St John’s Chambers welcomes family law barrister Bethany Hardwick

Bethany HardwickCalled to the bar in 2014 Bethany Hardwick joins St John’s Chambers’ Family Practice Group following a family law focussed pupillage at 1 Hare Court in London.

Originally from Cornwall, Bethany moved to Oxford and thereafter London to complete her legal education and training. She developed her passion for family law and children’s rights as an undergraduate at Oxford where she ultimately finished top in her year for the subject. Bethany obtained extensive experience in financial remedy proceedings during her pupillage at 1 Hare Court, and is comfortable handling complex financial structures and settlements. She is now a specialist family law barrister at St John’s, accepting instructions in all aspects of family law, in particular private children disputes and financial relief claims.

Bethany accepts instructions to represent clients at all stages of financial remedy proceedings. She has experience in pension disputes, non-disclosure and applications for variation. She is also happy to advise on jurisdictional issues. Her financial experience also covers cohabitation disputes under ToLATA 1996 and claims under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

In addition Bethany represents clients in all forms of private children proceedings. This includes applications for child arrangement orders, prohibited steps order and leave to remove.

Bethany said: “I am delighted to be joining a family law team with such fantastic strength and depth across all areas of family law. The team combines first rate legal analysis with a sensitive client focussed approach. My aim is to provide that same excellent level of service to my clients on joining St John’s”.

Judi Evans, Head of our family practice group said: “I am pleased to welcome Bethany to the Family Practice Group. She has a keen interest in all aspects of family law, and adopts a user-friendly approach to all her work. She will be a very valuable addition to our growing family team.” 

For more details about Bethany’s practice, please visit her profile.

If you would like to discuss instructing Beth, please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4720 or e-mail .

Property and real estate barristers bring lawyers up to speed with the latest developments in property law

John SharplesMembers of our property and real estate team have had a busy autumn delivering their property litigation update to solicitors in Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol over the last few months. These updates were aimed at bringing lawyers up to speed with all the latest developments in the world of property matters.

Chaired by one of the Western Circuit’s property litigation leaders, John Sharples, the afternoon gave delegates a variety of talks from Adam Boyle (who has two proprietary estoppel cases in the Court of Appeal this year under his belt), delivering a review on the Court of Appeal’s recent attempts to grapple with the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. Richard Gold went on to consider developments in landlord and tenant law.  A quick stop for cream teas in the afternoon, and delegates were back to their seats to hear commercial and chancery barrister, Joss Knight, talk about recent developments relating to the law of guarantees with a particular emphasis on the High Court ruling of the viability of assignments in the case of EMI Group Ltd v O v H Q 1 Ltd [2016] EWHC 529 (Ch). The seminar concluded with Charlie Newington-Bridges considering, drafting and interpretation of land option agreements in the context of a case he recently took to the Court of Appeal.

The seminars attracted many solicitors from Bristol and South Wales including members of the Legal Network Wales who kindly sponsored the Swansea event. The delegates described these updates as ‘detailed and a variety of areas covered’ and speakers were ‘excellent, and engaging’.

The property and real estate team will be back on the road again in the New Year delivering talks in Bristol, Exeter, Cornwall and South Wales. To subscribe to our mailing list so you can be kept up to date with these talks, please click here.

You can download copies of the talks:

For further information about our property and real estate team, please visit this page.

Financial remedy update: Latest article from Christopher Sharp QC

CChristopher Sharphristopher Sharp QC, who is acknowledged by Chambers UK as one of only five star Silks in Family Law in the country has written an article for the Autumn edition of the FLBA’s newsletter, Family Affairs.

The article continues Christopher’s regular reviews of the more important recent financial remedy cases, this one covering the period from June 2016 to October 2016.

Download articles:

“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. ‘He’s brilliant on the detail, very clever, very thorough, and he doesn’t give up – he’s a classic QC.’ “ Chambers UK (2017).

View profile: Christopher Sharp QC 

Qader v Esure Court of Appeal decision:- fixed costs do not apply to ex-protocol cases that are allocated to the multi-track

matthew-whiteMatthew White, a member of our personal injury team, provides an update in the much awaited judgment in Qader v Esure and conjoined appeal [2016] EWCA Civ 1109 which the Court of Appeal has handed down today.

CPR Part 45 section IIIA deals with cases which start life within an EL/PL/RTA protocol (what you probably think of as “portal” claims). Section IIIA defines itself as the fixed costs regime for cases that start life as a protocol/portal claim but exit the process.

A question arose in relation to cases which started life as protocol/portal claims, but were allocated to the multi-track. In Qader itself, for example, value was modest (and well within fast-track value), but due to allegations that this was a deliberate “slam on” accident (i.e. the Claimant’s car deliberately braked so that the Defendant could not avoid a collision), the claim was allocated to the multi-track (and a 2-day trial was anticipated). The District Judge and (on first appeal) Circuit Judge both held that CPR Part 45 section IIIA means what it says, and since the case started life as a protocol case, only fixed costs were recoverable even though it was allocated to the multi-track and a trial lasting more than 1 day was expected. In other words, fixed costs which were intended for fast track cases lasting a day or less would have to be made to stretch to cover more significant litigation (not an enticing prospect for the lawyers).

The big news is in the heading of this piece. The Court of Appeal determined that CPR Part 45 section IIIA is automatically dis-applied in any case allocated to the multi-track.

How they got there is interesting. Giving the leading judgment (with which the others agreed), Briggs LJ said that “no ordinary process of construction or interpretation of the wording of the relevant rules could lead to that result [that fixed costs were dis-applied on allocation to the multi-track]”. Nor would it be irrational were the rules to be that fixed costs apply even when portal claims were allocated to the multi-track. However, an analysis of the historic origins of the fixed costs regime shows that that was not what was intended, and the court would add words to the CPR to achieve the legislative intention.

I did not expect that reasoning myself. I rather expected the Court of Appeal to observe that fixed costs “top out” at £25,000 (since costs are a percentage of damages, the top band being where damages are “more than £10,000 but not more than £25,000” – the inference (to my mind) being that if damages were more than £25,000 the fixed costs regime would not apply). That was not, in the event, the route taken.

The result here will bring sighs of relief from claimant solicitors who were facing arguments from defendants to the effect that if the claim started life in the portal, fixed costs would apply even if the claim was re-valued at well in excess of fast track limits.

It seems to me inevitable that this decision will impact on litigation. I can foresee the following:-

  1. Claimant advisers might well be keen to beef-up the complexity of what might otherwise be regarded as relatively ordinary fast track litigation with a view to persuading a court to allocate to the multi-track (and trigger assessed rather than fixed costs). Briggs LJ said that “I consider that this is a risk best addressed by relying upon the good sense and vigour of case management judges in furthering the overriding objective, and in penalising those who seek to abuse the opportunity to which the allocation stage in such a claim gives rise.” Whilst I follow the sentiment behind that, the opportunity to “penalise” is relatively limited given that one would expect a costs penalty only, and the size of the costs penalty would be limited by the fixed costs regime itself unless the court found there to be exceptional circumstances so as to trigger 45.29J. That is, if a claimant were to take a punt on allocation to the multi-track for a borderline spurious reason, that claimant might calculate that the likely extent of the risk is the low fixed costs of a failed application which might be regarded as a gamble worth taking when set against the potential benefits of allocation out of the fixed costs regime.
  2. Defendant advisers might be deterred from running arguments which would (or might) lead to cases being allocated to the multi-track. This decision might be a disincentive to argue fraud.

Note what the decision does and does not do. Part 45.29B has been amended as follows (new words added by the Court of Appeal shown with underlining):-

Subject to rules 45.29F, 45.29G, 45.29H and 45.29J and for so long as the claim is not allocated to the multi-track, if, in a claim started under the RTA Protocol, the Claim Notification Form is submitted on or after 31st July 2013, the only costs allowed are—

(a) the fixed costs in rule 45.29C;

(b) disbursements in accordance with rule 45.29I.

The decision does nothing in relation to cases not allocated to the multi-track. Thus if the claim settles for over £25,000 without being allocated, fixed costs apply: the anomaly of the £25,000 ceiling on damages remains.

We also have the problem of costs incurred before allocation. Suppose that a claim is in the portal and it becomes apparent relatively early that it will exceed £25,000 in value. It is not hard to imagine a case in which the claimant’s solicitor would want/need to spend a reasonable amount pre-issue. What of those costs? Is that solicitor compelled to issue to secure allocation to the multi-track to recover those costs? That will pressure such a claimant solicitor into an unwanted court timetable and into doing more work after the budget is set than claimant solicitors generally like (given the common approach of getting a good part of the preparatory work done before budgeting). Or can that solicitor expect the court to award pre-allocation costs as though the allocation were to the multi-track (even though the language added to the rules by the Court of Appeal does not seem to suggest that)?

Such problems will need to be worked out in practice. In the meantime, rules changes designed to save costs continue to cause problems and generate satellite litigation.

Matthew White
16th November 2016

Download judgment: Qader v Esure and conjoined appeal 2016 EWCA civ 1109

If you would like to instruct Matthew on a related matter please contact his clerks on

Licensing and Planning: latest article from Roy Light

Roy LightRoy Light, leading licensing law expert and planning barrister, member of our licensing and planning teams, considers the inter-relationship of  planning and licensing authorisations in his latest article published by the Local Government Lawyer on 4th November 2016.

Roy looks at the separation and overlap of planning considerations in licensing applications; and licensing issues as a material consideration in planning following the Court of Appeal decision in Pauline Forster v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2016].

Read the article here: Licensing and Planning

View profile: Roy Light

If you would like to discuss instructing Roy on any related matter, please contact his clerks on 0117 94740 or email

St John’s Chambers is recognised for its expertise in 20 areas of law in the 2017 Chambers UK Guide

“Its team of highly skilled advocates regularly act in the most prominent, high-value and heavyweight disputes in the region under the instruction of some of the biggest industry players.” Chambers UK (2017)

Chambers UK logoWe are extremely grateful to our clients for providing such positive feedback which has resulted in us achieving ‘Top Ranked Set’ in the 2017 edition of Chambers UK.

41 of our barristers have been ranked across 20 major areas of law, including new rankings in the fields of competition law and Court of Protection. These new areas clearly identify St John’s as specialists in these fields with new addition Matthew O’Regan advising in a wide range of contentious and non-contentious competition law matters, and exceptional chancery barrister Alex Troup adept at handling Court of Protection work.

To find out what our clients say about our highly skilled advocates, please click on the individual areas of law links below. 

Agriculture & Rural Affairs
Commercial Dispute Resolution
Clinical Negligence
Court of Protection 
Family / Matrimonial
Health & Safety
Personal Injury
Professional Negligence
Real Estate Litigation
Restructuring / Insolvency

Our clerks have been described as extremely approachable, practical and will accommodate client’s needs. Commentary about our specialist teams include:

  • “Acts for both claimants and an increasing number of defendants in complex and high-profile claims. The set has an impressive reach in the South West and is praised by solicitors for its established team and ‘undoubtedly good reputation”‘on the Western Circuit. Its members handle a diverse range of challenging cases including catastrophic injury, surgical error and dental negligence.” Clinical Negligence
  • “St John’s has a wealth of experience in personal injury work. The set handles all manner of matters for claimants and defendants including accident at work and RTA claims. It has recently seen a sharp increase in industrial disease cases. Sources note that ‘they are very user-friendly and will always go the extra mile for you.’ ” Personal Injury
  • “One of Bristol’s leading sets of chambers for company advisory and advocacy work, with its barristers obtaining regular instruction in shareholder disputes, directors’ duties and directors’ disqualification cases. The set is praised by sources for its provision of ‘commercially minded advice’ and the ‘professional and incredibly flexible’ attitude of its barristers.” Company
  • “One of the leading chancery chambers on the Western Circuit, and is described as a very good set with contentious probate barristers who have very good knowledge of this area. It has a particular strength in traditional chancery, particularly complex property litigation, contentious trusts and inheritance disputes.” Chancery
  • “St John’s Chambers has unmatched firepower in this area. It is the foremost specialist construction chambers on the Western Circuit, with a notable profile in the South Wales market. Its team of highly skilled advocates regularly acts in the most prominent, high-value and heavyweight disputes in the region under the instruction of some of the biggest industry players. Members of St John’s demonstrate prowess across a broad range of construction matters including claims of defects, arbitration appeals and professional negligence-related cases.” Construction & Engineering
  • “Respected chambers with a growing commercial practice, praised for its consideration of practicalities such as costs and funding. One impressed interviewee states: ‘They have the feel of a heavyweight set and they are imaginative in offering solutions to help you settle a case.’ “ Commercial Dispute Resolution
  • “This outstanding set houses a dedicated team of property practitioners who work across a broad spectrum of commercial and residential property matters, handling such matters as development issues and agricultural disputes. ‘I find that they just go a bit further for the client.They dig deep, try hard for the clients, are thorough and look for a solution.’ ”  Property & Real Estate
  • “A very strong Bristol-based team capable of representing clients across the full spectrum of family law matters. Offers a robust matrimonial finance practice and has also built up significant experience in private and public ADR proceedings. The set is also highly regarded for its forward-thinking approach to client service.” Family Law 
  • “St John’s Chambers fields a substantial team, covering all the main contentious and non-contentious partnership bases and offering not only litigation, but also arbitration and mediation expertise. The set is especially noted for its handling of insolvency issues and is also particularly skilled in the farming, property and technology partnership spheres.” Partnership

St John’s Chambers welcomes commercial and chancery barrister Natasha Dzameh

Natasha DzamehSt John’s Chambers is pleased to welcome Natasha Dzameh as a new member of our commercial and chancery practice group following successful completion of her pupillage.

Before undertaking pupillage Natasha obtained a wealth of advocacy experience having represented clients at more than 600 hearings as a County Court Advocate in the fields of commercial, chancery and general civil law. She obtained an LLM (Distinction) in International Commercial Law and is now a specialist commercial and chancery barrister. Natasha has successfully appeared in trials and interim applications in a broad range of commercial and chancery matters. She regularly receives instructions requesting opinions and pleadings.

During pupillage Natasha received instructions relating to construction, commercial disputes, court of protection, insolvency, landlord and tenant (residential and mixed use), property and trespass matters. This consisted of representing clients at hearings, writing opinions and drafting pleadings. She marshalled with HHJ McCahill QC in the Chancery Division of Bristol District Registry and attended the Court of Appeal on the appeal from Davy v Pickering and others [2015] EWHC 380 (Ch). She also attended court and conferences with Leslie Blohm QC.

Natasha recently co-authored an article with John Dickinson in the September edition of the Trusts and Estates Law and Tax Journal analysing the case of Amiee Shannon Steed (a Child by her litigation friend, Marilyn Joy Winn) v Christopher John Steed (2016).

Download article: Wills: At Your Disposal?

Leslie Blohm QC, Head of Commercial and Chancery Practice Group said: “We have all been impressed by Natasha’s ability, enthusiasm and personality demonstrated during pupillage, and look forward to working with her as a valued member of the department.”

If you would like to discuss instructing Natasha, please contact her clerks on 0117 923 4740 or e-mail .

View profile: Natasha Dzameh

Judi Evans talks about the Justice First Fellowship and social welfare for Counsel magazine

Judi EvansJudi Evans, head of our family team has recently contributed to an article for the November edition of the Counsel magazine about the Justice First Fellowship scheme (JFF) and the future of social welfare.

Our family practice group was chosen by The Legal Education Foundation as one of only two chambers in the country to host a JFF pupil. Judi talks alongside Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive of The Legal Education Foundation and Jess Campbell, Chief Executive of the Bar Pro Bono Unit about the scheme, and how it gives important recognition to the vital contribution that all lawyers in this field make to access to justice, and to the way their work transforms the lives of the poor and vulnerable.

We look forward to welcoming our JFF pupil Harriet Dudbridge to chambers in due course.

The Justice First Fellowship aims to support the next generation of lawyers who are committed to a career in social welfare law. As well as completing their legal qualification (whether at a solicitor-led organisation or via pupillage), fellows also undertake a personal project, aimed at directly increasing access to justice.

View article: Tomorrow’s social welfare

St John’s Chambers welcomes Marcus Coates-Walker

Marcus Coates-WalkerSt John’s Chambers is pleased to welcome Marcus Coates-Walker as a new member of our personal injury, clinical negligence, and inquest teams following successful completion of his pupillage this month.

During his pupillage Marcus was supervised and mentored by Emma Zeb and head of St John’s Chambers’ personal injury team, Glyn Edwards. With them he experienced an extremely broad range of cases across the entire spectrum of personal injury, clinical negligence and inquest work.

He regularly conducts cases in the County Court, including fast-track hearings, small claims hearings, MOJ Stage 3 hearings, Infant Approvals and interim applications. He has also drafted pleadings and advices in personal injury and clinical negligence cases. Marcus is also frequently asked to advise on the application and operation of the Pre-Action Protocols for low value personal injury claims in RTAs, Employer’s Liability and Public Liability cases. He has recently published an article on the potential costs issues in claims which no longer continue under the Pre-Action Protocols because contributory negligence has been alleged, which you can download below. Marcus also has a strong desire to develop his clinical negligence and inquest work. He is happy to take instructions from all parties and Interested Persons.

Download article: The hole in the costs regime for claims no longer continuing under the road traffic accident pre action protocol

Glyn Edwards, Head of Personal Injury Practice Group said: “Marcus Coates-Walker came to St John’s with a varied and rich background of experience that has informed his quick progress to a high level of competence as a young barrister. He has impressed all who have had dealings with him – he is thorough, pragmatic, personable, highly articulate and very energetic in his approach to all his work. He will be a very valuable addition to our growing and vibrant junior level in the personal injury team. We are confident that he has a terrific future.”

If you would like to discuss instructing Marcus, please contact his clerks on 0117 923 4730 or e-mail .

View profile: Marcus Coates-Walker

Costs budgeting in personal injury claims: Latest article from Justin Valentine

Justin ValentineJustin Valentine, costs barrister and member of our personal injury team, has recently published an article on costs budgeting in personal injury claims.

Justin discusses the inherent difficulties of costs budgeting and the on-going amendments being made to the scheme to try to make it work better. Costs budgeting was intended to bring both the procedural steps to be taken and the costs to be incurred in complex cases under the management of the Court. However, litigation is uncertain, unforeseen costs will and do arise and judges have shown little inclination to manage the steps to be taken, merely the costs. How is a solicitor to cope with these contradictions and what is the best approach to take in relation to revising a budget?

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