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Smile, You're on Camera

Reports in the media today have confirmed that TV cameras are going to be allowed to film in Crown Courts in England and Wales for the first time later this year.

New legislation will allow Judges' sentencing remarks in serious high profile criminal cases to be seen and heard by TV and online audiences.

Under the proposals the Judge alone will be seen on camera as he or she delivers their sentencing remarks ‘live’ with a slight delay built in.

Whilst the proposals are a step forward in promoting more openness as to how the criminal justice system operates, my concern is that the end result may be taken out of context if the public are not shown how the Judge reached his or her sentencing conclusion.

As a solicitor advocate regularly appearing before the Crown Court, my job, and that of the prosecutor, is to assist the Judge with reaching a sentence by referring to official sentencing guidelines and sometimes case law.

I also advance personal mitigation on behalf of the defendant which can often be persuasive in how the Judge then determines the overall sentence as part of his or her sentencing remarks.

Without full access to the sentence hearing, which can be quite lengthy, the public may be left scratching their heads as to how and why certain sentences are reached by the Judge.

It will be interesting to see what happens...

Heterosexual Couples and Civil Partnerships

Campaigners for mixed sex couples seeking to enter into civil partnerships as opposed to marriage rejoiced when as of 31 December 2019 they could finally conduct their civil partnerships.The change in law was to address the imbalance between heterosexual and same sex couples, the latter of whom have been able to enter into either a civil partnership or marriage since March 2014 (those in Northern Ireland will be able to marry as from later this month – January 2020).

So what are the similarities and differences between marriages and civil partnerships and why do people continue to choose to legally formalise their relationship rather than simply cohabit?

Similarities:

The major and most important similarity is that both provide legal recognition to a relationship between two people. In turn both marriage and civil partnerships offer many of the same legal rights in respect of various areas of law including financial remedy claims against one another in the event the parties’ relationship breaks down, parental responsibility, inheritance tax and intestacy rights.

Both heterosexual and same sex couples may enter into a marriage in England, Wales and Scotland.

Differences:

The differences between the two are not significant, but here are the main points:

  • Civil partners cannot refer themselves as ‘married’ and married couples cannot refer to themselves as ‘civil partners’.
  • Civil partnerships are registered by the couple signing the civil partnership document as opposed to marriages where the couple exchange vows.
  • Both parents of the couple are named on the civil partnership certificate whereas only fathers of the couple are named on the marriage certificate.
  • In the event the couple’s relationship breaks down and they seek legal recognition of the same, the legal terminology for the two differ with a decree absolute/divorce being sought in respect of a married couple and a dissolution order being sought in respect of a civil partnership couple.
  • Some countries do not recognise civil partnerships.
  • Some associate marriage with patriarchy and a marriage can have religious connotations, whereas civil partnerships do not.
  • Given adultery is defined as ‘voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other but one or both of whom is or are married’, this fact cannot be relied upon by same sex couples seeking a divorce or dissolution of their civil partnership (unless the sexual intercourse was with someone of the opposite sex). If a party believes his/her spouse or civil partner has had sexual intercourse with a third party of the same sex, then he or she can use this as an example of unreasonable behaviour.
  • Same sex couples who are in a civil partnership can convert the same into a marriage whereas the same is not true vice versa.

What if couples cohabit as opposed to marry or enter into a civil partnership?

Common law husbands and wives acquiring rights through their cohabitation is a myth. Couples can formalise their financial arrangements by entering into a cohabitation agreement, but this does not offer the same rights and responsibilities as married couples or civil partners.

My Week's Work Experience - Brendan O'Keeffe

I recently finished a week’s work experience at Lanyon Bowdler’s office in Shrewsbury. It started on Monday 16 December. All my contact with Lanyon Bowdler prior to starting the work experience was extremely impressive. I was mainly in contact with Lucy Speed to organise the best time to arrange it. Lucy was very considerate to the fact that I am a university student and helped me arrange a time to fit around my studies. This immediately gave the impression that I would be welcomed upon my arrival at Lanyon Bowdler, as it was clear that Lucy was trying to ensure that the experience was done at a time that was good for me, so I could get the most out of it.

Day One – First Day Nerves

Even after this reassuring contact, I found myself optimistic but still quite nervous when the first day rolled around. Upon arriving at Lanyon Bowdler’s office any nerves I had were immediately quelled as I entered reception to meet various members of staff on the reception desk, who seemed very friendly and approachable, with a real emphasis on helping me get to where I needed to be. I explained I had been corresponding with Lucy Speed and that I was here for a work experience placement. Reception welcomed me and phoned Lucy to let her know I had arrived. While I waited I had a really good conversation with the staff on reception, who expressed that they hoped I would enjoy my week. When I met Lucy she seemed genuinely happy to meet me and sat down with me to go over an induction. She explained that I would be in various departments over the week starting with her in the Court of Protection department. I was given an outline of what my week would look like and with whom.

My Week

Throughout my week I was able to experience a wide range of departments within Lanyon Bowdler - Court of Protection, marketing, clinical negligence, employment and personal injury. I witnessed an array of the different areas that the firm deals with and met lots of different people with vast knowledge of their respected fields. A highlight for me was the ability to see how each department responded to the intricacies of their clients’ needs, which helped drive home the idea that no two clients’ requirements are identical and that you need to adapt accordingly to ensure a high quality service is delivered. Although the areas of law changed, each department maintained this client focus approach, emphasising the importance of the clients’ needs and desires.

Whenever I entered a new department I was always introduced to all the staff I would be working alongside. This removed any worries I had about being an outsider observing the workplace and made me feel like I was part of a team, even though I was only in each department for a small amount of time. The more open-planned office style helped with this a lot, as there was always someone to ask for help or just to bounce an idea off, despite being busy due to the Christmas period. I always felt like time was taken to explain each department’s role and function so that I could understand what was going on around me. Whenever I would ask any of the staff a question, you could see they were taking it very seriously and taking time to consider it and give me the best answer possible. Having this understanding meant I could follow the work that was going on and learn a lot as a result. Later in the week I was able to sit in on client meetings as well as departmental meetings and this solidified the idea that the staff at Lanyon Bowdler wanted me to get as much out of this week as possible. I also got to see the principles I had learnt regarding clients in action. Both before and after the meetings someone sat down with me to make sure I was able to follow it and not merely witness it, allowing me to take valuable lessons from these interactions. Without this I imagine I would have felt very lost, reducing the amount I would have been able to take away from the experience.

Diversity and Equality

I will briefly mention Lanyon Bowdler’s approach to diversity. This was extremely important, as I was applying for work experience with a disability meaning that I am wheelchair-bound. This was one of the main things I was nervous about, as I was concerned about how it may limit me. But throughout my week accessing the office was easy and without issue. I have been able to participate in everything that was planned, allowing me to relax and really take in the week as I had no concerns on my mind. This level of accessibility cannot happen by accident, as I have learnt over the years, and speaks of Lanyon Bowdler’s genuine commitment to diversity and equality.

It has been a great environment to do work experience in. It was friendly and welcoming without compromising professionalism and pushed my ability with challenging and engaging tasks throughout the week.

Please note that the deadline for 2020 work experience applications is 15 January 2020. If you would like to apply for work experience at Lanyon Bowdler, please send your CV and covering letter to work.experience@lblaw.co.uk.

Discovery of Viking Hoard Leads to Jail Sentences for Metal Detectorists

The legal obligations and responsibilities imposed on metal detectorists were highlighted recently in a well-publicised case involving two men who were given lengthy jail sentences by a judge at Worcester Crown Court for failing to declare and selling to dealers a very rare and valuable find of coins and jewellery in a field in Herefordshire. They were convicted of theft and concealing their find.

Two other men were also found guilty of conspiring to conceal the coins.

The Viking hoard, which included about 300 coins, a 9th century gold ring, a dragon’s head bracelet, and a crystal rock pendant, were discovered by metal detectorists, George Powell and Layton Davies, in 2015. Experts say the coins were Saxon but believed to have been hidden by a Viking.

Just 31 coins and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered; the rest are still missing. The metal detectorists failed to reveal the precise location of the hoard, or what happened to the rest of it.

Judge Nicholas Cartwright sentenced the pair to 10 years and eight and a half years in prison. Some may consider these sentences to be somewhat harsh but it is important to understand some of the reasons behind them.

Why did the metal detectorists receive jail sentences?

Firstly, the metal detectorists cheated the landowner. It appears that they may not have obtained the prior written permission of the landowner before carrying out metal detecting activities, and they failed to tell him about their find. Broadly speaking, “treasure” now includes all objects containing precious metal that were buried for any reason and are at least 300 years old. Failure to record a find of “treasure” could result in a fine and / or up to three months in prison. Finds must be reported to the coroner in the district in which it was found within 14 days. If the coroner declares the find to be treasure, museums will have the opportunity to purchase it. The treasure is valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee and they recommend a figure to the Secretary of State for Culture. The museum pays that amount if the valuation is agreed and a reward (equal to the full market value of the treasure) is usually paid to the finder and / or the owner / occupier of the land. In this case, not only did the metal detectorists fail to obtain the prior written permission of the landowner but they also did not tell him about the find. This means that they effectively cheated the landowner because he would have been entitled to half of the substantial value of the treasure.

Secondly, the metal detectorists cheated the public. The treasure belongs to the nation and it should be seen by others. If displayed locally, it would have been accessible to members of the public and would have attracted tourists who wanted to come and view the hoard.

Thirdly, the treasure is of historical significance. The Viking hoard dated back 1,100 years to the beginnings of a united English kingdom. It could have been buried by someone from the Great Viking Army in the 9th century, when the Saxons were pushing the Vikings back to the east of England. This find was the most significant link to this period of Herefordshire’s history that has been found to date. Experts will not be able to examine the sequence of events relating to the burial, or the relationship between the individual items in the hoard.

The sentences handed down in this case highlight the importance attached to our heritage and culture, in which we all have an interest. The items that have been lost to the nation in this case were described by the prosecutor as of “immense archaeological, historical and academic value”, which probably helps to explain why seemingly harsh sentences were passed in this particular case. The metal detectorists not only failed to declare their find, but they also sold the majority of the treasure to dealers and did not reveal what had happened to the treasure. They would have received a substantial payment if they had declared the hoard. If they had obtained the correct permission they would have been entitled to half of the value of the hoard between them, which was estimated at between £3 and £12 million. However, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said that the pair wanted more. There was clearly an element of greed.

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.

Feedback

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.

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