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Calling all Divorcees with Pension Attachment Orders

During your divorce did you secure a pension attachment / earmarking order (as opposed to pension sharing orders) as part of the financial settlement? Was such an order made before 6 April 2015? Then the Pension Advisory Group has advised that you should take immediate legal advice.

When your pension attachment order was made, your lawyer, actuary or financial adviser could not have foreseen the introduction and subsequent impact of the pension freedoms, which came into effect in April 2015. The exact wording of your existing pension attachment order, coupled with the terms of the financial remedy order, will be crucial in determining the effect of these freedoms. It is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice regarding the current order. You may need to take further steps to protect your position, including varying the order or preserving the pension by either injunction or suitable undertaking.

Pension freedoms

In summary, the “pension freedoms” allow pension members to have greater flexibility and access to their defined contribution (as opposed to defined benefit or final salary) pension schemes. This could involve payment of a lump sum when the pension member is 55 years of age or older in lieu of future pension income.

These changes may well impact upon the effect of the pension attachment order secured in the non-member ex-spouse’s favour. The pension member retains ownership and control irrespective of the percentage of the pension earmarked to the ex-spouse. It has been reported that some members have attempted to thwart the original intention of the pension attachment order by using this new flexibility. For example, if an order is silent on the issue then in theory the member could commute 100% of the pension fund into a lump sum and leave no fund available to pay the ex-spouse the anticipated pension income.

Notification of application to commute

If the member applies to have part of the pension commuted then the pension fund administrators should inform the ex-spouse of the member’s application. This should then prompt the ex-spouse to seek legal advice (as well as potentially financial advice) immediately. But this supposes that the pension administrators have up-to-date contact details for the non-member ex-spouse.

Contact us

At Lanyon Bowdler, we offer fixed fee appointments for new clients. We can advise you as to whether you are at risk if the above circumstances apply to you and you have all the relevant paperwork to hand. To make an appointment please call our Shrewsbury office on 01743 280280 and ask to speak to a member of our specalist family team.

Why Should You Make a Will?

Making a Will is one of the most important steps you can take for both you and your family; it can help protect your loved ones when you are gone and ensure your affairs are dealt with in the way that you want.

Although not everyone’s circumstances are the same, here we explain some of the main reasons why you should make a Will.

1. To Ensure That Your Wishes and Intentions Are Carried Out

Your Will is a legal document that sets out how you want your property and other assets to be distributed after your death. Making a Will is the best way to ensure that your estate is administered in accordance with your wishes and intentions.

If you die without a Will, this is called dying ‘intestate’. In these circumstances, your estate is distributed in accordance with a strict set of rules known as the Rules of Intestacy. This means your estate will not be distributed in accordance with your express wishes, and your loved ones may not be entitled to anything. Unmarried partners, friends, stepchildren, other dependants or charities will not benefit from your estate unless you name them in your Will.

2. To Decide Who Should Be Responsible for Dealing with Your Affairs

Within your Will, you can name an executor (or multiple executors) who will be responsible for dealing with your estate and carrying out your wishes. This is an important job with much responsibility. Choosing your executors in advance allows you to choose the most suitable people whom you trust to carry out this task.

3. To Ensure Your Children Are Looked After

If you have young children, you can use your Will to appoint legal guardians to look after them if you pass away whilst they are under 18. If you don't appoint legal guardians and you pass away while your children are under 18, then the decision as to who looks after them could be left to the family courts, who may not appoint the same person/people you would have chosen.

4. To Make Matters Easier for Your Loved Ones

By making a Will you are setting out how you wish for your estate to be distributed. If you die without making a Will, then the process of administering the estate can become more time consuming and stressful. A Will can therefore make matters much easier, less expensive and less stressful for your loved ones, when it comes to dealing with your affairs when you are gone.

5. To Deal with Your Affairs in the Most Tax-Efficient Way

Making a Will with the help of a specialist Private Client solicitor can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that might be payable on the value of your assets (such as property and money) which you leave to your loved ones.

6. To Ensure That Your Partner or Cohabitee is Provided For

As mentioned above, if you die without a will then under the Rules of Intestacy, unmarried partners aren't automatically entitled to inherit anything from your estate, no matter how long you have been together. By making a Will, you can ensure that your partner will receive their fair share of your estate in accordance with your wishes.

7. To Provide for Your Stepchildren and other Dependants

Under the Rules of Intestacy, only spouses or blood relatives will automatically inherit if you die without a Will. If you have stepchildren (or foster children and any other dependants) and you want them to inherit after you die, you will need to provide for them in your Will.

8. If You Own a Property with Another Individual

If you jointly own a property with another person then it becomes very important to make a Will. This is especially significant if you own a property as ‘tenants in common’ (which means that your share of the property does not automatically pass to the other co-owner when you die). If you die without a Will and the Rules of Intestacy apply, then your closest blood relatives will inherit your share of the property, as opposed to your intended beneficiaries or the other co-owner. If your intention is for the other co-owner to inherit your share of the property, then you should make a Will (or change the nature of your ownership to become ‘joint tenants’).

9. To Give You Reassurance and Peace of Mind

When your Will is signed and dated, you will feel reassured knowing that your affairs are in order, everything has been arranged and your wishes will be carried out in a way that causes the least stress and difficulty for your loved ones. Aside from the legal reasons stated above, knowing that your wishes and intentions are clearly set out in a legal document will give you peace of mind.

Why Should You Instruct Lanyon Bowdler to Make a Will?

A Will is a legal document and as such, there is a strict set of legal rules which apply. If your Will is not correctly drafted, signed and witnessed in accordance with these rules, it could be deemed invalid and it will be as if you had not made a Will at all.

The rules for writing and witnessing a Will are very specific and it is therefore best to instruct an experienced Private Client solicitor to assist you and make sure it is done correctly. At Lanyon Bowdler our Will writing solicitors are experts in their field and will guide you through the whole process from start to finish.

What is a Nasogastric Tube?

Nasogastric intubation is a medical process involving the insertion of a plastic tube (known as an NG tube) through the nose, past the throat and down into the stomach. The decision to pass the tube must be made by two competent professionals and inserted by a suitably trained doctor or nurse. Around 17,000 NG tubes are used by the NHS each year.

They are used primarily for feeding in those unable to take in oral nutrition, e.g. stroke patients who are unable to swallow, but also for administering drugs in liquid form. The type and size is determined by the medical practitioner. The length of time an individual would require the tube varies but only small bore tubes should be used for long term feeding and these usually have guidewires to help with insertion.

Inserting a nasogastric tube

Before insertion the tube is measured from the tip of the patient’s nose, looped around the ear and then down by one to two inches below the bottom of the breastbone. The tube is then marked at this level to ensure that it has been inserted far enough into the patient’s stomach. It is then secured in place to prevent it from moving. It is the responsibility of the clinical staff to document the insertion of the NG tube, and the measurements taken.

Great care must be taken to ensure the tube has not passed down the windpipe and into the lungs. In order to test this, fluid is aspirated through the tube and tested with pH paper to determine the acidity of the fluid. If the pH is four or below, the tube is in the correct position. If this cannot be verified then an x-ray of the chest/abdomen must be taken. Most hospitals these days do take an x-ray to confirm the NG tube position. The x-ray is then checked by a doctor who will confirm whether the position is correct.

As tubes can be dislodged the position should be checked by using the ‘acid test’ before each feed is given.

A gravity based system is employed for feeding whereby the liquid feed is placed higher than the patient’s stomach. Sometimes the tube is connected to an electronic pump which can control and measure intake and flag up any interruption in the feeding process.

Nasogastric tubes can also be used to aspirate (remove by suction) gastrointestinal fluids and air from the stomach. Examples of this use are intestinal obstruction, (where there is a blockage in the intestines) as preparation for gastrointestinal surgery and incidents of poisoning when toxic fluid needs to be removed from the stomach.

If the tube is to be used for continuous drainage the tube is attached to a receptacle (usually a collector bag) and placed below the level of the stomach.

NG tubes should not be inserted in patients with severe neck and facial fractures or strictures of the oesophagus. There is also a risk to patients with bleeding disorders.

Possible complications of nasogastric tube insertion

Minor complications of NG insertion include nose bleeds and a sore throat. More serious problems can occur such as erosion of the tissues anywhere along the passage of the NG tube.

Most significantly if the tube has been incorrectly placed in the lungs, this can lead to collapse of the lung. If a feed is given via the incorrectly placed tube into the lung, fatal pneumonia can occur.

Between 2005 and March 2011 it is reported that 21 deaths and 79 cases of harm occurred due to misplaced NG tubes. Misplacing of NG tubes is described as a ‘never ‘event in NHS Trusts (i.e. something that should never happen).

Lanyon Bowdler is a leading law firm in Shropshire and Herefordshire. Our clinical negligence team have dealt with a number of cases involving NG tubes including failing to insert one when necessary, as well as the complications as outlined above.

World Sepsis Day - Friday 13 September

Today (Friday 13th September) is World Sepsis Day. World Sepsis Day is held every year and provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against sepsis. It is all about spreading awareness of the condition to ultimately help save lives. Sepsis is a condition that unfortunately affects around 700 people in the UK every day.

Lanyon Bowdler’s award winning clinical negligence team have acted for many clients who have been significantly injured or whose loved ones have died as a result of sepsis. Therefore we recognise the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. You can find more information on the sepsis page of our website.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that is the result of a massive immune response to a bacterial infection that gets into the blood. It an often be referred to as septicaemia or blood poisoning. The reason that it leads to life threatening circumstances is that it can often lead to organ failure or injury. Early recognition and treatment of sepsis reduces the mortality by 50% and it can be prevented by vaccination and clean care.

Symptoms

Sepsis can be hard to spot and the symptoms can vary between babies/young children and adults/older children. Below are lists of symptoms split into the specified age groups to help you spot the signs of symptoms, should you or someone close to you experience any of the symptoms below (not necessarily all of the symptoms) then you should call 999 or attend your local A&E department.

Baby or Young Children:

  • Blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
  • Difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast. Also you may notice grunting noises or their stomach sucking under their ribcage
  • A weak, high-pitched cry that is not like their normal cry
  • Not responding like they normally do, or no interest in feeding or normal activities such as play
  • Being sleepier than normal or difficult to take

Adults or Older Children:

  • Acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense
  • Blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
  • Difficulty breaching, breathlessness or breathing very fast.

The importance of asking: “Could it be Sepsis?”

Don’t be afraid to ask any medical professional this important question as sepsis can be overlooked.

There are a variety of other symptoms which could indicate sepsis but similarly could be something such as flu or a chest infection. Should you, your child or someone you know experience any of the following you are encouraged to contact 111.

  • feels very unwell or like there's something seriously wrong
  • has not urinated all day (for adults and older children) or in the last 12 hours (for babies and young children)
  • keeps vomiting and cannot keep any food or milk down (for babies and young children)
  • has swelling, redness or pain around a cut or wound
  • has a very high or low temperature, feels hot or cold to the touch, or is shivering

Treatment and Recovery

As previously mentioned, early treatment is vital in sepsis cases as if not treated early, it can turn into septic shock and cause your organs to fail.

Upon your admission to hospital you should get antibiotics within one hour of arrival. You may need other tests or treatments such as treatment in an intensive care unit, a machine to help you breathe (ventilator) or surgery to help remove areas of infection. These treatments will be dependant on your symptoms.

You may need to remain in hospital for several weeks and many people can make a full recovery from sepsis, it just takes time. Should you experience any long-term effects, otherwise called post-sepsis syndrome your GP can advise you on the most appropriate treatment.

More information is provided on sepsis by the UK Sepsis Trust, which is a charity who works hard to raise awareness and ultimately help save lives. Please visit www.sepsistrust.org for more information.

If you or a member of your family have been affected by sepsis and believe there was an issue with your treatment or diagnosis then our expert team will listen and carefully advise you whether you are within your rights to explore a claim for compensation. You can contact our team for free advice on 0800 652 3371.

New Rules are Shortly to Come into Force in Relation to the Abstraction of Water from Rivers, Wetlands and Boreholes

Previously exempt activities such as trickle irrigation for growing potatoes will require a licence from the Environment Agency. The deadline is 31 December 2019.

The new rules are an attempt by the Environment Agency to reduce the amount of water extracted from, in particular, streams with a modest flow. They follow the hot and dry summer of 2018 when there was much criticism of potato farms using spray irrigation.

Who Needs to Apply?

Any farmer, householder or business wanting to draw 4400 gallons (20m³) of water per day from a water course, wetland or a borehole will need to acquire a licence through the Environment Agency website. As a rough guide this is a similar amount to a medium sized milk tanker or equates to 260 baths a day. These water abstraction rules will better protect the environment by helping to balance the needs of abstractors while protecting scarce water supplies and the plants and animals that rely on them.

How Do I Apply for a Licence?

Enquiries can be made by calling 03708 506 506 or emailing enquiries@environment‐agency.gov.uk stating “New Authorisations” in the email subject. The Environment Agency strongly recommends that people submit their applications before the end of September 2019, as it can take up to three months to validate an application.

At Lanyon Bowdler our commercial and agricultural property team is well versed in all aspects of agriculture. If you have any queries relating to an agricultural matter, please contact us here.

Fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support

We’ve all heard the scary statistic: 1 in 2 of us will develop cancer during our lifetime. Sadly almost all of us will have lost a loved one to this indiscriminate disease, and seen the devastating impact it can have on not only the person directly affected, but also on their family and friends. Thankfully, I’m sure most of us have also heard of Macmillan Cancer Support, and the amazing work that they and other cancer charities do to help and support people living with cancer. Whether that support takes the form of physical, financial or emotional help, it all makes a vital difference in ensuring that individuals affected by cancer can live their lives as fully as possible.

However until recently, I didn’t know the full story behind Macmillan. At Lanyon Bowdler, we often have clients who have recently been diagnosed with many different types of cancer, as well as of course knowing people in our own families and communities with this disease. We wanted to know how we can help someone who is living with cancer and what support is available to them, and so we were very pleased when Macmillan offered to come in to the office and provide training on what help they can offer people in these situations.

It was fascinating to discover that the charity came about through the personal tragedy of the Macmillan family, but with a young man’s vision and determination that something should come out of the family’s loss. Douglas Macmillan was a young man when his father died of cancer, and had been given £10 by his father before he died. Little was known about cancer at that time, and often practical help and assistance was very limited - so Douglas decided to fund a society to help support people with cancer. Practical support was provided, with the first Macmillan nurses coming on board in the 1970s. Douglas himself later died of cancer – but his legacy lives on and Macmillan’s work now touches millions of lives every year.

It’s reassuring to know that charities like Macmillan are there to help people at the most difficult time of their lives with practical help; information and advice; financial support and palliative nursing care. We can all help this vital work to continue, whether that is by volunteering our time, joining with one of their campaigns or helping with a fundraising event and making a donation.

In September we’ll be taking part in the “world’s biggest coffee morning” – a fantastic opportunity to raise money whilst enjoying coffee and cake! West Mercia Energy and Lanyon Bowdler have agreed to jointly host a cake sale at Chapter House, Abbey Lawn on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 September to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Lanyon Bowdler is also joining forces with our clients Galliers Homes to take part in the Macmillan Coracle World Championships 2019 in Shrewsbury on Friday 13 September. You can sponsor the team here: http://bit.ly/2MMSvwj

The Movement Centre - Loss of NHS Funding

The Movement Centre is a UK charity and specialist treatment centre. They support children living with movement disabilities and their families.

They provide a specialist therapy called Targeted Training to help children gain movement control. Targeted Training therapy can enable children to develop new skills and become far more independent.

Through a course of Targeted Training therapy children can gain head control, so they can interact with their family; it can help children develop the skills to sit unaided, so that they can play with their friends. For some children it can enable them to walk!

For more information about the Movement Centre visit their website.

Sadly, The Movement Centre has recently lost all NHS funding. Last year NHS funding paid for 20 out 74 patients’ treatment. Funding from the NHS has been in decline over many years, but the complete withdrawal can hit a charity hard. Read the full story in the Shropshire Star here.

Fortunately, The Movement Centre is working harder than ever at fundraising to ensure they can keep funding treatment for children with movement difficulties. There are so many success stories, some of which you can see by visiting their website or their social media pages.

As a Corporate Partner of The Movement Centre, Lanyon Bowdler is committed to continuing to assist them. The Movement Centre is also one of the charities that I personally support having completed fundraising events such as a skydive, a chocolate ban and the fastest zip wire, along with taking part in events run by The Movement Centre such as their annual 5k and virtual walk. There are a number of activities to participate in.

Now more than ever, The Movement Centre needs public support in order to raise the money to continue the amazing work that they do. Current chair of Trustees, David Vicary has set up an emergency fund via a Just Giving page to try and raise some of the money lost from the NHS cuts. He will also be running the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon this September in aid of The Movement Centre. To donate to The Movement Centre emergency fund please follow this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/davidvicary

You can also hold your own fundraising events or take part in any of the events run by The Movement Centre which can be found on their website. They are grateful for any support that can be given.

Steve Coogan Avoids Full Driving Ban

“Back of the net!” a catchphrase associated with Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan’s best known character probably best sums up how he feels following his appearance at Crawley Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Coogan was before the Court to argue that to disqualify him from driving as a ‘totter’ would cause exceptional hardship to production staff at Baby Cow productions who will be assisting him with a new series of Alan Partridge to be screened later this year.

Coogan already had nine points on his driving licence, and, by committing this offence which carries three penalty points meant the Court had to consider whether or not to disqualify him as a ‘totter’.

The law states that anyone who accrues 12 penalty points within a three year period will be disqualified from driving for a minimum of six months unless they can successfully argue that the ban would cause ’exceptional hardship’.

If exceptional hardship is found the ban can then be reduced to less than six months or not imposed at all. In Coogan’s case the disqualification was reduced to two months to allow him to start production in October.

Such an application to the Court often requires a lot of preparation to make sure the correct argument is advanced with supporting evidence, something I have great experience of preparing.

So, in summary, ‘Knowing me Knowing you’ is the best I can do to help keep you on the road!

Employers’ Duty to Keep Records Relating to the National Minimum Wage and TUPE

Employers have a duty to keep sufficient records to establish that their workers have received the national minimum wage. These records must be kept for three years from the end of the pay reference period immediately following that to which the records relate, and this obligation continues after the employment has ceased.

Where a worker believes that they have been underpaid, they can require their employer to produce pay records. If the employer fails to do so within 14 days, a tribunal can award the worker up to 80 times the relevant minimum wage rate.

Does this duty to keep records remain with a transferor after a TUPE transfer, or is it assumed by the transferee? In a recent case, Mears Homecare Limited v Bradburn, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that it is assumed by the transferee.

Ten employees whose employment had transferred from Mears Homecare to a new employer served notices on Mears Homecare seeking pay information relating to a period of employment with them. Mears Homecare failed to respond within the necessary 14 days so the claimants issued tribunal proceedings, and the tribunal ordered them to pay each of the claimants £600. Mears Homecare appealed against this decision.

The effect of TUPE is that there is no termination of employment, and for most purposes the transferee (i.e. the new employer) merely steps into the shoes of the transferor (i.e. the previous employer – in this case Mears Homecare) as regards the claimants' contracts of employment. There are some exceptions to this. For example, criminal liability does not transfer, and nor do old age, invalidity and survivors' benefits under occupational pension schemes. The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided in this case that there is no exception regarding the obligation to keep and produce minimum wage records: it transfers along with other obligations, duties and rights of the transferor under or in connection with the contracts of employment to the transferee.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal acknowledged the practical inconvenience of the transfer of minimum wage record-keeping obligations for both transferors and transferees, but offered practical suggestions for dealing with it. Transferees can ensure that they receive full pay records from the transferor by including specific contractual protection. Transferors, who remain criminally liable for wilful failure to pay the minimum wage, should require the transferee to deliver pay records to them in the event of prosecution.

When does TUPE apply?

TUPE applies where there is a “relevant transfer”. There are two definitions of this term. Put simply, one applies where there is a “business transfer” and the other where there is a “service provision change” (i.e. where services, such as cleaning or catering services, are outsourced, taken over by a second (or subsequent) generation out-sourced services provider or taken back in-house).

A business transfer will usually occur when a business, or part of a business, is sold. It will also often occur when there is a change in the occupier of a building from which a business is run, such as a pub, restaurant, hotel or shop, and the new occupier continues to use the premises for the same purpose – even where the new occupant has not done any kind of deal with the previous occupant regarding the transfer of the business.

We would encourage anybody who is involved in a situation where TUPE might apply, whether as a transferor or transferee, to obtain advice from a suitably qualified and experienced lawyer in order to ensure that their rights and interests are protected.

Our company and commercial, commercial and agricultural property and employment teams are well versed in TUPE and the wider commercial aspects of relevant transfers. If you have any queries about TUPE, contact us here.

Rise in Infant Mortality Rates for Third Year in a Row

Data recently published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that, for the third consecutive year, infant mortality rates in England and Wales have risen, with families in the poorest communities worst affected.

Infant mortality is when a child dies before reaching their first birthday. The ONS reports that in 2017 there were 2,636 infant deaths in England and Wales which is, in fact, a decrease from 2,651 deaths in 2016. There were, however, fewer live births in England and Wales in 2017, meaning that the proportion of newborns surviving to age one has fallen. Between 2016 and 2017 the infant mortality rate increased from 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births to 3.9 per 1,000. Since the rates hit a record low of 3.6 per 1,000 in 2014, this increase to 3.9 represents a statistically significant increase.

Vasita Patel, from the ONS Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, stated that, “The infant mortality rate had been reducing since the 1980s, but since an all-time low in 2014 the rate has increased every year between 2014 to 2017. These changes are small and subject to random fluctuations, but when compared directly the rate in 2017 is significantly higher than 2014. However further monitoring over the next few years is needed to confirm a change in the trend.”

Infant mortality can be divided into neonatal mortality (deaths before 28 days) and post-neonatal mortality (deaths from 28 days but under 1 year). A report on behalf of the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Heath, the National Children’s Bureau and the British Association for Child and Adolescent Public Health showed that the majority of infant deaths occur in the neonatal period. In 2014 the rate of neonatal mortality in England also reached an all-time low of 2.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, but since then the rate has increased to 2.8 per 1,000 in 2017.

Comparison of mortality rates between different socio-economic backgrounds

In 2017 the infant mortality rate was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in the most deprived areas in England compared with 2.7 per 1,000 in the least deprived. However, the ONS figures show that the rate has decreased by 23.5% in the most deprived areas in England over the last 10 years, which is statistically significant.

The rates were highest among families working in routine or manual jobs compared to those working in higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations, although both groups have seen mortality rates rise since 2014.

Causes of infant mortality

Low birthweight is one of the main risk factors for infant mortality. Low birthweight describes a baby born weighing less than 2,500 grams (roughly 5.5 lb) and the ONS figures found that the infant mortality rate among low birthweight babies in 2017 has increased by 5.8% since 2016 to 34.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Rates of low birthweight are higher in less advantaged socio-economic groups. This can be attributed to a number of factors including poor prenatal care, poor nutrition during pregnancy, substance abuse, and smoking, which are all more common in these societal groups.

In April 2019 The Guardian reported that independent MP Frank Field had called on the government to investigate the rising infant mortality rates among the poorest groups in society, as he was concerned that rising infant mortality could be linked to increasing poverty caused by austerity and changes to benefits.

Understanding why children die, and taking action to prevent these deaths, is of the utmost importance. With all that is going on in politics at the moment, we hope that healthcare services and funding do not suffer as a result because, with an already stretched NHS, this could have a detrimental effect on the already increasing infant mortality rates.

At Lanyon Bowdler we understand how difficult it is to come to terms with the loss of a child, particularly when there are questions about the standard of care they received. As a department we have specialist expertise dealing with cases involving infant deaths and we have covered many cases arising from the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust baby death scandal, investigating the circumstances in which the deaths occurred and securing redress for the families. If you have concerns about the care your child has received, our team is happy to discuss the matter with you and guide you through the process sensitively.

The Rise in Number of ‘Rowing Parents’ Representing Themselves

In 2013 the government implemented plans to remove all legal aid available in respect of family matters; apart from people who have been victims of domestic violence who satisfy the means and merits test, and some funding has been made available for mediation. At that time the legal profession feared the implications of such a measure, particularly on the breakdown of the family, access to justice and the increased pressure this would have on the court system. It was felt that such cuts may be a false economy with more government spending needed in other areas such as on courts, social workers and other professionals who will have to intervene, support and help resolve matters without the assistance of the lawyers who would have previously represented parties.

The BBC has recently reported that six years later, Sir Andrew MacFarlane (President of the Family Division) has reported that there has been a significant rise in judges having to deal directly with ‘rowing parents’. He went on to say that many hearings could be avoided and called for a "public education programme" on how to be a parent after splitting up. One statistic provided in the Law Society Gazette last year reported that as many as 80% of family cases now involve one or more unrepresented parties. Not only do litigants-in-person take up more of the judge’s time, which can cause further pressure upon and delays with the courts, but parties are no longer benefiting from legal advice and support during the court process (which can be highly emotive) and thus might not be putting their best case forward.

Although judges and legal professionals would welcome a government review which may involve making legal aid available to more families in need, it seems unlikely that the previous system will be reintroduced in the near future.

What can you do if you have limited funds available?

In an ideal world everyone would be able to afford representation to ensure their case is properly presented and all salient points are considered by the court. But what can you do if you cannot afford to be represented throughout the entire process?

A little bit of advice and assistance can go a long way. At Lanyon Bowdler we offer fixed fee appointments where we can advise regarding the:

  • Court process;
  • Applicable law;
  • Likeliness of the court making certain directions and orders;
  • Preparation of application forms and statements; and
  • Representation at certain hearings.

In particular, many clients find a one hour fixed fee appointment at the outset of any proceedings extremely helpful and money well spent.

  • Look at all your options at the outset. Court proceedings should be a last resort and suitable mediation should always be explored and you can self-refer without the assistance of a solicitor. If you are of low means it may well be the case that you are entitled to legally aided mediation sessions. Other alternatives to mediation include family therapy and separated parenting programmes.

Lanyon Bowdler is a leading law firm in Shropshire, Herefordshire and North Wales. If you are in need of assistance with a family law matter, contact our specialist team of solicitors.

The Government May Consider Amending the Legislation Regarding the Use of Mobile Phones Whilst Driving

The High Court recently handed down judgment in the case of Ramsey Barreto - a case involving the use of handheld mobiles when driving.

Barreto became stuck in traffic following a collision and decided to film what was happening on his smartphone.

He successfully argued on appeal that he wasn’t using his phone to communicate.

The concern is that people may now misinterpret the judgment and believe that they can use their phone whilst driving.

It is expected that the government may now look at amending the legislation.

Until that happens, it may be that the police consider stopping drivers ‘using’ mobile phones for other potentially more serious offences, such as driving without due care or dangerous driving for which the penalties are potentially more severe.

Lanyon Bowdler is a leading law firm in Shropshire, Herefordshire and North Wales. For any queries regarding this or any other area of motoring law, please contact motoring offences specialist, Stephen Scully, on 01743 280232.

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