud as we are of our NHS, we all know improvements can be made, but that will be far more difficult if we take away the opportunity of injured patients bringing claims which will compensate them for their injuries and at the same time, try and ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

This shocking fact is obviously not publicised but I feel strongly that the general public should know about the failure of the NHS to learn from their mistakes between hospital trusts. Real change could be achieved if a system is put in place so that medical staff, throughout the country, are made aware of what can go wrong so that it doesn’t happen again.

Solicitors are not popular and our grumbles are easily dismissed. However, this information affects everybody. I personally could live with losing my job if care in the NHS is improved.

Bank Holiday Weekend with the SARDA Wales Dogs

Back in July I inherited a cat (a long story). In recent years I have spent hours on Facebook with friends, sharing memes about cats, their odd behaviour and, inevitably, giggling at posts about the cruelly-labelled Crazy Cat Ladies (although I understand they do tend to wear it as a badge of honour….)

I really like all animals but have never been particularly attached to cats – sure, I’d stroke one if I met it in the street and I would always smile indulgently as friends’ cats dug their claws into my lap whilst my friends assured me it was a sign of how much Tibbles / George / Mr Socks liked me – but essentially they were just another animal in my world. Worthy of love and protection by those who had the inclination for it and leave me to my dogs, thank you very much.

I love you Ginger


Then along came Ginger – fast forward eight weeks and he has insinuated himself into my world and onto my lap in a way that is best described by my catching myself kissing him on the head the other morning as I left for work and saying “I’ll see you later Ginger – I love you!”

Why am I telling you all this? Has the woman who usually writes the dog-blogs gone on holiday / left the firm / left the country / lost her mind?!

Back with the search dogs

Colleagues on the search dog team were smilingly voicing concerns about me and whether I had gone over to “the other side”, never to return, so it was a relief at the end of August to get back and hands-on with the search dogs again, all of whom were very understanding and forgiving when I turned up covered in ginger fur from that morning’s cuddle!

August Bank Holiday has always been a big weekend in the calendar of SARDA Wales and we go along to Llanberis, the summit of Snowdon and to Beddgelert Dog Show from early Saturday morning through to late Monday evening to highlight our existence and the fact we are a voluntary rescue service, the public can meet our dogs who pose patiently in photographs for hours and are treated to endless cuddles and admiration and, if all goes well, we leave with our collection buckets straining at the handles with coins (sometimes even notes).

Snowdonia on a Bank Holiday weekend

As ever Kevin Thomas, my long-suffering other half and a partner in Lanyon Bowdler’s private client department, came along with me to Snowdonia on Bank Holiday Saturday where, fortified by a superb cafe breakfast, we delivered buckets and tablecloths and merchandise to the crew covering Llanberis at 9am, before heading back over the pass to Beddgelert for the dog show where we are kindly donated stand space.

Kevin and I were with search dog Nop and Gaynor, a former dog handler who had a very successful search career with her collie Pero (now sadly no longer with us), Geraint and his trainee search dog Wil, a handsome black Labrador. Merched Y Wawr kept us well topped-up with cake and brownies from their stand and Nop and Wil were true ambassadors to the cause.

This picture of me with a dog handler’s personal equipment and all the equipment needed for the dog on a callout (including favourite dog toy to reward them if they make a find) shows how much is involved in a real callout and why handlers also work hard to keep up their own fitness.


Terrier racing chaos

The dog show was very much at the heart of the farming community and there were handsome hounds and gundogs on display and enjoying the day out with their owners. Wil and I came second in the egg & spoon race (YOU try running with a potato on a spoon, with an energetic Labrador on the end of a lead who just wants to eat the potato when it drops off your spoon!) and Nop did very respectably on the obstacle course although he wasn’t too keen on the tunnel, and Gaynor only just stopped short of wriggling into it herself to coax him to follow her, before remembering there was an audience with cameras on their smartphones and a lot of people there who knew her!

However, for me the highlight of the day had to be the terrier racing which involved a stuffed piece of material on a piece of string, wound round a bicycle wheel on top of a bale of hay. As someone wound the bicycle wheel the string, which was metres long, would rotate and so the stuffed bag would be dragged along the ground and could be reeled in backwards and forwards and made to disappear under the hay bale – absolute heaven for a terrier! Hilarious chaos ensued as terriers were let loose in groups to chase the rag and equally funny was watching the efforts of their owners to free it from their mouths when they caught it and tried to shake it to death, or when they disappeared under the hay bale in pursuit. Of course, the collies and Labradors looked on disdainfully…………….

Meanwhile on the mountains

Our groups on Snowdon and in Llanberis had equally long and successful days – and not in the greatest of weather on Sunday.

Having got back into the canine groove I then set off for Gelli Iago for search training on Saturday. We use the Nantmor Mountain Centre in Cwm Croesor, a stunning spot near Beddgelert, which is off-grid and has no mobile signal or Wi-Fi, great for winding down, refocusing and actually talking to each other.


The heavy weather on Friday night meant the rivers were tumbling and magnificent but the rain gave way to glorious sunshine on Saturday, perfect for hiding from dogs and enjoying the views.

Adorable puppy


Jim, a handler from the Isle of Man team, had come over with his adorable 11-week old wire-haired pointer, Ruby, who charmed everyone with her manners, liveliness and cheeky spirit and she proved herself to be confident and well-behaved even at such a young age. His plan is to train her as his next search dog as his current dog, Star, approaches retirement and I think she will be a very welcome addition to our weekends – and possibly the first search dog with a pink diamante collar!

Provide distractions

Damian and his trainee trailing dog Skye are coming on in leaps and bounds so I walked a trail with about four junctions in it, to ensure the dog can follow scent when there is a choice of directions, along the road (beside the river which can provide distractions and do odd things to scent) then up a track across the mountain to a gorgeous spot with uninterrupted views of the Snowdon range. Skye is at the point where her handler is trying to introduce the unexpected into her search exercises so we decided I would take another handler’s dog Maya (one of my favourite little friends!) with me to mimic a common situation where a dog-walker goes missing. This is helpful in assessing how the search dog reacts when it comes across a scene with another dog and would be the first time she had encountered this.

Maya and I had a lovely time, she enjoyed her walk in with me and then we spent about six hours in the sunshine, looking up to Snowdon. At first she didn’t want to settle but she’s very receptive to mood so as soon as she realised that I wanted to read she settled with her head on my lap and snoozed.


Mad women and their dogs go out in the midday sun and as it warmed up I dropped off too, only to be woken by a paw on my stomach and this view,


a face clearly saying “It’s time to play now!”

Fetching my spork

Without a dog toy I improvised with my spork (a case containing an camping implement that can be used as a spoon or fork, shaped conveniently like a bone) and we spent 20 minutes or so playing fetch with it, Maya bounding through the peat and wet grass with joyful abandon and sharing some of that muck and water with me every time she brought the spork back and dropped it on my legs!

Detect scent over a kilometre away

Maya also developed a taste for tea and we shared the contents of my flask, she lapped it eagerly out of my empty salad container but only after I blew on it first to cool it down for madam! Around 3.30pm Maya suddenly sat up and stared into the distance, ears pricked up and eyes intent and I knew someone was coming. However, I was pretty sure it was her nose that had given her the first hint of someone approaching, we know that when the wind is right a dog can detect the scent of humans well over a kilometre away. Sure enough, within a few minutes Skye came bounding across and her response to seeing another dog by the person with the scent she had been following, was superb - Maya barked at her and whilst Skye backed away a couple of feet at first, she was undeterred and recovered her composure within a few seconds to approach me once again and indicate to her handler that she had found me.

Rewarding Skye

At that point Maya was called by the other people in the search party so that I could focus my attention on rewarding Skye with her favourite toy, a tennis ball on a rope. She is utterly fearless and has endless reserves of energy and would happily have played for longer than the eight minutes or so I had with her, as she scampered off across the hillside after the ball, into gorse bushes, puddles, up rocks. Discussing it with her handler I learned that she had trailed me along the road and had gone up a farm track where the wind had blown my scent earlier in the day. However, when that scent ran out she quickly detected that was the case and lost interest in that track, instead returning to the spot where she had turned off and she carried on following the stronger scent trail along the road to the correct junction where she struck out over the hill and successfully negotiated a couple more junctions to find me.

Hard work and dedication

It's always an endless source of joy to see the progress made by each dog and handler in the month between each training session and demonstrates just how much hard work and dedication they put into it every day, not just on our training weekends. If I ever had the misfortune to go missing in Wales, I'd feel pretty confident that I wouldn't be gone for long with our dogs in the area!

Ginger, in the meantime, was delighted to see me that night even though I smelt of dog............ He'll need to get used to it, more training in October and another dog blog to come!

As ever, please do visit www.sardawales.org.uk for more dog pictures and information about our voluntary work.

Five Reasons You Should Make a Will

One of the first things I do to organise my day is prepare a list of all the tasks I need to complete that day. In fact, I like to apply the art of list making as broadly as possible - grocery lists, odd-jobs, travel itineraries, it all gets itemized. With that in mind, for this week’s blog I have prepared a list of five reasons why you should consider making your Will.


  1. Removes Uncertainty – making a Will means you decide what happens to your assets after you die. Without a Will, your estate is subject to the intestacy rules and the way in which your estate would be distributed may not be in accordance with your wishes.

  2. Tax Planning – a Will may help reduce the amount of inheritance tax that would be payable on your estate.

  3. Protecting your Partner – at Present, The inheritance law does not automatically recognise cohabitees who are neither married nor in a civil partnership. If you live with your partner but you do not have a Will, then they may not inherit anything from your estate.

  4. Funeral Wishes – including details of your funeral wishes in your Will lets your executors know whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated and whether you have any particular requests, such as a green burial.

  5. Executors – you decide who you would like to carry out the administration of your death.

Rio 2016 Paralympic Champion Professor Guttmann

I was privileged to run in the Spitfire 10k Commemoration of the Battle of Britain race on Sunday at RAF Cosford.

Each runner had the name of one of the servicemen killed in action pinned to their back. It was a humbling experience, to be running in the memory of so many ex-service men and women who had given their lives.

Whilst running I had time to reflect on this. As a solicitor with a special interest in both spinal injuries and military claims, it made me think how closely sport, injury and the Military Services are interrelated.


Innovative approach to treatment

In June this year, Lanyon Bowdler sponsored the 50th anniversary of the Guttmann lecture, hosted by the Midlands Spinal Injuries centre at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital. I was honoured to be an attending delegate sitting amidst the country’s leading spinal and rehabilitation experts.

Whilst running it had poignantly reminded me of those war veterans who were not commemorated, those that had returned, but had done so with shattered lives, either from devastating physical injuries or emotionally scarred from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. How, thanks to the innovative approach to treatment and rehabilitation through sport advocated by Professor “Poppa” Guttmann; he had given hope, inspiration and direction to spinal patients recovering from war injuries by way of physio and rehabilitation, and more inspiringly had been the instrumental founder and pioneer of today’s Paralympics Games.

60 patients were saved

By way of background, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a German born Jew, was an internally renowned neurologist but was forced to flee Nazi Germany just before the second world war. Following violent attacks on Jewish people and properties, he had been banned from practicing medicine professionally. During Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, Guttmann ordered his staff to admit anyone into the hospital without question. The following day he justified his decision on a case-by-case basis with the Gestapo. Out of 64 admissions, 60 patients were saved from arrest and deportation to concentration camps.

National Spinal Injuries Clinic at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

After coming to Britain with his family, he continued his spinal injury research at the Radcliffe Infirmary. In September 1943 the British government asked Dr Guttmann to establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Initially he hated what he found at the Spinal Unit.

Patients care in those days was merely palliative. Most prognoses were terminal. Paralyzed patients, including many of the returning ex-service men suffering from horrific injuries, were consigned to their beds and incarcerated in plaster. Eighty per cent of patients died within three years, from bed sores, urinary tract infections and other complications. Morale amongst staff was low.

Left able to walk after 26 years

Dr Guttman transformed the place. He would not accept a fatalistic care regime, challenged the negativity in both staff and encouraged patients to fight back. Crucially he introduced the idea of physiotherapy as a medical treatment. He was a huge advocate of using sport as a way of building muscle strength and combatting depression. He turned to the military and hired an Army physical trainer to come in encouraging/insisting the patients train using weights, play table tennis and take up archery. By making them move, providing encouragement, giving hope and support through singled dogged determination, it transformed patients.

One World War one veteran, who had been lying flat on his back for 26 years, came to the Unit to try one of their new wheelchairs. Six months later, he left able to walk with the aid of just a stick.

First Stoke Mandeville Games

Dr Guttmann organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled persons on 28 July 1948, there were just 15 ex-servicemen competing in a wheelchair archery competition, coincidentally the same day saw the start of the London 1948 Summer Olympics.

Dr Guttmann used the term “paraplegic games” for national games he held in order to encourage his patients to take part. This came to be known as the "Paralympics." By 1952, more than 130 international competitors had entered the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Rio 2016

Today, Equestrian rider Lee Pearson is Great Britain's flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. This is a proudly fitting testament to the inspiration and foresight of one individual, carried on by the dreams and determination of others, namely the 264 team GB participants, international representatives from all over the world, as well as the innumerable other patients who, over the decades have, and continue to benefit from his innovative treatment philosophies and practises.

The Women's Land Army

I feel extremely privileged and honoured to be meeting with Mrs Nita Millington at her home in Staffordshire to talk about her early years as a member of the Women’s Land Army during the 1940s. Jan Graham, Mrs Millington’s daughter is also present.


The main reason for the interview with Mrs Millington is to compare her time in the early 1940s working in the agricultural industry as a land army girl and the role of women in agriculture in the 21st Century. The interview takes the form of questions, which were sent to Mrs Millington prior to the interview.

1  Do you come from a farming background?

No. I was born in Salford Manchester on 25 January 1925, the youngest of five daughters. My father worked for the Co-Op as a saddle and harness maker. At that time all their deliveries were made by horse drawn drays, his main job was to maintain the harnesses. My father died at the start of the war in 1939, I was 14 years old. I had passed a scholarship to go to the Girls’ High School with a view to further education at a secretarial college. The school was then closed and the children were evacuated to the country. My mother did not want me to leave even though Manchester and the surrounding areas were being heavily bombed, so I stayed at home with her. They were frightening times with too many near misses.

At 15 I went to work in a factory sewing raincoats, which was hard work. Then when I was 17 my mother died and I went to live with my married sister. I then started work in another factory sewing mine-sweepers’ coats and sou’westers. There were many occasions when I machined over my fingers and finger-nails. The work was very hard. The most arduous work was the waterproofing; this was mainly done by the biggest and strongest women in a basement cellar. The work entailed painting thick black dope, which was kept in huge tubs, onto the clothing.

2  How did you become part of the Women’s Land Army?

It became compulsory at the age of 18 and over for all girls without commitments (children or retained occupations) to join one of the services. I decided to join the Women’s Land Army as I liked the idea of working and living in the country. I had seen lovely smiling faces on the many posters and in the films at the cinema. Everything about the WLA looked happy and cheerful.

3  What year did you join and how long were you with the WLA?

I joined in 1943 at the age of 18 and stayed until I married in April 1947.
In 1946 I met my husband to be Alf when he came to the farm to work. He had served in the Army during the six years of the war.

4  Where were you based?

When I joined I was given a uniform and then sent to a farm on the outskirts of Manchester for a few Saturdays for training. I was then sent to work on Lord Chomondeley’s estate at a farm at Harmer Hill in rural Shropshire. I worked there until after the war ended. When the men started to return from the war to work the land they replaced the women and girls.

I was the only land army girl on the farm. I had lodgings at a house in the village. The farm was a few miles from the village so I cycled daily. There were hostels where a number of WLA girls stayed together or some even lived at home, this wasn’t an option for me due to the location of the farm where I was posted.

The lodgings were clean and reasonably comfortable, but quite basic. I was used to more modern conveniences, plumbing and electricity. In Shropshire it was quite different, no bathroom and an outside toilet. The only light was from oil lamps and the heating was a coal fire downstairs. It was very cold, so cold in the winter that the water in the wash jug in my room used to freeze. I kept my work clothes in my bed at night during the winter months to keep them warm so I didn’t have to put cold clothes on the next morning. The family I lived with were kind and I was well fed. As I worked on the land I had extra rations of cheese, sugar and butter which I shared with my host family.

I cannot remember how much I was paid but after paying my lodgings I had enough money to go out to the dance and cinema, whenever I could.

I later moved to another farm in Harmer Hill as I was no longer needed on that particular farm. I still wanted to stay in the Land Army and I was courting Alf at the time I therefore, found employment on another farm in Harmer Hill.

5  Did you work alone on the farm or were there other WLAs?

I was the only WLA on the farm; however there were two or three older women from the local village who worked on the farm. The older women did not have to join one of the forces or the war effort as they were all married, with families.

6  What were your working hours?

The basic working day was 8am to 5pm. The hours differed during harvest 8am until dusk or until it got dark. It was during war time that double summertime was introduced, which meant a longer working day as the evenings were lighter.

7  What type of farm was it?

The farm was a mixed farm so work was varied. I did not do the milking but often mucked out the cowsheds and fed the calves.

8  What were your daily duties or were they more specific?

Depending on the season the work was varied. The holding grew sugar beet, mangle wurzels, potatoes and arable crops.

Beet was grown to produce sugar, the rows of plants needed to be weeded by hand using a long handled beet hoe. The beets were singled out by hand. When the crop was fully grown the beet was dug up and I had to go along cutting the green tops off the beet with a large knife (dangerous work). The root was then taken to the processing factory.

We used to have to spread manure on the fields; this was done by hand as there were no muck spreaders or machinery to assist with the process.

During the winter one of my jobs was sorting potatoes. The potatoes were stored in a big hod covered in straw and soil layer on layer. This was to protect the potatoes as they were stored outside. The hod was 30ft wide and 300ft long. I worked with the other women kneeling on sacks in the field sorting the good potatoes from the bad ones. Sometimes we wore gloves, but these soon got wet and muddy so quite often the work was done using bare hands.

I was sorting potatoes when I first set eyes on my husband to be when he came to work as a wagoner on the farm in January 1946. He was a natural horseman and very good with the horses.

I think hay making at harvest time was one of my favourite jobs, turning hay in the warm sunshine. When the hay was dry it was loaded onto the horse drawn carts using pitch forks. The hay was later stacked into hay stacks by hand.

The corn grown during the 1940s was much longer than the varieties grown today. The wheat grew to a height of five foot and the barley even higher at six foot, which was much taller than me.

When the corn was cut it was bundled into stooks and tied together with a long blade of corn. The stooks were then gathered and tied together with string. When they had dried they were fed into the threshing machine. The farm did not have a threshing machine of its own so one was brought to the farm once a year. As I was only short, it was my job to stand on the top of the threshing machine with a knife to quickly cut the string as the corn was fed into the machine. It was dangerous work, hot and tiring. The box were the corn was fed into was open and the sharp rotating blades could be seen below. The blades cut the corn into pieces separating the chaff from the grain. There was no guard on the box to prevent anyone from falling in to their death, which was not uncommon.

9  What did you find the most difficult?

My least favourite job was cutting curly kale with a knife in winter. The kale was often frozen and as it was cut the ice used to fall into my wellies. It was a cold laborious job.

10  Was it a family run farm?

The farm belonged to the estate of the very elderly Lord Cholmondeley, whom I rarely saw as when he visited the farm he only spoke to the farmer/Farm Manager Mr Jones. When the war ended I went to another farm at Harmer Hill. The farm was family run and belonged to the Mayalls which was run by Hugh & Richard Mayall. The Mayall family still farm in Shropshire at Pimhill Farm.

Mrs Millington says that she liked working for the Mayalls. Mrs Mayalls was fond of her and sometimes took her out, outings included going to the theatre.

11  When you finished with the land army did you stay in farming or did you pursue a different career?

My husband and I moved to Quarry Farm in Newport where he was offered a job as a farm labourer and wagoner. When Quarry Farm was sold we moved to Befcote to work for Mr Tomkinson.

12  Do you think the experience and time spent as a WLA helped to make you the person you are today?

As a naïve 17 year old girl I had no idea how my life would change. The work was challenging but provided me with a great independence which I have carried with me all my life. It also confirmed to me that I am and will always be a country girl at heart.

13  How do you think your time as a WLA girl would compare to the role of women in farming today?

There can be no comparison, in the 1940s safety was not an issue as it is today, and the work I did was dangerous. It was very hands on heavy work whereas today there is a piece of machinery to do all the back breaking work.

My work during the war was a big part of the government incentive ‘growing to feed a nation at war’. Farming today is more of a business.

14   Do you think agriculture has changed since your time as a WLA?

Yes, it has changed considerably, now it is a livelihood and business.

15  Do you see a future in farming for subsequent generations?

Yes very family orientated and more as a commercial business.

16  If you had your time over again would you still join the WLA?

Yes I would as I loved working and living in the countryside.

17  Do you still have contact with the Women’s Land Army?

Yes. In addition to attending the Armed Veterans Day Parade in Weymouth for quite a few years, health permitting, I have also attended, with my daughters Barbara and Jan, the annual WLA reunion and service at the Cenotaph in London each autumn for several years until the final gathering a couple of years ago. The service was followed by a most enjoyable lunch at Westminster School Hall for all Land girls who attended the reunion.

Barbara, Jan and I have also attended the WLA annual reunion near Brighton on a few occasions where we met and made friends with several former Land Girls.

I would like to thank Mrs Millington for a most enjoyable morning, sharing her memories with me. I would also like to thank her daughter Jan for providing a great deal of the back ground information.

Severndale Specialist School

As a solicitor who acts regularly for children who suffer from brain injuries and movement control problems, I was delighted to have the opportunity to look around Severndale School in Shrewsbury. The school is a specialist academy providing for children with complex and profound learning difficulties, autism, complex medical conditions and physical and mobility difficulties.


My colleague and I were shown around by Sixth Form Teacher and Head of PE, Adam Millichip. I was struck by Adam’s pride in the school and his passion for teaching children with special needs. Adam took us around the whole school which caters for children and young people aged from 3 to 19 years and he smiled and greeted each child that we passed and they responded to him.


I was so impressed by the facilities available and witnessed a young boy walking without any support for one of the first times in a soft play room, sensory interactive rooms, a warm clean and attractive swimming pool with sensory effects to enable children to keep calm and stimulated and bright interesting classrooms with displays of the pupils creative talents. I was delighted to see the coastal garden which Lanyon Bowdler had sponsored which had everything but the sea!


I was particularly impressed by the sensory garden which has been recently created by the Sixth Formers. There were insect houses, wind chimes hanging from the tree branches, long tubes wrapped around tree trunks for pupils to pour gravel and stones into, and a little wooden veranda type hut positioned like a hide under a tree.


They have mounted wooden frames on the fences with locks, screws, contraptions and varied objects, textures and materials to encourage curiosity and investigation.

The horticultural area was incredible with few weeds to be seen and I discovered the school was growing Mediterranean basil that looked much better than those plants the supermarkets sell.

Most importantly I noticed the relaxed and enthusiastic atmosphere. Teachers and children looked cheerful and stimulated and Adam confirmed that the school took all opportunities to allow the children to mix between different age groups and abilities to promote their independence and social interaction. The visit was such a rewarding experience I actually thought to myself that I was in the wrong job!

Thank you very much to Adam for giving me an opportunity to see the school. In my position I am often instructed by parents who have suddenly discovered that their child has a brain injury and will have learning difficulties. They have to try and deal with this devastating news and often feel isolated and frightened. It is therefore important for someone like me to be aware of what the local community can provide for these children so that I can offer some reassurance to those parents at that early stage.

When is a Tractor Not a Tractor?

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered an extremely significant decision in the case of Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav (2014), regarding the issue whether a vehicle used on private land should be insured against civil liability, and concerning the use of vehicles as per Article 3(1) of the First Motor Insurance Directive, which is an EU Directive.

The facts of the case will sound uncomfortably familiar to those who use vehicles on private property. Mr Vnuk suffered an injury after being knocked off a ladder whilst working on a farm. The accident was caused by a tractor with a trailer reversing in the farm courtyard. The initial position of the Slovenian domestic courts was that a compulsory insurance policy on the tractor, from which Mr Vnuk was trying to claim compensation, would not offer protection when a tractor was used as an agricultural machine on private land. Mr Vnuk was, however, of the view that 'use of the vehicle' should not be limited only to journeys on public roads.

The Slovenian Supreme Court raised a question with the ECJ, enquiring whether “the use of vehicles” phrase should be limited only to road traffic accidents.

Landmark Ruling

The ECJ, in its landmark ruling, held that the term “use of vehicle” indeed extends to a vehicle being used “as a means of transport or as machines, in any area, both public and private, in which risks inherent in the use of vehicles may arise, whether those vehicles are moving or not”. Furthermore, it covers any use which is consistent with the normal function of that vehicle.

The ECJ also considered the term “vehicle” which, in the First Motor Insurance Directive, is defined as “any motor vehicle intended to travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails, and any trailer, whether or not coupled”. The ECJ ruled that the definition of the vehicle is not connected to the use of the vehicle, and therefore a tractor with a trailer fulfils that definition, even if it is used as an agricultural machine.

Bringing the Law Back Home

The implications in the case of Vnuk are significant as it appears some provisions of domestic legislation, being the Road Traffic Act 1988, are in fact in breach of the First Motor Insurance Directive. Firstly, the duty to take out third party motor insurance is limited to the “use of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place”. Secondly, the term “motor vehicle” is defined as “a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads”.

The amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1988 are yet to be seen. The Road Traffic Act 1988 excludes some vehicles from the obligation to take out third party insurance, for example some local authority owned vehicles, and the Act may in future be amended to exclude other types of vehicles, as this is allowed under the European law.

However, at this point in time, owners of agricultural vehicles, forklifts, ride-on-lawnmowers, golf buggies and go-karts could find themselves potentially liable for injuries caused on private land but not covered by their insurance. Legal representatives of those injured in accidents involving vehicles on private land, will be citing the case of Vnuk which is directly applicable in the UK, in support of their clients' claims and may consider bringing a legal action against the British Government for a failure to implement EU law properly.

Great Glen Way Challenge

Kevin Thomas and I have arrived in the Highlands of Scotland to walk the Great Glen Way.

This is a 79 mile trail, encompassing just over 6,000 feet of ascent, starting in Fort William and ending in Inverness five days later.

We are doing this walk to raise money for the following charities:

July 2015

I have finally managed to tot up the sponsorship we raised - the final scores are:

RNLI - £398.75

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research - £333.75

SARDA Wales - £287.50

A grand total of £1,020.00!

Thursday 30 April 2015

Well, the deed is done!

The final haul of 21 miles from Drumnadrochit to Inverness, whilst being incredibly arduous, is easily the most varied and striking.

It started with an uninspiring trudge along the A82 to meet a woodland track which undulates, steeply in places, through thick Caledonian forest.


The climb is stiff but the coolness of the woodland is refreshing and the "bouncy" softness of the track eases the pain!


After a while we crossed a stream on stepping stones in a lovely sunlit glade and emerged onto a logging track high up on the mountain. Here there was an encampment for lumberjacks from Newfoundland who came across in World War 2 to keep the timber industry going for the war effort.


A small cairn marks the 1000-feet contour but there are still about 300-feet to go till you reach the highest point and you wind round on the logging track into the Abriachan Forest until, a couple of miles later, you hit the top. On this stretch the sunshine turned to heavy snow within a couple of minutes.

A steep descent into the next glen gives stunning views of Glen Affric, with Ben Affric looking like a Christmas cake with its thick covering of snow.


Before long you enter more woodland and a tantalising track edged with little posts announcing "real coffee" and "hot soup" at intervals, like a tired walker's treasure hunt!

We reached the Abriachan eco-campsite where there are pigs roaming free and the owner installed us on the deck in her little log cabin with cups of tea and let us eat our packed lunches, warning to watch out for the cunning white hen who steals food.

The sawdust toilet was a particular high point!.....

Leaving them reluctantly, we started the long stretch along a lonely, high road with views across to Glen Affric sustaining us.

From here I saw our first golden eagle of the walk, a huge bird of prey soaring on thermals and just a flash of gold in the sunlight as it turned.

After about two miles we turned up over moorland for a gentle ascent into the forest. We flushed up grouse, saw endless meadow pipits and even heard our first cuckoo of the year!

The long walk through Caledonian forest was stunning but by this time, having had our first glimpse of Inverness far below us, we just wanted to get there and knew we had another five miles to go....

I've never been so glad to see a pylon as it pinpointed on the map exactly where we were but we knew how painful a descent would be now.


We wound down past reservoirs into the upper residential reaches of Inverness and soon realised, after five days of wilderness, what a danger we were to ourselves when crossing roads, it all felt so alien!

By now we couldn't even muster the energy to speak to each other, we just trudged wordlessly over the golf course, along the canal and through the Ness Islands (very pretty but after 10 hours of walking we barely registered anything!) and up some steps to the castle and a stone column announcing "Great Glen Way - this is where it all ends".


This isn't our first long - distance trail so we know there is never elation at the end point, you just feel a bit numb and 'displaced' for a few minutes. The "high" tends to come later.

Our friends are taking wonderful care of us in their lovely home in Boat of Garten in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, we came home to cottage pie, mugs of tea and the best bed in the world, we're so grateful to them for taking in two grubby walkers without putting newspaper on all the surfaces!

We can't yet straighten our heads to describe the experience fully but it has definitely been a memorable trip - crazy weather, lovely people, breathtaking scenery and a sense of having done something a bit different and a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, Kevin's blisters carry a Triple-X warning.....

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Either it was an easier day or we are getting into the swing of this long distance trail business! I hope it's the latter!

After spending a lovely treat night in the very comfortable embrace of the Glenmoriston Arms in Invermoriston on the shores of Loch Ness, we started our day with a visit to a well dedicated to St Columba. He was a traveller and a bit of a character, so I felt he'd understand blisters and bad weather so I threw in a coin and sent one up to him!

Our 15-mile day started with a steep climb out of the village into the forests above Glen Moriston and we cleared 600 feet quite quickly - either it was thanks to St Columba or the porridge and tattie scones at breakfast!


However, no sooner had we climbed than the path dropped us quickly back to sea level. From there a notice board informed us there would be three more climbs and falls, eventually taking us to 1100 feet.


The rainbow in Glen Moriston gave way to blue skies and sunshine as we climbed along good tracks along a rising balcony. On our right we could see for miles along Loch Ness and beyond to the snowy peaks of the Monadhliath Mountains.


The smells were so striking - the heady cocoa butter scent of gorse mixed with the‎ freshness of pine and newly-cut timber stacks. The weather had also brought wildlife out to play and we saw numerous robins and chaffinches, heard buzzards defending their nests and I saw a wheatear and possible crossbill.


After descending slightly from the mountain and forests we found a pretty glade with a bottom-sized rock where we could sit and eat lunch. As we did so the rain came in along the glen and we spent the last five miles of our day walking as fast as we could through hail and heavy rain across open moorland in a bid to reach Drumnadrochit some 700 feet below us - however, sharp descents and knees after 60 miles are not a happy combination!


We made very good time, 15 miles over steep terrain with loaded packs in under seven hours and have decided to treat ourselves with a sample of single malt tonight before we tackle the biggest and most remote day tomorrow - 21 miles over mountain terrain with not even a tea shop in sight! Our wonderful friends Kate and Andy who live near Aviemore have promised to be there if / when we make it to the trail's official end at Inverness Castle - watch this space.......

The support on the blog has been really encouraging and much appreciated when we check it each night, thank you to all.

Over and out......

Tuesday 28 April 2015


It's been a hard day! In summary, 18.5 miles starting in sleet, moving into rain and only finishing in glorious evening sunshine in the glen (how romantic does that sound?! We even saw a deer on the trail! - albeit a dead one, sadly.)

We had a fabulous stay in South Laggan at a guest house where we only later found out they've only been doing it for eight months. It was pretty basic but very warm, welcoming, beds to sink into and they knew exactly what long-distance trail walkers are looking for.

After a hearty breakfast we set out in sleet and following the waymarkers we headed up to an old railway cutting alongside Loch Oich. This was made pretty miserable by the works taking place up there and the constant reversing machinery although the workmen were very patient with Way walkers.

We also got to meet the handsome Max, a labrador/French Mastiff cross who greeted me with the muddy enthusiasm only labradors know!


Having left the railway cutting behind we skirted the shores of Loch Oich before meeting the Caledonian Canal once more at Invergarry. This led onto a towpath for about about five miles to Fort Augustus where we felt like we were in a constant race against the kayakers - we always gained on them at the locks!

Fort Augustus is a small settlement at the southern end of Loch Ness and and although it felt‎ comparatively touristy it had the advantage that it sold Compeed blister plasters in the post office - a big hit for Kevin....

From there we climbed steeply to a forest track running parallel with, but high above, Loch Ness. The rain from the west was squally so we felt like we were stopping every 10 minutes to shed or add a layer of clothing!


However, we crossed some beautiful waterfalls tumbling down from the peaks high above us and as we reached Glen Moriston the sun came out and lit up the glen in a riot of spring colours for our final slog to the hotel.

Tomorrow feels easy - *only* 15 miles to Drumnadrochit but after the last couple of days we know only too well what a mile really means!

Monday 27 April 2015

Today has been a toughie! - we set off from Gairlochy in bright sunshine and had fabulous views of the snowy, cloud - free summits of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor.


We headed north-east on a lovely undulating path beside the loch, occasionally going into woodland where we crossed little chattering streams ending their long journeys down off the mountains.

Someone had recommended we add a couple of very worthwhile miles onto our walk to climb up through the Achnacarry estate to Loch Arkaig to see the falls of Chia-aig.

This is where Rob Roy was reputed to have hidden from the king's Redcoats during the Jacobite rebellions.

It was certainly worth the extra time and distance it added to our day and we had a small bite to eat by the falls before the forecast heavy weather came in.


We rejoined the trail down in the valley where a sign reminded us we were heading into remote mountain country and had to be able and equipped to look after ourselves.

The trail climbed up through Clunes Forest as the snow fell increasingly heavily around us, covering the enormous mountains towering over our shoulders in a thick, white blanket.

It was very lonely and atmospheric up there, away from the relentless lapping of the loch water against rocks and whilst it was a slog we could cover a good distance quite easily.

By 4pm we were heading down to the the meeting point of the northern end of Loch Lochy and the next stretch of the Caledonian Canal where we crossed and started on the final trudge to our guest house. The snow turned to heavy sleet and we dripped all over our host's pristine porch and were relieved of our boots and jackets which were whisked away to the drying room for some well deserved TLC!


We got almost 16 miles under the belt today, Kevin has a couple of yucky blisters which he's threatened to photograph and put on the blog!

18 miles tomorrow, to Invermoriston...... see you on the other side!

Sunday 26 April 2015


We did the first day yesterday, it was a pretty easy start of ten and a half miles from Fort William to Gairlochy along the shores of Loch Linnhe, beside the Caledonian Canal and finally meeting up with River Lochy at the southern end of Loch Lochy.

We started in sleet which grew ever heavier for the first hour, suddenly giving way to sunshine for a short time whilst we had our first cup of tea (with a tot of something Scottish in it - just to get in the mood!) beside the canal, which was built by Thomas Telford. Not long before the wind and rain returned! Meanwhile, in Drumnadrochit (our destination in three days) they had heavy snowfall....


We followed the canal past Neptune's Staircase, the longest series of rising locks in Britain and started to leave people behind, the gentle towpath scenery starting to give way around us to deep glens and spectacular snowy peaks such as Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor.

Passing Moy Bridge, the last hand-operated swing bridge in the country, we soon arrived at the tiny settlement of Gairlochy and left the Way to find our B&B in Mucomir. The tranquility here belies a turbulent history in the Jacobite uprisings but for now we're content with looking out at the changing views of Ben Nevis as the clouds lift then drop again, and some delicious carb-loading at the Station Restaurant in Spean Bridge.

13 miles on the menu today!


Accidents Abroad Seminar and Legal Update

The following account of the day is written by Gayle Kinsey who is a solicitor within the accident abroad team.

Personal Injury solicitors at Lanyon Bowdler have been successfully pursuing claims on behalf of Claimants injured whilst abroad for over 20 years. French coach crashes, rail disasters, aviation claims and road traffic accidents in all corners of the globe are examples of cases where the team have been instructed. A general rise in the number of people travelling abroad, whether for business or pleasure, has seen a consequential rise in the number of accidents and claims. Lanyon Bowdler now has a specialist team of accident abroad solicitors who can offer expert advice on these often complex claims.

Over the years, Lanyon Bowdler has developed relationships with foreign lawyers and barristers without whom it would not be possible to conduct claims such as these. A seminar was held at the Malmaison Hotel in central Birmingham on 6 March 2015 giving those experts the opportunity to present to accident abroad lawyers and other interested professionals.

The event was the first of its kind organised by Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors and was introduced by Neil Lorimer, award winning personal injury solicitor specialising in catastrophic brain injury and amputations. Neil is a partner with the firm and head the accidents abroad team. Neil welcomed the speakers and delegates including Wolfgang Resch the CEO of PEOPIL.


Jurisdiction – Lucy Wyles

The first of the speakers was Lucy Wyles, barrister at 2 Temple Gardens. Lucy set out the basic rules concerning jurisdiction, i.e. the law used to determine the country in which the claim will be pursued through the courts. She looked at rules contained within Brussels I bis Regulation (1215/2012) which is applicable from 10 January 2015, as well as the traditional common law which applies to those jurisdictions not covered by the Brussels Regulations, such as Mexico and the USA.

The basic rule under the Brussels Regulation is that the Defendant is served in the jurisdiction where he is domiciled. The courts permission will be required where service is outside of the jurisdiction. Lucy set out important exceptions to the general rule that applies in matters of tort under Article 7(2), which states a Defendant can be sued in the place where the “harmful event” occurred; the harmful event normally being the accident itself, and not any indirect damage such as loss of earnings or subsequent medical deterioration which could conceivably take place in a different country to that where the accident occurred. Importantly this is different to the “jurisdictional gateway” which applies under the common law whereby it is possible to sue in the English/Welsh courts as long as some damage was sustained there. The “forum conveniens” rule which applies under the common law is far wider than that contained in the Brussels Regulation.

Lucy set out the details of an interesting case heard by the European Court of Justice in which it was held a hotel which took online bookings with customers in a different country was deemed to be “directing commercial activity within a member state of the consumer’s domicile”, and thus a claim could be pursued by the consumer in his home court.

Other topics covered by Lucy included adding parties domiciled in different jurisdictions to proceedings and direct actions against insurers, now commonplace in road traffic accidents following the case of Odenbreit, and now contained within Rome II at Article 18.

Applicable Law – Bernard Doherty

Bernard Doherty has acted as counsel in many of Lanyon Bowdler’s cross-border cases. He is the lead author of “Accidents Abroad: International Personal Injury Claims which is an essential text for anyone practising this area of law.

Bernard’s presentation on applicable law and, in particular, “Applying Foreign Law to Claims in Tort” flowed nicely from Lucy Wyle’s discussion on jurisdiction. When a cross border case is before the English courts, the judge must determine whether some foreign law should be applied rather than English law. Rome II will apply to events giving rise to damage in member states after 11 January 2009. To the limited number of on-going cases where the accident occurred before that date, the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 1995 (“the 1995 Act”) applies. The common law will also apply on some rare occasions where the Rome II exclusions apply such as in the case of certain acts of the State which only a State rather than a private individual can carry out.

Irrespective of whether the 1995 Act or Rome II applies, there is what Mr Doherty refers to as a “fairly universal rule” which is that rules of evidence and procedure will always be governed by the law of the forum. However, the substance/procedure dividing line may be drawn in different places depending upon which applies.

Under the 1995 Act matters relating to remedy including the assessment of damages are considered procedural. This is where the key difference with Rome II lies as article 15(c) states that the “existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed are all to be governed by the substantive applicable law”.

Mr Doherty explained the importance of the Court of Appeal decision in Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers. As with many continental jurisdictions, the French courts assess damages using a single expert. The Defendant French insurer argued that an English judge should try to reach the same result as a French court and, therefore, use the French single expert approach to obtaining evidence. The Claimant argued that expert evidence was a matter of procedure and so to be dealt with according to the law of the forum ie English law and thus experts in a number of specialist disciplines should be instructed. The Claimant was successful in this argument. The Defendant did succeed on its argument that the secondary law such as conventions and damages guidelines should be applied by the English court.

The argument, that the aim of Rome II was to harmonise outcome of cases across member states, was rejected. However, dicta in the more recent case of Cox v Ergo Versicherung would suggest that this argument is still “up for grabs” to use Mr Doherty’s expression. No doubt, the ECJ will have the final say!

Antoinette Collignon

Antoinette Collignon is a partner of Dutch law firm “Legaltree”. She is also co-founder of the Pan-European Organisation for Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) and the first Dutch (as well as first female) president from 2009 until 2013. Antoinette’s relationship with Lanyon Bowdler began in 2004 when she acted as co-counsel in a case involving three young men who were tragically killed in a car accident in Holland. The administrators of the estates, on behalf of the dependent partners and children of the deceased, pursued Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 Fatal Accident Act 1976 claims.

Antoinette provided a very helpful overview of the types of personal injury systems that exist across Europe. These vary from liability systems like those in England and Wales to no fault systems. In Holland, in traffic accidents involving pedestrians and bikers there is a cap of 50% on any contributory negligence. So even where a pedestrian or biker is 90% to blame for his injuries, he will get 50% of the value of his claim.

Antoinette stressed the importance of selecting an appropriate co-counsel and provided some excellent tips in this regard. With 400 members across the world, PEOPIL is an ideal place to look for a foreign lawyer.

Antoinette concluded with an overview of the Hague Convention on the law applicable to road traffic accidents . Twenty two countries are signatories to the convention though not the UK. Where those countries are also EU member states, the Hague Convention will prevail over Rome II.

Jon Sutton

Next up was Spanish lawyer, Jon Sutton of Spanish law firm De Cotta Law. Jon is the head of the international personal injury litigation team at De Cotta Law. He assists private clients and UK law firms with claims for accidents which occur in Spain. Jon is dual qualified in England and Spain and is a very useful contact if conversing in Spanish is not a forte!

Claims arising out of accidents in Spain are a common feature in accident abroad work; largely due to the popularity of Spain and surrounding islands as holiday destinations. Spanish personal injury law and procedure in the Spanish courts is very different to the system we know under English law and Jon explained some of the crucial differences that English lawyers should be aware of.

It will rarely be advisable to pursue a personal injury claim through the Spanish Courts (there is no recoverability of costs under Spanish law). Where it is possible to pursue a claim through the English courts, the Spanish law relating to limitation, liability and now under Rome II, the assessment of damages will apply. There is a 12 month limitation period under Spanish law. Jon explained how this could be extended by “Burofax” but warned against English lawyers trying to do this themselves. The “Burofax” must be in Spanish and meet certain strict criteria.

In Spain, damages are assessed according to the Baremo Tables which Jon likened to the English CICA tariff. He stressed the importance of clearly instructing English medical experts in a way that their reports can be used to quantify damages using the Baremo Tables.

Paul Rosson

Finally, Paul Rosson of Frenkel Topping considered the matter of periodical payments and the issues that may arise in a case against a foreign insurer. Before ordering an award by way of periodical payments, the court must be satisfied that the continuity of payments is reasonably secure (CPR 41.9(2)(a)). One test of a “reasonably secure” payment is defined in the Damages Act 1996, namely that it is protected by a scheme under section 213 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (compensation). In the UK, the scheme is the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Members of the European Economic Association (EEA) must have an equivalent FSCS scheme in their home state.

Paul considered the Spanish “Consorcio de Compensacion De Seguros” scheme, the Dutch “Waarborgsfonds Motorverkeer” scheme and the Californian “Insurance Guarantee Association2.

Paul concluded by considering taxation and currency risk and alternative options to periodical payments should continuity of payments not be deemed as reasonably secure. This is a complex issue and financial advice will be crucial to confirm or deny the security of continuity of payments and determine the optimum solution for settlement.

The Afternoon Session

Following lunch, the panel gave consideration to a case study; discussing the issues which arise during the life of an accident abroad case.


The case study was based on a fictional car accident in Spain involving Claimants and potential Defendants from Shropshire, Holland, Spain and California.

The afternoon was a more informal opportunity to apply the helpful points raised by the speakers in the morning to a set of facts, and this was well received by delegates. Chaired by Mr Doherty, the speakers discussed the issues that arise during the life of an accident abroad case, right from the first considered decision of where to bring the claim, against which Defendant, through to whether a periodical payment is an option to be pursued against a foreign insurer. This was a great opportunity for the delegates to raise questions of the experienced speakers and led to a “stimulating” and “useful” discussion as described by delegates.

A former client of Lanyon Bowdler who had been injured in a car accident in Spain contributed to the discussion considering with delegates the view point of a Claimant injured abroad. He confirmed that for him it was important to be able to bring a case in his home country. With Lanyon Bowdler’s expert guidance, assisted by Jon Sutton and Bernard Doherty, he had been able to pursue damages in the English courts and recover legal costs.

Lanyon Bowdler has received great feedback from delegates stating “the format of the day worked extremely well, with the opportunity to apply the morning’s learning to the problem”, Delegates found the day to be “hugely educational” and a “great opportunity to network”.

High Court Finds Recruitment Consultancy's Restrictive Covenants To Be Enforceable

Businesses with employees who could potentially be a commercial threat should they leave their employment often make use of restrictive covenants to restrict what an employee can and cannot do for a specified period once the employment has terminated, for example restrictions on working for a competitor and/or soliciting other employees or customers. If an employee acts in breach of any such restrictions, an employer can apply to the High Court for an injunction and/or seek damages for breach of the restrictions.

It is important that restrictive covenants are well drafted and properly incorporated into contracts of employment if they are to be enforceable. Such covenants will be void unless the employer can show that they go no further than is reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate business interest.

The recent case of East England CIC (t/a 4myschools) v Palmer is an example of the High Court finding in favour of a former employer. Mrs Palmer was employed by 4myschools as a recruitment consultant who matched teacher applicants with schools. She left to work for a competitor after approximately 26 months. There was a restrictive covenant in her contract of employment which prohibited her from soliciting or dealing with the candidate teachers or client schools with whom she had dealt in her last 12 months, for a period of 6 months after the end of her employment. 4myschools believed Mrs Palmer was in breach of covenant.

As the matter was not resolved following exchanges of correspondence and the giving of an undertaking, 4myschools made an application to the High Court seeking damages. The High Court had to determine whether (i) the restrictions in the employment contract were reasonable and (ii) the employer had a legitimate proprietary interest to protect.

With respect to (i), the court found that other than one point (which could be detached from the rest of the restrictions and so did not make all of them unenforceable), the restrictions were drafted reasonably, including the duration of them.

With respect to (ii), Mrs Palmer and her new employer denied that 4myschools had a legitimate proprietary interest to protect and argued, amongst other things, that with the increasing use of social media and the internet, all relevant information is now in the public domain, and so cannot be confidential to any particular agency. The court found that 4myschools did have a legitimate business to protect despite the fact that recruitment information relating to the education sector was widely available, stating “the fact that the relationship between schools and teachers on the one hand, and 4myschools on the other, was known to be a fragile one, makes it more, rather than less, necessary and legitimate for the employer to seek to protect it, because it makes the prospect of a successful solicitation by the ex-employee more likely.”

This case shows that even if information is widely available online, as it increasingly is in this ‘information age’, it does not necessarily weaken the employer’s legitimate proprietary interest.

Many employers do not have as well drafted and incorporated restrictions as 4myschools – sometimes due to poor initial drafting and/or procedures, and sometimes because employees’ circumstances have evolved but the purported restrictions have not. We recommend that employers should review:-

  • the restrictive covenants to which current employees are subject – or, at least, it is assumed they are subject, and
  • their template covenants which are intended for future use and their procedures for introducing new restrictions

with a view to ensuring that they are still fit for purpose (if, indeed, they ever were).

Equally, employers who have not included such restrictions in the contracts of employment of employees who they consider to be a potential commercial threat should give serious consideration to having such clauses introduced.

Legal advice should be sought before seeking to amend the contracts of any existing employees in order to avoid claims for breach of contract and unfair dismissal, and also to ensure that any amendments that are sought to be made are enforceable.

The Legal Obligations of Quad Bikes

Quad bikes, or all terrain vehicles (ATV) are a very useful light machine used by many farmers, growers and gamekeepers who enjoy their versatility and utility. However, like everything used on the land which is mechanically driven, there are rules and regulations which must be adhered to to prevent prosecution at the Magistrates Court. 

All quad bikes, if they are to be used on the road must be approved, registered and taxed and have an MOT if they are more than three years old.   There are quite a few designs of quad bikes that cannot be used on the roads as they do not meet road safety standards. Some are tested and “type approved” in a similar way as motorbikes and these are sometimes called “leisure quad bikes” or “quadricycles".  These car-like quads, where the driver compartment is fully enclosed are treated in the same way as other quad bikes.  They are the only type of quad that can be used on the road.   We recommend that you check with the manufacturer if your quad bike has been approved for road use.  If your bike has not been approved but meets road safety standards, you can apply for type approval with the DVLA.   

The quad bike must be registered with the DVLA, have number plates and display a tax disc.  Bikes used on the road must have a valid MOT certificate.   To drive on the road you will need a full driving licence or a category B1 licence if it was issued before 1997.  Most important is that you must have a minimum of third party insurance.  A quad bike can only carry passengers if it is designed to do so and has the right number of seats – again check with the manufacturer to make sure that it is compliant and only choose quad bikes suitable for the purposes required.  If two gamekeepers are needed then the quad bike should have two seats. 

Crash helmets are recommended in all circumstances but quad bike drivers and passengers do not have to wear the crash helmets - but on or off road, these vehicles give little protection in an accident.  

If you are using your bike off road you do not need a driving licence, nor do you have to tax and register it.   However there is an off road register where you can record the details of the bike which could help the Police if it is stolen.   I would recommend that all off road quad bikes are so registered and protected with such items as trackers and “smart water”.  These items assist the Police in retrieving the vehicles which are often targeted by thieves and easily sold on the “backstreet market” . 

If you are using your quad bike for agricultural, horticultural or forestry work such as spreading of slug pellets or other chemicals it is effectively a light agricultural vehicle and should be registered as such.   You will need to get the correct nil value tax disc and renew it each year.   You can only use an agricultural quad bike on the road if travelling less than 1.5 km between sites where it is being used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry.  An agricultural quad bike used on the road does not need an MOT but must be registered and licensed for road use and must have a valid number plate and a minimum of third party insurance. Any owners who allow staff to use quad bikes should ensure that they have proper training and the correct safety equipment and the correct insurance.    If quad bikes are used after dark they will all need the correct lights, this is particularly important for looking after stock and again in the short hours of daylight in the winter.  Quad bikes used for light agricultural vehicles are usually made only with a driver’s seat and therefore are not allowed to carry passengers. 

Farmers and landowners who use the vehicles might want to check with their insurers and solicitors that they have correctly applied the rules and regulations for the use of these vehicles.

Accrued Holiday on Termination of Employment

An employment tribunal has held that payments in lieu of untaken statutory holiday on termination of employment must be calculated to reflect normal pay.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (“the Regulations”) entitle an employee to pay in lieu of unused statutory holiday calculated in accordance with either (i) a “relevant agreement” (i.e. a written employment contract, a collective agreement or a workforce agreement) or, where there is no such agreement, (ii) the same statutory formula which applies during the employment, which requires that workers be paid at the rate of a week's pay for each week's leave.

The Regulations do not prescribe how a payment in lieu of unused holiday is to be calculated under a relevant agreement. Some agreements have stipulated that no holiday pay will be paid at all – either in all cases, or in specified circumstances, such as where the employee has committed gross misconduct. However, it has long been established that such provisions, so far as they relate to accrued statutory holiday, will be void.

In a recent case, an employment judge considered whether a contractual term providing for a nominal payment of £1 in lieu of untaken holiday complied with the Regulations.

When the employment terminated, the employee had three days' accrued but untaken holiday. If this holiday had been taken during her employment, she would have been paid £176 net.

The employment judge’s view was that the Regulations must be read in the light of the Working Time Directive (“the Directive”), and he relied on decisions of the European Court concerning the Directive which provided that where a worker "has not been able, for reasons beyond his control, to exercise his right to paid annual leave before termination of the employment relationship, the allowance in lieu to which he is entitled must be calculated so that the worker is put in a position comparable to that he would have been in had he exercised that right during his employment relationship".

Based on this, the decision was that pay in lieu of untaken holiday under the Directive had to be calculated to reflect normal pay. However, the authorities relied on by the employment judge concerned the situation where workers were unable to take holiday during their employment for reasons beyond their control (in that case due to long-term sickness). It is arguable that this reasoning does not apply where it has been open to employees to take holiday (free of sickness) during their employment.

This is a first instance decision and is, therefore, not binding on other courts and tribunals. However, unless and until the higher courts decide otherwise, employers who are parties to relevant agreements which purport to allow otherwise should consider paying employees the same rate for untaken statutory holiday on termination of employment that they would have been paid if the holiday was taken during employment – at least in the event of a challenge by the employee. Where employers do make such payments, however, it would be consistent with principles applied in other cases that any statutory obligation to do so will apply only to the first 4 weeks of holiday entitlement in any year (the minimum entitlement under the Directive) and not the additional 1.6 weeks’ holiday provided for under the Regulations.

To emphasise, there is nothing to stop employers providing in employment contracts that there will be a reduced payment, or indeed no payment at all, upon the termination of the employment in respect of any holiday accrued in excess of the relevant minimum statutory entitlement.

For advice relating to the above issues, please contact me (T: 01952 211010; E: john.merry@lblaw.co.uk) or Will Morse (T: 01432 377152; E: will.morse@lblaw.co.uk

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