St John’s Chambers is presented with ‘Regional Set of the Year 2018’ award at Legal 500 UK Bar Awards

Chief Executive Derek Jenkins and Rob Bocock, Practice Manager at St John’s  Chambers attended the Legal 500 UK Bar 2018 Awards ceremony at The Royal Exchange in London on 22nd February to collect our prestigious award for ‘Regional Set of the Year’.

Derek JenkinsEach year Legal 500 carry out in-depth research across the whole of the UK legal sector to identify the best sets out there, and this award clearly recognises St John’s as a stand out national set.

Thank you to all of our referees for their on-going 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.”

Michael Clarke successful in application for High Court to exercise inherent jurisdiction to order the provision of a DNA sample in an estate dispute

Michael ClarkeCommercial and Chancery barrister Michael Clarke, a Member of our Wills, Trusts and Tax Team, was instructed by Paul Gordon, litigation partner at Willans LLP solicitors who specialises in inheritance & trust disputes, to represent the successful applicant.

The applicant and respondent are sisters and both claim to be the daughters of the deceased Colin Birtles. The applicant alleges the respondent is not the biological daughter of the deceased. In 2013 the deceased died intestate. The respondent extracted a grant of letters of administration and claimed an interest under the estate.

The applicant has brought a claim for revocation of the grant, a grant to her instead, a declaration that the respondent is not entitled to the estate and to set aside a transaction between the estate and the respondent. The applicant has sought the consent of the respondent to DNA testing but she has declined.

The respondent was born to her mother Veronica while she was married to the deceased and the deceased subsequently paid maintenance to Veronica for the respondent until the respondent was 16. The respondent argued that she could rely on the presumption of legitimacy and that the challenge to her parentage was simply hearsay and so the application was a fishing expedition.

The issue was whether the Court had jurisdiction to order the respondent to submit to DNA testing. It was accepted by the applicant that the provisions of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 did not apply and that there was no direct authority that a person could otherwise be ordered to submit to DNA testing in the circumstances of the case – there was authority that the Court may order samples already obtained to be tested (albeit on very different facts) but that is very different.

The Court held that “the inherent jurisdiction of the court extends to directing that a party to proceedings give a saliva sample by way of mouth swab for the purposes of establishing paternity in a case where paternity is in issue.”

In the event the respondent refuses an adverse inference may be drawn at trial. However the Court indicated that in an appropriate case, a refusal may result in a contempt of Court or the striking out of a statement of case.

Paul Gordon, litigation partner at Willans LLP solicitors adds; “This case is a further demonstration that the courts are showing a willingness to control evidence and recognise that scientific reports play a part in modern litigation. This is a case that would otherwise be decided upon competing witness evidence and an order for the provision of DNA testing is a useful and practical step in the process, particularly where it could lead to an early and cheap resolution to the case.”

View judgment: Janice Elizabeth Nield-Moir v Lorrraine Karen Freeman [2018] EWHC 299 (Ch)

View Profile: Michael Clarke

If you would like to instruct Michael on a commercial or chancery matter, please contact his clerks:   or 0117 923 4740

Natasha Dzameh Winner of Barrister of the Year 2017

It is with great pleasure that we announce the achievement of Natasha Dzameh, one of our Commercial & Chancery barristers, in winning the Bristol Law Society’s “Barrister of the Year 2017” award last night. She was lauded as an excellent lawyer and was also commended on her client service skills. Her accomplishment is demonstrative of the diligence she applies to every case and the priority with which she treats client satisfaction.

Natasha comments on last night’s success “I am delighted to have won the Bristol Law Society’s “Barrister of the Year 2017” Award. This is a surprising and welcome result at such an early stage in my career at the Bar. The support of my colleagues in Chambers, the guidance of my clerks and the level of trust placed in me by my instructing solicitors has been essential to the quick development of my practice. I am very proud to have made a significant impact on the legal community in Bristol.

To instruct Natasha on a Commercial & Chancery matter please contact her clerks on  | 0117 923 4740

St John’s Chambers providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’

We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers has been recommended as a Top Tier Set in the Western Circuit’s Leading Set by The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017.

For one solicitor, St John’s Chambers is ‘one of the leading sets in the South West’, providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’. We specialise in civil matters and have been noted for our strength in commercial, construction, family, personal injury, clinical negligence, regulatory and public law matters. Inquests and inquiries is another key area for our Chambers’.

Three of our QCs are listed in the Western Circuits “Leading silks” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding silks nationwide.

Christopher Sharp QC, Family and children law & personal injury and clinical negligence, “He has a brilliant mind that understands the intricacies of any case.”

Leslie Blohm QC, Commercial, banking, insolvency, Chancery law and Property, “He is very grounded but has an air of absolute authority.”

Kathryn Skellorn QC, Family and children law, “Clients are in awe of her.”

In addition to the success of our QC’s, 38 of our barristers are listed in the “Leading juniors” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding juniors nationwide.

To view further details on our Chambers’ listings please click here

Latest article from John Dickinson | Mutual Wills: the case of Legg and Burton v Burton and others | A proprietary estoppel solution to replace the need for a binding contract?

John DickinsonJohn Dickinson, barrister within St John’s Chambers’ Wills, Trusts and Tax team, was successful in acting for the Claimants in the two day trial heard on 2nd and 3rd August, with judgment being handed down by His Honour Judge Matthews on 11th August 2017 in the High Court, Chancery Division of the Bristol District Registry. The Claimants established a constructive trust under the doctrine of mutual wills under which the estate of their Deceased mother was held for the Claimants, rather than being held under her last Will for various of her grandchildren and others. The judgment is available here.

The case contains a useful summary of the mutual wills doctrine. HHJ Matthews considered submissions made on the fallibility of memory, referring to the decision of Leggatt J in Blue v Ashley [2017] EWHC 1928 (Comm) and he analysed the evidence in terms of its inherent probability and the plausibility of the Claimants’ case. HHJ Matthews finds a proprietary estoppel route around the problem in the much criticised case of Healey v Brown [2002] EWHC 1405 (Ch), in which section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 was held to prevent a binding contract from arising for a specific gift of an interest in land and this in turn prevented a mutual wills constructive trust from being established. There is an interesting analysis of when a mutual wills constructive trust crystallises. HHJ Matthews considered that in a mutual wills case the constructive trust would generally arise on the death of the second testator, unless the agreement made between them had some term providing to the contrary. He considered whether the mutual wills constructive trust satisfied the so-called ‘three certainties’ rule, being (1) the intention to make a gift, (2) over what property and (3) who to. HHJ Matthews explains that the ‘three certainties’ rule is not a rule about trust law but rather a rule about property law, and that trusts being part of property law must follow that rule.

Read the full article: Mutual Wills: the case of Legg and Burton v Burton and others | A proprietary estoppel solution to replace the need for a binding contract?

View the judgment: Legg and Burton v Burton [2017] EWHC 2088 (Ch)

View profile: John Dickinson

If you would like to instruct John on a related matter please contact his clerks via email on c

Natasha Dzameh | Value judgment – Ilott v Mitson [2017]

Commercial and chancery barrister Natasha Dzameh, a member of our Wills, Trusts and Tax Team, has recently written an article in the May edition of the Trusts and Estates Law & Tax Journal. She reviews the case of Ilott v Mitson [2017] UKSC 17 and its impact upon claims by adult children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”).

Ilott was heard by 7 Justices of The Supreme Court. Judgment was given on 15 March 2017, almost 10 years after the first instance decision. This case concerns a 1975 Act claim by an adult child who had been estranged from her deceased mother for 26 years. The deceased’s will made no provision for said adult child and at first instance the sum of £50,000 was awarded to her. Following this there were two strands of litigation, one focused on the application of the section 3 criteria whilst the other addressed quantum.

Natasha’s article provides an overview of each stage of Ilott and considers the position practitioners find themselves in following this decision.

For the full article please see the link below.

Read the full article: Value judgment – Ilott v Mitson (Trusts and Estates Law & Tax Journal 4, May 2017)

View profile: Natasha Dzameh

If you would like to instruct Natasha on a commercial or chancery matter, please contact her clerks:   or 0117 923 4740

St John’s Wills and Trusts team provide a lively informative workshop on the recent Supreme Court decision in Ilott v Mitson

Oliver WoodingEarlier this month Alex Troup, Jody Atkinson and Oliver Wooding, barristers of St John’s Chambers, offered an informal training event aptly named “Where does Ilott v Mitson leave claimants under the Inheritance Act now?” The seminar began with a short presentation discussing the latest facts of the case and judgment followed by the views of Jody and Oliver on issues of life interest trusts, claimants on benefits, and the meaning of maintenance. This led to an open discussion and workshop where practitioners debated the practical consequences of the decision.

Delegates described the event as “Very humorous and informative which encouraged discussion/questions” and “All speakers opened up and were happy to voice opinions which was very useful and far better than summarising recent case law”.

Download Alex Troup’s latest article on the recent Supreme Court decision in Ilott v Mitson (reported sub nom Ilott v. Blue Cross and others) [2017] UKSC 17; [2017] 2 WLR 979: Some thoughts on Ilott v Mitson 

5 Quick Hits from Ilott v Mitson [2017] UKSC 17

Oliver WoodingOliver Wooding, a member of our Wills, Trust and Tax team provides 5 quick hits from the case of Ilott v Mitson.

10 years after the first instance judgment of the district judge, and five reported judgments later, the case of Ilott v Mitson today came to a conclusion as the Supreme Court handed down judgment on the appeal of the defendant charities against the July 2015 decision of the Court of Appeal ([2015] EWCA Civ 797) to award Mrs Heather Ilott £163,000 from her late mother’s estate on her claim under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Her mother had left her entire estate worth £486,000 to three charities to which she had no connection during her lifetime.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and re-instated the original award of DJ Million of £50,000. Lady Hale provides an additional judgment in support. The district judge did not fail to take into account Mrs Ilott’s tax position nor did he give inadequate reasons for his decision.

This appeal is the first time either the 1975 Act or its predecessors has been considered by the highest court in England and Wales. More detailed analysis of the judgment will follow from many practitioners and commentators but here are five quick takeaway points from a review of this morning’s judgment.

1. Sadly, authoritative guidance on claims by adult children remains lacking. As Lady Hale states at [58] and [66], the state of the present law is “unsatisfactory… giving as it does no guidance as to the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether an adult child is deserving or undeserving of reasonable maintenance.”

2. The court’s task in the 1975 Act is to decide whether the outcome of the will is unreasonable and if so, what provision would be reasonable. That is a value-judgment [24] which is difficult to challenge on appeal and it is very broad indeed. DJ Million’s first instance decision was not made in error. But had his decision been to either reject the claim entirely [35], or make provision for housing whether identical to the Court of Appeal [65(2)] or by way of life interest [44], then those approaches would also have been legitimate. It remains difficult to advise clients on the merits of a claim when the range of outcomes is so broad, so long as the value-judgement is conducted properly.

3. “Housing is undoubtedly one of the first things that anyone needs for her maintenance” – Lady Hale at [65(2)]. But the main judgment at [15] re-emphasises that maintenance “is by definition the provision of income rather than capital” and that the power under the Act is “to provide for maintenance, not to confer capital on the claimant.” So, “If housing is provided by way of maintenance, it is likely more often to be provided by…a life interest rather than by a capital sum” (see also [44] and [65(2)]). How this will work in practice, particularly where relations between the parties is poor or the value of the Estate or property is such that the costs and effort of administering a life interest trust are not negligible, remains to be seen.

4. The list of items which “could properly be described as necessities for daily living” and therefore fall within the meaning of maintenance include “essential white goods, basic carpeting, floor covering and curtains, the replacement of worn out and broken beds”, repairs to a house already owned, a reliable car and a holiday. Items which are needed to make the household function properly can perfectly sensibly fit within the concept of maintenance. [40]. Claimants will wish to ensure their schedules of needs and resources properly provide for such items even if they might be considered a “wish list”.

5. “Benefits are a part of the resources of the claimant and is relevant to consider whether they will continue to be received” [45] In this case, DJ Million did so on the information before him. Although the award of a £50,000 lump sum exceeded the means tested ceiling for Housing and Council Tax Benefits, “how the Claimant might use the award…was up to her”. The Court assumed that it would be spent on necessary items and therefore fall below the limit. Advisors of claimants will continue to have to consider the benefits position and advise appropriately; advisors of defendants are not going to be able to avoid an award being made even if it simply replaces what the claimant obtains through the public purse.

View profile: Oliver Wooding

If you would like to instruct Oliver on a commercial or chancery matter please contact his clerks on: or 0117 923 4740

Clarification on Beddoe orders and protective costs – Pettigrew and others v Edwards [2017] EWHC 8 (Ch)

Natasha DzamehNatasha Dzameh, a member of our commercial and chancery team, provides a brief note on the recent case of Pettigrew and others v Edwards [2017] EWHC 8 (Ch). This matter was heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice at the Royal Courts of Justice by Master Matthews. Natasha was present at the first hearing in this matter. The trustees were represented by Guy Adams who is also a member of Chambers’ Commercial and Chancery team.

In this case the deceased left her residuary estate on trust to the first and second trustees beneficially in equal shares subject to an income to be paid to the life tenant. The trustees considered the life tenant owed the sum of £100,000 due to a loan which had been granted by the deceased. Repayment of the loan was not forthcoming so the trustees withheld the income from the trust fund. The life tenant issued a claim in relation to the income. The trustees filed a defence and counterclaim then applied for the relevant orders.

Natasha’s article pinpoints key considerations for practitioners when contemplating whether to apply for a Beddoe order and whether the circumstances also warrant an application for a protective costs order. A more detailed analysis of this case is expected to be published in the Trusts and Estates, Law & Tax Journal in the near future.

Download article‘Clarification on Beddoe orders and protective costs’
Download judgment: Pettigrew and others v Edwards [2017] EWHC 8 (Ch)
View profile:
Natasha Dzameh

If you would like to instruct Natasha on a commercial or chancery matter please contact her clerks on: or 0117 923 4740

Trusts and co-ownership: latest article from wills and trusts barrister Jody Atkinson

Jody AtkinsonJody Atkinson, member of our wills, trusts and tax team, has recently written an article in the December edition of the Trusts and Estates Law and Tax Journal on the case of Ely v Robson [2016].

In 2016, Jody appeared for the successful party before the Court of Appeal in the case of Ely v Robson [2016] EWCA Civ 774. Jody upheld an oral agreement, reached on a park bench, as to how an unmarried couple owned their family home. This is an important decision in the field of proprietary estoppel and constructive trusts.

Jody is a member of both our commercial & chancery and family practice groups, and has a particular expertise in cross over areas such as cohabitant disputes.

If you would like to instruct Jody on a related matter please email his clerks on: .