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A Drastic Change for a Good Cause

I’ve always been fortunate to have hair in good condition, thick in nature and fairly easy to manage. I usually only have my hair cut every 12-18 months (sometimes even longer) as I really can’t stand going to the hairdresser, so I didn’t find it too difficult growing my hair for my wedding in June this year. I’d had my heart set on a fabulous plaited ‘updo’, but needed a fair amount of length in order to achieve this. Once the wedding was out of the way, I decided to go back to a shorter hairstyle, which was easier to manage. Unfortunately I had to undergo knee surgery in July and, as a result, everything else fell by the wayside.

When I heard from a colleague about The Little Princess Trust, I was delighted - what a great way of being able to get rid of my locks, but have someone really benefit it from it. The thought of a child or young adult with cancer making use of my hair, which otherwise would have ended up in a bin, made me re-think the fear, and gave me the incentive I needed for a more drastic chop!

I took the plunge and booked my hair appointment. For anyone who knows me, I get quite anxious about going to the hairdressers. I guess it’s a comfort blanket. Everyone knows you for you and how you look, so to drastically change that look – would I like it? Would others like it? Would I feel I had made a mistake? All of these things were going through my mind.

Fortunately the day of the appointment had been an extremely busy day at work, so I didn’t really have chance to think about it. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the chair, my hairdresser had sectioned my long locks into four and they had been snipped off. All of a sudden my hair was in front of me! I asked if I’d had the required limit of 7” taken off and I was pleasantly surprised when they told me it was in fact 16”. This meant I fitted into the ‘long hair’ classification, which The Little Princess Trust state is their greatest requirement. I’m really pleased I had my hair cut as I love my new look!

If you wish to donate your own hair, here is a checklist:

  • Hair in excellent condition (no split ends)

  • Natural colour – can be dyed as long as natural colours and not blue, pink etc

  • Length from 7”

  • Clean, dry hair from any gender

  • Straight, wavy or chemically straightened

Who do The Little Princess Trust provide wigs for?

The Little Princess Trust is a children’s charity, which provides real hair wigs to children and young adults (up to 24 years), who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment or other conditions, for the duration of their treatment. They can also provide throughout the UK and Ireland a single wig to children and young adults, who have other conditions which result in hair loss, such as alopecia. Although this is different to their support for children with cancer, they hope this one-off gesture will help families decide on their long-term plans for dealing with the condition.

The Little Princess Trust’s Journey

The Little Princess Trust was established in 2006 by the parents of Hannah Tarplee, their friends and Hereford Cathedral Junior School.

Hannah was diagnosed with a Wilms tumour in 2004, which resulted in her losing her hair which was a very traumatic experience for her. Hannah’s parents struggled to find a suitable wig during her treatment, but once they found one it had a very positive effect on Hannah.

Tragically, Hannah passed away in 2005. Her parents, Wendy and Simon, with the practical and financial help of others, decided to launch a charity dedicated to providing wigs for young adults suffering with cancer and other illnesses across the UK and Ireland.

The Little Princess Trust is beginning to offer their services in other European countries and, with the help and support of corporate fundraisers and sponsors, is now funding academies and institutions, who are working on new treatments for paediatric cancers. This fantastic charity has already contributed approximately £5 million to lifesaving research projects.

For more information about the great work that The Little Princess Trust do, visit their website here.

Personal Injury and the Armed Forces

To serve in the Armed Forces is an honour and a privilege for many, but it can also be one of the most dangerous and demanding careers a person can undertake. As a result of the physical and mental demands of serving in the Armed Forces, injuries at work for military personnel are more common than most other industries. In this blog, I will set out the various ways in which we at Lanyon Bowdler can help injured personnel get the compensation they deserve.

Whilst working in the first seat of my training contract with the personal injury department, I met Louise Howard, the firm’s specialist solicitor in military law. Over the past few months I have been assisting Louise with various military cases, which has included meeting a number of former personnel who were looking for advice on whether they were entitled to compensation for injuries that they suffered during their time in service.

I have also been attending the local Armed Forces Operations Hub meetings, which take place on the first and third Monday of every month at Palmers’ Café in Shrewsbury. The group is made up of representatives from numerous charities and support groups including Help for Heroes, the local council, Combat Stress, Walking with the Wounded and West Mercia Police. These meetings allow for retired and serving personnel and their families to get together and network, as well as providing support and advice for those who need it.

How the personal injury department can help

In terms of the support we can provide at Lanyon Bowdler for injuries suffered in the Armed Forces, there are two main areas of claim which we can assist with:

1. Negligence cases against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as an employer and as a provider of medical services, including physical and psychiatric injury.

The Ministry of Defence is bound by the same rules as any other employer and is therefore responsible for providing a safe working environment, underpinned by sound employment procedures, for all of its employees. Whilst it is accepted that serving in hostile situations brings a greater element of risk than your typical office job, there are still legal requirements which the MoD need to follow in order to mitigate the risk of injury as far as they are possible.

If they fall below these requirements, it may be possible for an injured service person to bring a negligence claim against them.

2. Assistance with Armed Forces Compensation Scheme claims, both initial applications, requests for review and tribunal appeals.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) provides compensation for injury, illness or death caused whilst serving in the Armed Forces, other than in combat. A person claiming under the scheme has no obligation to establish fault, meaning that if the injury was caused by serving in the Armed Forces, and the requisite eligibility criteria are met, then that person is entitled to make an AFCS claim.

Other support

As a firm we are able to offer a range of support for military personnel through our extensive legal expertise. This can include the drafting of wills through our private client team, the buying and selling of homes through our residential property team and dealing with relationship and child arrangement issues through our family law team to name just a few. For more information on any of these matters, please feel free to contact us at Lanyon Bowdler and you will be put through to a member of the appropriate department who will be able to advise you from there.

More Clinical Negligence Cases Against The Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust

Further to my statement earlier this week, we have been acting on behalf of families impacted by the Shropshire maternity scandal and have received a raft of new enquiries from worried families.

I work in our clinical negligence department, where we currently have about 35 active maternity cases and have dealt with up to 50 cases against the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust over the past 15 years. The number of claims arising motivated us to employ an in-house midwife to assist with investigations.

We have received more than 70 new enquiries since the news broke about the leaked report into mother and baby deaths in Shropshire.

New enquiries are coming in quickly from other families, who have suffered heartbreaking bereavements or life-changing injuries whilst being cared for by Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals in recent years.

We have spoken with so many families who have been affected by failings at these
hospitals, many of whom have been told by the hospital that lessons have been learned from their loss and tragedy, and yet the evidence of still more cases creates increasing distress and a tragic loss of trust in the community.

In April 2017 the Trust sent letters to expectant mothers reassuring them that the service was safe and they had learnt but we have received enquiries that post date this.

We already feared that the failings had been worse than originally reported, and with every new family who comes forward, the number of clinical negligence cases against the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is likely to grow.

One of the many cases dealt with by Lanyon Bowdler is Sharon Morris, of Bridgnorth, who gave birth to twins at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 2005. The first twin was delivered successfully, but the second twin, Olivia, was not delivered until 1 hour and 12 minutes later, during which time she was deprived of oxygen, causing brain damage.

Olivia should have been urgently delivered given the absence of a reassuring heart beat. The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust admitted they were negligent in failing to deliver Olivia earlier, and had she been delivered in a timely manner they admitted she would not have sustained brain damage and would have developed normally.

Olivia now needs 24-hour care, cannot eat or speak, struggles to walk and has learning and behavioural issues.

The family successfully pursued a clinical negligence case against the hospital trust, with compensation meaning they could move to a specially adapted house to enable Olivia to have her own purpose-built bathroom and other vital facilities.

Sharon said the details of the leaked report into the failings in maternity care were all too familiar.

“It’s heartbreaking, but the contents of this report came as no surprise to be honest,” she said.

“We went through our clinical negligence case because we wanted to secure Olivia’s future, and we needed compensation to be able to give Olivia the best life we could.

“No amount of money or apologies can change the mistakes that were made in that hospital, but Olivia’s long-term care has to be paid for and, as her parents, we will not live forever.

“We can only hope that changes will now finally be made to urgently improve things at our local hospitals because we must ensure that these mistakes stop happening.”

It was a privilege today to talk alongside Dr Bill Kirkup CBE on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. Dr Kirkup was the Chairman of the Morecambe Bay Investigation into maternity and neonatal services and shares our concerns in relation to the care families have received at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and considered there were unmistakeable parallels with the scandal at Morecambe Bay. Dr Kirkup explained that the Morecambe Bay Investigation Report detailing numerous failings and deficiencies was circulated to other hospital Trusts in 2015, of which Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust was one. It was hoped that lessons would be learnt from Morecambe Bay in the wider NHS.

Leaked Report on the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust Maternity Scandal

I am a clinical negligence solicitor in our Shrewsbury branch, acting on behalf of families affected by failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. The report is sadly not surprising, but makes for horrific reading.

We have been working on behalf of a significant number of families, who have suffered bereavement and life-changing brain injuries as a result of failings at these hospitals, and we are therefore acutely aware of how this scandal has affected them, and continues to do so.

The contents of the leaked report sadly do not come as a surprise, given that we have seen repeated failings over a substantial number of years, with little apparent learning from previous mistakes.

We have seen action plans within investigation reports that year after year have been very similar, with no real change or improvement.

It has been clear that major failings took place which led to the deaths and severe brain injuries of babies, which could have been avoided, and it now looks like the failings go back even further than anyone feared.

This report will inevitably cause more worry for our local community, and in particular expectant mothers, and we will continue working on behalf of local families whose lives have been shattered due to clinical errors at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

One of our clients, Sharon Morris, said: “I am not shocked at these findings. Every day for the last 14 years we are constantly reminded of the failure by SATH to help me give birth to healthy twins.

“I was prepared for a caesarean after baby number one, but during that time they failed to notice my baby number two was in distress because they were monitoring the wrong heartbeat. My daughter was starved of oxygen during this time and is now severely disabled needing 24-hour care, can't eat, can't speak, struggles to walk and has learning and behavioural issues.

“This was not something we signed up for and I would not wish it upon anyone. No amount of money can change things and all we can now hope for is that changes are made to ensure other families don't suffer like we do. How can we trust the NHS?”

Medication Shortages

A survey of pharmacists found there has been a shortage in every major group of medicines in recent months.

A UK wide survey of 402 community pharmacies found a number of common medications to include HRT, contraceptives and anti-epileptic drugs among others are in short supply.

The UK Government announced a ban on some drug exports in order to protect access to those drugs for NHS patients. The restriction will stop wholesalers selling some medicines outside of the country for a higher price. The drugs on the export list include a number of HRT drugs, adrenaline pens for severe allergies, hepatitis B vaccines and a number of contraceptive drugs. Approximately 360,000 prescriptions of HRT are dispensed every month.

Among the shortage is antidepressant drug ‘Fluoxetine’ and pharmacists have been authorised to dispense alternative drugs without going back to the GP for this specific product.

The shortage of medications can also cause confusion with patients receiving different brands each month or a completely different drug as substitute.

A shortage in medication is also meaning that the cost of the medication is increasing which is adding to the financial strain of Clinical Commissioning Groups as GP practices struggle to keep within prescribing budgets.

The British Medical Association have said there are a number of reasons why medication shortages happen but it can have a serious effect on how quickly patients receive appropriate treatment. The shortage is also increasing the pressure on GP practices. Dr Farah Jameel of the BMA has said that "Practices often won't know that a drug is in short supply until patients return from the pharmacy and these extra GP appointments can dramatically add to their already burgeoning workload - as well as distressing patients."

The Department of Health and Social Care has instructed that patients should continue to order their repeat prescriptions but not ask for more medicines than they need.

If your health has been adversely affected due to a shortage in medication then feel free to contact our specalist clinical negligence team to see if we are able to assist you.

Life Ready Work Ready Conference

We were delighted earlier this month to be invited to speak at the Life Ready Work Ready conference organised by Shropshire Council and the Careers & Enterprise Company. The aim of the event was to bring together schools and employers to help provide more engaging and educational events for students, which help prepare them for the world of work. There were around 100 attendees made up of schools, SEND schools, employers, Enterprise Advisors and careers programme providers.

Shelley Robinson, Enterprise Coordinator of Shropshire Council said, ‘This was our first Life Ready Work Ready Conference and we were delighted by the number of employers, schools and colleges who attended. Because of the success of the event this is something we would like to repeat annually, to celebrate schools and colleges in their progress towards the Gatsby Benchmarks, which are the national recognition of a gold standard Careers Guidance Programme, and to thank the employers and volunteer Enterprise Advisers, who give up their valuable time to help schools and colleges in preparing their young people for the world of work. Lanyon Bowdler leads the way in their school engagement programmes and we were delighted that Holly and Lucy could come along and showcase their Mock Trial, Debate-Ed programmes and other ways in which they support careers education and inspire other employers to get involved in similar ways.’

What Do We Offer?

As a local business, Lanyon Bowdler feels that it is important for us to work closely with schools, colleges and universities, using our skills and experience to help pupils learn and develop. We offer three different educational programmes to schools: the Debate-Ed programme, which involves delivering interactive and engaging debating workshops; the Mock Trial programme, which gives students the opportunity to prepare a case and practise the roles of barristers, witnesses and jury members; and our structured work experience programme, which provides students with a realistic insight into working in the legal industry.


We have had great feedback from these projects, including a teacher who commented that as a school they desire and need help from companies to bring the classroom to reality, but also to develop young people’s personal development. The teacher thanked Lanyon Bowdler for delivering the Mock Trial programme to their school commenting that we had gone above and beyond for them.

We also had an excellent response from students, who often comment on how enjoyable and inspiring they find these projects. In addition, we have had numerous staff members whose initial contact with Lanyon Bowdler was coming for work experience and who have gone on to become permanent members of staff.

Many of those who work in law find that any initial interest in a legal career was strengthened by work experience, debating or other activities such as mock trials. It is important to us that we provide today’s generation of young people with great opportunities to develop their own interests in law. Delivering these activities with our colleagues also helps to foster a team feeling within Lanyon Bowdler, making the activities fun and rewarding for us too.

Building up Your Legal Experience

Mock trials are an excellent opportunity to gain an insight into legal work and to start developing the skills that you will need as part of that career. Law is an increasingly competitive field and being able to demonstrate a passion for the subject and relevant skills is very important in terms of making yourself stand out from the crowd.

Lanyon Bowdler regularly run mock trials for local schools. Please contact Holly Edwards or Lucy Speed at Lanyon Bowdler if you are interested in finding out more. Please click Debate-Ed programme for more information. If you are interested in legal work experience, applications for 2020 are being accepted until 15 January 2020 and can be sent to work.experience@lblaw.co.uk enclosing your CV and cover letter.

Pre-nuptial Agreements and the Family Farm

If you have an interest in a farm and you are getting married, then you should consider a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. A pre-nuptial agreement is an agreement in writing which sets out what you intend to happen with your financial matters should your marriage break down.

A pre-nuptial agreement can take into account the complexities involved in owning and running a farm. We understand that a farm is not only a place of work; it is also a home and a family asset that the people involved want to protect for future generations. There may be several family members living on the farm and different businesses operating from it. Therefore, a pre-nuptial agreement can give a couple and potentially, the whole family, clarity as to the situation on separation.

In England and Wales, pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding and in the event of divorce, the Court retains the ultimate decision making power as to whether the agreement should be upheld or given weight. However, in order to make sure any such agreement is given as much weight as possible by the Court, the parties must have a full appreciation of the implications of the agreement.

We would advise that both parties obtain independent legal advice and exchange full and frank financial disclosure. We would suggest that the agreement is signed no later than two months before the wedding to mitigate any potential future arguments that a party was pressurised into entering the agreement close to the wedding.

Therefore, if you are in the process of organising your wedding, consider a pre-nuptial agreement as part of your wedding preparation. If your wedding day is coming up soon, you can contact us to discuss a post-nuptial agreement; another type of agreement which sets out what should happen with financial matters on divorce. If you want to discuss this further then get in touch with one of our specialist family law solicitors who offer bespoke advice based on your circumstances.

Septic Tanks - What you Need to Know - New Legislation 2020

In 2015 new legislation came into force setting out general binding rules in respect of septic tanks. The legislation prohibits discharging directly from a septic tank into any water source. The legislation granted a grace period of five years before sanctions apply. The sanctions will become live on 1 January 2020. Despite the five years’ grace period many homeowners and prospective buyers where the property is connected to a septic tank are still not aware of this legislation.

If you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface water you will need to replace or upgrade your system by 1 January 2020. We recommend that where properties with septic tanks discharge directly to surface water are sold before 1 January 2020, responsibility for the replacement or upgrade of the existing system should be addressed between the buyer and seller as a condition of sale to avoid any nasty surprises or expense post completion.

Whilst the sanctions are not live until 1 January 2020, it is important to be aware that if the Environmental Agency finds evidence that your septic tank is discharging to a surface water and is causing pollution, you will need to replace or upgrade your system earlier than 1 January 2020. The Environmental Agency will usually insist this is completed within one year, although this differs on a case by case basis.

You may apply to the Environmental Agency for a permit for an existing or new discharge to a surface water from a septic tank, however a permit is only ever granted in exceptional circumstances.

How can I comply with the new regulations?

1. Connect to a mains sewer – this isn’t always an available option.

2. Install a drainage field, also known as an infiltration system, so that the septic tank discharges direct to the ground without causing pollution. It is however, important to be aware that you cannot use a soakaway, well or borehole to discharge to the ground. This option is usually complicated and costly. The Environmental Agency can assess the risk of using this system in your proposed location.

3. Replace your septic tank for a sewerage treatment plant as a sewerage treatment plant will produce a cleaner form of water and is therefore considered clean enough to discharge straight into a watercourse. This option can be costly but nevertheless necessary and indeed the most realistic option for most.

British Standard requirement

Your treatment system must meet the relevant British Standard that was in force at the time of installation. The standards currently in force for new systems are:

  • BS EN 12566 for small sewage treatment plants
  • BS 6297:2007 for drainage fields

Your treatment plant met the British Standard in place at the time of installation if:

You can also ask the company that installed your equipment to confirm that it complies with the British Standard that was in place at the time the equipment was installed.

If your treatment system was installed before 1983 there was no British Standard in place. You do not need to do anything to meet the British Standard requirement. You must still meet all the other general binding rules.

Enforcement and sanctions

The Environmental Agency will be responsible for enforcement and sanctions for which there are many and varied, they can include:-

  • Issuing a warning
  • Statutory enforcement notices
  • Injunctions
  • Civil sanctions
  • Requiring remediation works to be carried out
  • Issuing a formal caution
  • Prosecutions and orders ancillary to prosecution
  • Suspension or revocation of environmental permits

This list is not exhaustive but demonstrates the varied actions available to the Environmental Agency. They have stated that their approach will be firm but fair with the principles or proportionality in the application of the law, consistency in approach, transparency in terms of how they operate and what can be expected, targeting enforcement and accountability for the enforcement action they take.

All of the above is most important if you intend to retain your current house with a septic tank. However if you are intending to sell your property then there is certain information which you must provide to the prospective buyer in writing which is as follows:-

  • A description of the system
  • The location with reference to a plan
  • Details of any changes made to the system
  • Maintenance details for the system
  • Maintenance records

No doubt there will be many prospective buyers who will not want the hassle and expense of purchasing a property that requires the installation of a new system. We are already seeing delays in the conveyancing process due to additional enquiries and concerns being raised in respect of septic tanks and indeed in some cases transactions have fallen through as a result. It is also the case that some sellers are having to reduce the price of the sale due to the obvious costs which will be incurred in having a install a new system.

It will be interesting to see how this legislation is enforced and to see the impact of this on homeowners and indeed the conveyancing process.

Get in touch with Lanyon Bowdler’s experienced residential property team if you have any concerns or questions.

A Visit to Shrewsbury Veterans Outreach Hub

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the Veterans Outreach Hub in Shrewsbury town centre. I discussed various legal issues, which may impact the group personally, or indirectly impact some of the people they assist on a day to day basis.

Topics included various motoring offences, such as the risk of inadvertently driving under the influence of prescription drugs and how I could help in such a situation.

I also discussed how people leaving the Forces could find themselves struggling with mental health issues that, without help, could result in their lives unravelling quickly. For example, losing employment, relationships and accommodation, which could then spiral into the abuse of drink and drugs, thus further exacerbating the situation.

I hope that the message taken away is that there is help and support out there for anyone, particularly those with a Forces background, to access. Interestingly, earlier today the Shropshire Star released an article touching upon some of these issues.

Lanyon Bowdler is a leading law firm in Shropshire, Herefordshire and North Wales. If you need assistance with a motoring offence, please contact our experienced team of motoring offence solicitors.

North Wales Audi and Blind Veterans UK Llandudno Centre

The team at Lanyon Bowdler’s Conwy office were recently invited to take a tour of Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno.

We as a firm are proud to have sponsored a group of local individuals in their challenge to walk the battlefields of the Somme, blindfolded in aid of Blind Veterans UK. The team of six from Sytner North Wales Audi (which includes two veterans) will be heading to France on 8 November, timing their trip to coincide with Armistice Day. They will embark on the trek over two days before paying their respects to the fallen on Remembrance Sunday and returning to Llandudno on 11 November.

The team from Sytner North Wales Audi will be driving from Llandudno to France and they recently attended Lanyon Bowdler’s Conwy office with their transport vehicles of choice, proudly bearing the Lanyon Bowdler logo.

After a buffet lunch at our office, we climbed into the team’s (very comfortable!) Volkswagen Caravelle to be driven to Blind Veterans UK centre in Llandudno - a stunning building dating back to 1902 - for a guided tour conducted by the charity themselves.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Suzanne Evanson, who deals with fundraising at the charity. Suzanne was accompanied by Billy Baxter, a veteran who lost his sight following service in Bosnia in 1997. Since the loss of his sight, Billy has gone on to achieve a host of impressive feats, from setting the blind solo world land speed record on a motorbike with a speed of 165mph, to appearing as a guest on the BBC television programme Top Gear and driving a lap of their circuit as the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car". In 2014, Billy was appointed the official Town Crier of Llandudno, North Wales. To describe Billy as a force of nature would be an understatement; his positivity and enthusiasm for life is truly infectious and to spend time in his presence was an inspiring experience.

We then set off with Suzanne on a guided tour of the centre, where we were fortunate enough to meet more of the veterans as well as the staff and volunteers who work with them. Furthermore, several veterans (including Billy) are now employed by the charity in order to assist and train their fellow veterans.

The centre at Llandudno is available to veterans for holidays, respite, and nursing care. It has a variety of lounges, a bar, outdoor terrace, a fully equipped gym, a sports and activity hall, and an arts and craft workshop.

As well as helping with fitness and mobility, the centre also gives veterans with sight loss the skills they need to live an independent life. After visiting the hugely impressive great dining hall (suitably nicknamed the “Hogwarts Room”) we were shown around the ‘Training Kitchen’ where veterans are taught how to use appliances specially designed for those suffering from sight impairments. It was humbling to learn of the challenges faced by blind and vision-impaired individuals with everyday tasks we take for granted, such as filling the kettle to make a cup of tea or knowing what food is in each tin when preparing lunch. To learn the various methods used by the charity in ‘re-training’ veterans to carry out these daily tasks was truly heartening.

We left feeling inspired by the excellent work done by Blind Veterans UK, which relies entirely on external funding. Running the charity costs an astonishing £110,000 per day and we are hugely proud to be sponsoring the team at Sytner North Wales Audi in their fundraising challenge, donations to which can be made via their JustGiving page which is accepting donations until the end of March 2020.

Suzanne informed us that much of the charity’s fundraising relies heavily on legacies in wills, therefore if you would like to leave something in your will to Blind Veterans UK (or any other charity of your choice), then one of our specialist private client solicitors would be more than happy to assist you.

Lanyon Bowdler: Our Pledge

As a full service law firm, we know that armed forces personnel can be confronted with issues that can affect their day to day life. Lanyon Bowdler are proud signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant and our pledge demonstrates the firm’s commitment to helping those who are serving and/or, those who have served, along with their families, by offering our specialist legal advice.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise between the nation, government and armed forces themselves to help members of the armed forces community by ensuring they have the same access to government and commercial services, as well as access to products that other citizens have. This includes services such as help in finding a home, starting a new career and financial assistance. The Covenant is there to help any member of the armed forces, including family members, reservists and the bereaved. As to date, there are 4000 signatories to the Covenant including businesses of all sizes, charities, communities, local councils, central government and cadet forces who all honour their commitment to help and support the armed forces.

Relationships after Brain Injury

Relationships are a very important and intimate part of life. They give us a sense of security and wellbeing, and contribute towards our sense of self-identity. It is often our closest relationships that provide the vital emotional and practical support needed when hardships are faced, such as when a brain injury occurs.

For some people, the emotional, behavioural, physical and cognitive changes after brain injury can have an impact on existing and future relationships. There are a number of ways in which this can happen and a number of different outcomes. Some relationships may strengthen, whereas others may become strained over time or even completely break down.

Continuing support from friends can help the survivor feel more positive

Brain injury can cause changes in the way a person thinks, feels and behaves and can also affect their physical ability. This can sometimes affect the relationships they have with their friends. Many people will not know what a brain injury is and how it can impact someone, and therefore may not be able to understand how and why their friend has changed.

Friends might also assume that once the survivor is out of hospital, they will be ‘back to normal’. However, for many survivors the emotional, cognitive and behavioural effects only become noticeable once they have returned home. The survivor might need time to adjust to their new circumstances, and friends might need to adjust accordingly as well. Learning about the effects of brain injury and identifying ways of offering support can help friends during this period of adjustment.

Continuing support and care from friends can also help the survivor to feel more positive about themselves and their circumstances, which can have a positive impact on their overall recovery and general wellbeing. In turn, this can have a positive impact on the friendship and it can become possible to move forward creating new memories together.

Ways to support your friend

1. Learn about brain injury

  • Read about brain injury and speak to your friend about what they are personally experiencing.
  • Remember that brain injury symptoms can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, so while your friend may appear to be well and functioning on one day, they might struggle the next.
  • Learn about different coping strategies to help your friend with managing the effects of their injury.

2. Encourage your friend to seek support

  • Encourage your friend to contact their nearest Headway group or branch for support in their local area.
  • If you suspect your friend is feeling depressed, gently encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and to seek support, either from yourself, other friends or professional services.
  • If your friend is experiencing ongoing problems from their injury which are affecting their quality of life, encourage them to seek support from their GP or local adult social care team.

3. Look out for your friend

  • Ask after your friend and offer to help out where needed. At the same time, respect their independence and do not assume that they cannot do things by themselves, as many survivors learn ways of adapting to their injury over time.
  • If you are concerned that your friend lacks insight, and you notice anything which causes you to be concerned for their safety, consider speaking to their partner or other family members.
  • If appropriate, attend rehabilitation sessions with your friend and ask the rehabilitation team if there are any activities that you can help your friend with.

4. Offer practical support

  • If your friend has young children, offer to occasionally look after them for a few hours.
  • Offer to help with tasks such as grocery shopping, travelling, cooking or form-filling.
  • When buying gifts for your friend, consider practical things that can help them on a regular basis, such as a journal or personal organiser if they have memory problems.

5. Out and about

  • Fatigue can be a particular issue during or after outings. Try to therefore keep outings short, and encourage your friend to rest beforehand and afterwards.
  • If your friend struggles in busy, noisy environments, consider going somewhere quieter or visiting one another’s house.
  • While you cannot tell your friend whether or not they can drink, do remind them that alcohol can worsen the effects of their injury, especially behavioural effects.
  • Ask your friend whether they would like you to explain that they have had a brain injury to others when you are out.
  • Try to set a particular day and time for activities you do together on a regular basis, as this can be helpful if your friend has memory problems or difficulties with organising and planning.
  • Try not to take offence if your friend cancels on a plan at the last minute or does not socialise as much as they did before the injury.
  • Try to include your friend in activities that you do as a group. You could explore new or modified activities that are safe and enjoyable for everyone, including the survivor.

If you need support with a brain injury claim, please contact Lanyon Bowdler’s team of brain injury specialists who are experienced at handling serious cases.

Inquisitive about Inquests? Five Common Misconceptions of the Inquest Process

An inquest may be your first ever real world encounter with the legal profession. Whether that be as a witness giving evidence, a family member of a deceased relative or to give your medical expertise. However with that unknowing comes confusion about what happens at an inquest. Some may believe they are going to be staring up at a wig wearing Dickensian figure. Some may believe they will be pestered furiously by a lawyer demanding whether you ‘ordered the code red’ (A few good men).

This is not the case.

This blog will take you through and demystify five misconceptions of the inquest process. For ease sake, any referral to he shall mean he/she.

1. It will just be like a criminal courtroom

An inquest is not like criminal proceedings.

An inquest is a public hearing to establish who, when, where and how a person died. This is not an adversarial process, meaning a battle of two sides. An inquest is an investigation. Its purpose is to look at the facts themselves and conclude what has happened.

There is no prosecution or defence in inquests. The people you see being represented at inquests are called ‘interested parties’. These can be the deceased’s family or a hospital trust for example. To become an interested party, you have to be invited by the coroner.

And most importantly, wigs and gowns are not worn in the Coroner’s Court.

The one similarity that may be seen is that some inquests have a jury. However this is quite rare.

2. The inquest will say if someone is negligent or liable

It is not an uncommon misconception to believe an inquest is the arena to find a hospital negligent or decide if a crime has taken place. However, an inquest is not the place where those conclusions can be reached. There needs to be neutrality and the many inquest procedural rules tightly control this neutrality.

Let’s give a few examples:

  • No witness has to answer a question that may incriminate themselves;[i]
  • The coroner (or jury as mentioned earlier) cannot make conclusions that indicate liability.[ii]
  • The coroner and jury can only express an opinion on who the deceased was, how, when and where the deceased came by his death and if needed, any extra information required under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 2003, such as their place of birth.

Because of the nature of these investigations, it is inevitable that some questions will be asked that stray into negligence territory. For example, why a certain course of conduct was not taken. While these questions may be asked, liability would still not be stated at the end of proceedings.

Neutrality is key.

In potential criminal matters, if it appears that a death is likely to be caused by a homicide offence and that someone could be charged, the coroner will notify the crown prosecution service [iii]. If this is the case, an inquest will usually be suspended pending the outcome of a criminal trial [iv].

Inquests may therefore stray into liability matters. But, any conclusion will be neutral.

3. An inquest has guilty and not guilty verdicts

In the Criminal Justice System, judges give verdicts. Coroners on the other hand, do not give ‘verdicts’; they make ‘conclusions’. This change in terminology was made because people were associating inquests with criminal law. They are not to be compared. As mentioned, an inquest is not adversarial.

But what does ‘conclusions’ mean in a legal sense?

There are two main types of conclusion available to a coroner; short form conclusions and narrative conclusions.

There are nine usual short form conclusions that a coroner may pick from. These are:

1. Accident/Misadventure
2. Alcohol/Drug Related
3. Industrial Disease
4. Lawful/Unlawful Killing
5. Natural Causes
6. Open Conclusion (meaning they cannot be sure how)
7. Road Traffic Collision
8. Stillbirth
9. Suicide

Coroners are encouraged to keep to these 1/2 word set conclusions. [v]

The other type is called a narrative conclusion. These are usually a brief, neutral and factual statement of what happened[vi] e.g. ‘Mr Bloggs was injected with x drug that caused a severe allergic reaction.’

4. Everything has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt

Unlike the criminal world, not every conclusion must be reached on the standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ (99%). Usually, a coroner will work on the civil standard, ‘on the balance of probabilities’ (51%).

There are exceptions to this. Lawful and unlawful killing conclusions must be reached on the criminal standard because matters may stray into criminal proceedings.

Suicide, until recently was also considered on the criminal standard. This was changed recently to the civil standard[vii].

5. Every death has to be dealt with by a coroner

Inquests will only be called in specific circumstances. These may be when cause of death cannot be found by a post mortem or the death is unnatural. For example, if there are questions about what factors caused a death or someone died in violent circumstances in custody. Such circumstances will then be referred to the coroner.

The coroner has the independence to investigate without being under the control of the State. This ensures a fair and impartial process. A coroner will also be in charge of their own court (subject to certain legislation) and will spend most of the time during an inquest asking the questions and doing the investigations. He will decide what evidence is to be called, who he wants to hear give evidence and ultimately, will run the inquest how he feels is most appropriate.

Therefore a coroner does not investigate every death. However if he is referred a death to investigate, he will have near complete discretion on how to go about that.

Concluding Remarks

If you have been asked to appear at an inquest, either to give evidence or as an interested party to the proceedings, it is natural to feel nervous about the prospect. However, with these five myths debunked, you may be able to go into that Coroner’s Court with a little less mystery about the inquest process.

There are a bundle of resources available. Please find below a set of links to them. These institutions are here to help.


[i] Rule 22 of the Coroners Inquest Rules 2013

[ii] Section 10 (2) Coroners and Justice Act 2009

[iii] Rule 25 (4) Coroner’s Inquest Rules

[iv] Paragraph 1/2 of Schedule 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009

[v] Chief Coroner’s Guidance No 17, Para 26 “ Wherever possible coroners should conclude with a short form conclusion. This has the advantage of being simple and accessible for bereaved families and public alike but also clear for statistical purposes

[vi] Jamieson

[vii] R v Maughan

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