News


Andrew McLaughlin & Jimmy Barber successful in the Court of Appeal in Stewart v Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust [2017]

Andrew McLaughlin and Jimmy Barber, Members of St John’s Chambers Personal Injury Team, were instructed by Cindy Tsang, partner at Kennedys LLP, to represent the successful Respondent, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust in the case of Stewart v Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust  [2017] EWCA Civ 2091.

Summary: The Appellant, Mrs Stewart, was a community midwife who injured her back while lifting an item of work equipment provided to her by the Defendant Trust. The item was a plastic carry case or box containing an oxygen cylinder and paraphernalia needed at home births. Mrs Stewart alleged breaches by the Defendant of the Manual Handling Regulations 1992 and of its common law duty of care. The focus of the allegations was the Trust’s failure to carry out a risk assessment.

At first instance, the judge accepted the Trust’s argument that there was no need to carry out a risk assessment on the box, which had been in use by community midwives for many years, without complaints or evidence it had caused any problems. He held that the Trust was entitled to rely on the lifting and lowering risk filter in Appendix 3 of the HSE Guidelines on the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Applying this filter, the judge found that the box, which weighed around 7.5kg to 8kg and would ordinarily be lifted by its handle from mid-lower leg height, did not require a detailed risk assessment. He did not accept the Claimant’s argument that because she had ‘scooped’ the box directly from the floor using two hands rather than by picking it up by the purpose-built handle, the lowest filter zone of 7kg was applicable. The judge found that the real reason for the Claimant’s injury in lifting the box was that she had a latent pre-existing degenerative back condition and that the action would not have been unsafe for any normal person.

In the appeal, it was submitted on behalf of the Appellant inter alia that the judge had misdirected himself as to which party bore the burden of proof of proving whether a risk assessment had been undertaken, and that he was wrong to hold that a risk assessment was unnecessary. The Respondent argued that these grounds were misconceived because the judge had not been satisfied there was a ‘real risk’ of injury from the box, citing Koonjul v Thameslink Healthcare Services [2000] PIQR P123.

Giving the lead judgment, Hamblen LJ agreed with the Respondent that on a proper analysis the judge below had found there was no real risk of injury, and that this was a factual conclusion that he was entitled to reach on the evidence and with which the court should not interfere. The Court of Appeal endorsed the judge’s approach of taking the manner in which employees would ordinarily carry out the manual handling operation (i.e. by lifting the box by its handle, rather than by scooping it off the floor) and applying an intermediate weight where the hands were close to a boundary between the zones on the filter, i.e. here between 7kg and 13kg. The appeal was dismissed.

The appeal judgment is a useful reminder that the first stage in manual handling claims is always to consider if there is a ‘real risk’ of injury, which is the claimant’s burden of proof. The lifting and lowering risk filter in Appendix 3 of the HSE Guidelines is a helpful tool in establishing whether or not a manual handling operation carried out in its ordinary fashion requires a more detailed assessment. Only if the operation gives rise to a real risk of injury do the various duties under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 come into play.

View the full judgment here: Stewart v Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 2091

To instruct Andrew or Jimmy on a related matter please contact their clerks:  | 0117 923 4730 

Zoë Saunders elected as a bencher of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn

Congratulations to our Family Practice Group Member, Zoë Saunders who has been elected as a bencher of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. Zoë has extensive experience of cohabitation disputes involving ToLATA and Applications under Schedule 1 of the Children Act, and is often asked to advise both in writing and in conference as well as acting in disputed cases in the High Court, County Court and before the land registry adjudicator. She has expertise in financial remedy cases involving multiple properties, trusts of land, complex pensions and insolvency. In addition to her tenancy in Chambers , Zoë has been a Member of the Gray’s Inn barristers committee and an advocacy trainer for the Inn for a number of years as well.

Zoë is a strong advocate who you know will always give clients sensible, realistic advice but won’t shy away from pursuing challenging routes.” “Very thorough, good on her feet and clients love her.Chambers UK, Family/Matrimonial (2018)

To instruct Zoë on a Family matter please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4720 or email

St John’s Chambers Wins Regional/Scottish “Set of the Year 2018” for The Legal 500 Awards UK Bar

We are delighted to announce our success in being awarded “Set of the Year 2018” in the Regional/Scottish category for The Legal 500 Awards UK Bar 2018. Thank you to all of our referees for their ongoing support, without you this achievement would not have been possible. To view the full results please click here.

Our CEO, Derek Jenkins adds, “We are delighted to have won this prestigious national award which reflects the great work St John’s has achieved and recognises Chambers’ as a leading set.”

Leslie Blohm QC | Better late than never: Implied License Case finally arrives in the Law Reports

Leslie Blohm QCLeslie Blohm QC, barrister within St John’s Chambers’, Commercial & Chancery Practice Group, updates readers on the newly reported Implied License Case in The Weekly Law Reports.

When people claim rights of way, or town or village greens, by reason of their long use of land, landowners seek to argue that this long use was not ‘as of right’ but by permission, or license. If the license was not given expressly, by statement or notice, they may argue that it should be implied from all of the surrounding circumstances. Three specialist Queens’ Counsel  argued this point in Mann v. Somerset County Council, a High Court case heard in 2011 by HHJ Robert Owen QC in Birmingham. The case has been referred to from time to time since, but never fully reported until now, when it has been published in the Weekly Law Reports.

Leslie Blohm QC appeared for the County Council in Mann.

View the Judgement: R (Mann) v Somerset County Council (QBD) [2017] 4 WLR 170

View profile: Leslie Blohm QC

If you would like to instruct Leslie on a related matter, please contact his clerks:  | 0117 923 4740

Sophie Smith-Holland wins award for Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition 2017

Sophie Smith-Holland, pupil barrister within our Family Practice Group, has won the “Highly Commended” £500 prize for the Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition 2017. Entrants were asked to submit an essay no longer than 3000 words identifying and making a case for a law reform that is desirable, practical and useful. The winning essay titled “It’s not you… and it’s not me, either”: The case for no-fault divorce in England and Wales” will be published on the Bar Council’s website shortly, following her success Sophie will be attending the Law Reform Lecture in London to collect the award on the 15 December 2017.

The Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay Competition is an annual event aimed at developing and fostering an interest in law reform in pupils, law students, CPE/GDL students, BPTC students and those aiming for a career at the Bar.The Bar Council 2017

Many congratulations to Sophie on this achievement

St John’s Chambers Public and Admin Law barristers ranked Band 1 within Chambers UK 2018

Chambers’ is delighted to announce the success of our Public and Admin Law Practice Group having achieved either Band 1 or Band 2 rankings within the Chambers UK Bar 2018 guide for the Western Circuit.

Within our Agriculture & Rural Affairs team; Leslie Blohm QC achieved a Band 1 ranking within this area of law. “My first port of call for any complex agricultural or rural property matters. I trust his expertise, level-headedness and ability to whittle down the issues” Chambers UK, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (2018)

Christopher Jones was also ranked within the guide “Offers considered legal advice accompanied by practical and pragmatic suggestions.” “He is calm under pressure and well able to stand his ground against considerable opposition.” Chambers UK, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (2018)

Alex Troup “a respected chancery practitioner who frequently acts for farming clients. His caseload includes proprietary estoppel matters and inheritance claims concerning agricultural property.” Chambers UK, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (2018)

Simon Morgan, member of our Healthy & Safety law practice also achieved a Band 1 ranking within the Guide and is described here by one client “Simon has an excellent track record and is extremely good with clients. He is practical and knows how to work with regulators.” Chambers UK, Health & Safety (2018)

Our Professor Roy Light, member of our Licensing law practice achieved another Band 1 ranking for the Public and Admin Law Practice Group and is said to be “An extremely able lawyer who understands the commercial reality of what the client needs.” “He demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of many areas of licensing.” “Energetic, experienced and charming.” Chambers UK, Licensing (2018)

The achievers within our Planning group were Peter Wadsley; ranked Band 1 “He has an aura about him, and is highly respected for his encyclopaedic knowledge.” “Pragmatic, experienced and approachable.” Chambers UK, Planning (2018) and David Fletcher “He can grasp difficult questions with great skill.” Chambers UK, Planning (2018)

Rob Bocock, Practice Manager comments “I’m delighted that we have been ranked in band 1 of the Leading Sets in the 2018 Chambers & Partners UK Bar for so many of our core areas – I consider this testament to the level of service and quality which we are able to provide to our clients.”

If you would like to instruct any of our public and admin barristers, please contact their clerks: | 0117 923 4740

St John’s Chambers and Silks shortlisted for Legal 500 UK Awards 2018

It is with great pleasure that we announce both St. John’s Chambers and two of our Silks; Leslie Blohm QC and Kathryn Skellorn QC having been shortlisted for the Legal 500 UK Awards 2018.

St John’s Chambers is up for The Legal 500 UK Regional/Scottish Chambers of the year and our two Silks have both been shortlisted for The Legal 500 UK Regional/Scottish Silk of the year.

Leslie has been a member of chambers since 1984, and is now one of the Western Circuit’s leading commercial and chancery practitioners, both in advisory work and in litigation in all Courts from the most local up to and including the House of Lords and the Supreme Court.

Kathryn took silk in 2014 after twenty years as a specialist Children Act practitioner dealing with complex care work and contentious private law matters. She works across a full spectrum of cases in the Family Court, Higher Courts and the Court of Protection.

Thank you to all of our referees that have made our shortlisting possible.

To view the complete shortlist list please click here.

Our CEO, Derek Jenkins says “This demonstrates that St John’s Chambers is a leading set in the region with Chambers and two Silks shortlisted.”

St John’s Chambers welcomes Family Law and Court of Protection barrister Caroline Elford

Called to the bar in 2002 Caroline Elford joins St John’s Chambers’ Family Practice Group from Queen Square, Bristol.

Caroline is a specialist family practitioner who practises in all areas of family law with a strong emphasis on care proceedings and a special interest in matters of family finance. Her practice in this area has given her a detailed knowledge of the appropriate procedural law and she is known for her effectiveness as an advocate and a lawyer in technical applications. She also takes instructions in respect of Court of Protection matters.

Judi Evans, Head of the Family Practice Group said: “We are delighted to welcome Caroline to St John’s Chambers. Caroline adds further strength and depth to our Family Team and will ensure we can continue to offer our clients fantastic cover at all levels – she is well known and highly experienced, and has proved herself to be popular with instructing solicitors and lay clients alike.”

If you would like to discuss instructing Caroline, please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4720 or email

View profile: Caroline Elford

St John’s Chambers Family Practice achieves a Band 1 ranking as a set for the Western Circuit in Chambers and Partners UK 2018

St John’s Chambers Children and Finance team is said to be a highly regarded set which offers an impressive group of family barristers with a fine track record in an array of complex disputes. Our Members are frequently instructed in financial remedy cases involving international assets for married and unmarried couples. The set also remains a strong choice for private law children proceedings and jurisdictional disputes in relation to private law children. One satisfied instructing solicitor states: “They are a strong chambers with some very robust, heavyweight individuals, and an excellent reputation, both in relation to finance and children work.”

Our two family silks, Christopher Sharp QC and Kathryn Skellorn QC have been recognised within the Chambers and Partners UK 2018 guide, Christopher, ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ “is worthy of every accolade as he has superb client handling skills and a second-to-none intellect. “His attention to detail and grasp of information in a case is second to none. His ability to forensically dissect the most complicated finance case and present it in a clear and persuasive way is to be marvelled at.” Christopher is hugely respected for his experience of representing high net worth clients in major ancillary relief and TOLATA cases. He regularly acts in matters with an international element to them.

With Kathryn Skellorn, achieving a Band 3 rankings and described as “She is just the full package: she is exceptionally bright, she has a very good demeanour with clients, and her advocacy is very persuasive.” “Her forensic approach to cases is seriously impressive.” Kathryn specialises in handling complicated children work in both a public and a private context. Her cases frequently concern highly sensitive and difficult issues, as well as complex medical elements. A number of them concern brain trauma, torture, sexual abuse and child death. She also regularly handles disputes regarding surrogacy and same-sex parenthood.

One of our juniors, Jack Harris has been noted as an ‘Up and Coming’ individual who is highlighted for his strong work in family finance. “He is hot on the button, presents well to clients and gets great results.”

In addition, a number of our juniors within the family practice team have been equally successful in the public law, private law and finance spheres; Nick Miller, senior junior whose practice at the Bar is bolstered by his ten years’ previous experience as a solicitor has been ranked as a Band 1 junior. Andrew Commins, known for representing high net worth clients on significant matrimonial finance issues, and experience at handling cases involving pensions, companies and trusts and Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers, who focuses her practice on financial remedy issues and is especially skilled at advising on cases involving third-party interests, whilst also acting for clients in private children cases have both been listed as Band 2 juniors.

Six more of our juniors have also been ranked within family/matrimonial in the Chambers and Partners UK 2018 guide; Jody Atkinson focuses his practice on matrimonial finance issues, and is skilled at taking on inheritance and probate cases, whilst being active in matters related to child support. In public and private law; Catriona Duthie, practises across the full spectrum of family law matters, and is best known for her work acting for clients in private and public children law matters. Judi Evans, who heads up the family practice group, enjoys a solid reputation for her work in the public sphere including care, particularly on non-accidental injury cases. Richard Norman acts in a wide variety of family law matters, including those concerning financial remedies following relationship breakdowns and complicated private children cases. Lucy Reed specialises in children work, and is able to act for clients on a wide variety of public and private cases. She regularly advises on matters involving challenging or vulnerable parties, such as parents with substance abuse or mental health issues, and children with disabilities and learning difficulties. Zoë Saunders is best known for her work on cohabitation disputes, including TOLATA and Schedule 1 applications. She is also skilled at taking on matrimonial finance litigation, handling cases concerning pension, insolvency and land issues.

If you would like to instruct any of our family barristers, please contact their clerks: or 0117 923 4720

Business & Property Courts in Bristol and Cardiff | John Sharples

John SharplesSt John’s Chambers’ commercial & chancery specialist, John Sharples reminds readers of the changes made with the introduction of the new Business and Property Courts. The courts became operational in London and certain regional centres, including Bristol and Cardiff, on 2nd October 2017.

The New Court
The B&PC unites the specialist civil jurisdictions of the High Court under one umbrella. It is divided into separate specialist courts or lists, some of which are then further subdivided. The main ones are: the Business list (ChD), the Commercial Court (QBD), the Insolvency and Companies list (ChD), the Property, Trusts and Probate list (ChD) and the Technology and Construction Court (ChD). The different Courts/Lists and examples of cases with which each deals can be found in the most recent (13.10.17) Advisory Note here. Please check this website periodically for updates.

An important change
One of the most important changes for regional practitioners is that claims with a “significant link” to a particular Circuit “must” be issued in the B&PC District Registry for that Circuit: para 2.3(2) of the draft Practice Direction (which is appended to the Advisory Note).

A “significant link” with a Circuit exists where (a) one/more of the parties has an address or registered office in it (b) at least one of the witnesses lives there (c) it is the location of the dispute (d) the dispute concerns land, goods or other assets located in it or (e) the parties’ legal representatives are based there: draft PD para 2.3(3). Where a claim has links with more than one Circuit it should be issued in the one with which it has the most significant links: draft PD para 2.3(2).

Transfers between courts will continue to be governed by CPR 30.2 and 30.5 but the draft Practice Direction gives specific guidance about transferring cases in the B&PC between the RCJ and the District Circuits. It requires the court considering a transfer to have regard to, amongst other things, any “significant link” with a Circuit: draft PD para 3.1(3).

The likely outcome is that many, if not most, cases with a substantial connection to a local Circuit (for example, a dispute involving land located in it) will be heard there. An increase in the volume of B&PC work in the Circuits can therefore be expected. Local cases which previously were dealt with in London should be issued in the relevant Circuit and, if not, are likely to be transferred there.

Starting claims
For claims started after 2.10.17, statements of case in the B&PC must display the Court’s new title. So, for example, a dispute involving land in Bristol should be headed:

In the High Court of Justice
Business and Property Courts in Bristol
Property Trusts and Probate List (ChD)

Contentious probate disputes, family provision cases and administration proceedings, amongst others, will continue to bear their current subheadings (e.g. “In the estate of AB deceased”). The Advisory Note contains a list of useful examples.

Equivalent cases in the County Court that were previously marked “Chancery Business” will now be marked “Business and Property Court Work”. So the heading should read:

In the County Court at Cardiff
Business and Property Courts Work
Procedure in the Business and Property Courts

The B&PC applies the practice and procedures under the CPR and the Insolvency Rules generally but the new Practice Direction, when implemented, will apply specifically to it.

In addition, a draft pilot scheme, which will be tested in the B&PC and will involve significant changes to the rules on disclosure, has recently (2.11.17) been published. Details can be found here. The Chancery Bar’s first response to these proposals can be found here. There will be a consultation process with open events held in local Circuits. The new rules are expected to be approved in March/April 2018.

Overall
The creation of the B&PC and in particular the new rules requiring cases with a local connection to be issued/tried in the District Circuits it covers are a welcome – if overdue – recognition of the specialist skill and knowledge developed by local solicitors and the local Bar.

The B&PC confirms that no case is too big to be tried in the regions and in so doing helps to promote the goals of facilitating access to high quality justice that is convenient and efficient and of reducing excessive litigation costs.

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