News


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.

St John’s Chambers raises £3,600 for AvMA’s 35th Anniversary

Earlier this autumn St John’s Chambers Clinical Negligence team hosted a dinner at the Bristol Harbour Hotel raising awareness and funds for, Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA). The charity, which promotes better patient safety and justice for those who have been affected by a medical accident, was celebrating its 35th anniversary.
The evening, sponsored by Renvilles and Arag and including an after dinner speech from Matthew Hill, Health Correspondent West for BBC News, was a triumph. AvMA have said “We are hugely grateful to you and everyone at St Johns Chambers for hosting such a brilliant event and making it such a huge success”.

Funds raised from the dinner will make a real difference to the charity and help them to continue their vital work. Jane Smythson, Marketing and Communications Manager for AvMA adds “I know that our supporters really enjoy regional events which give the opportunity for new people to take part and are a great networking opportunity for everyone. I know that everyone at AvMA is very appreciative of the incredible support we get from you, not only from this event but through everything you do for and with AvMA.

St John’s receives recognition for 19 separate practice areas in this year’s Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018 Guide

We are delighted to announce that we have been hugely successful in this year’s Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018 Guide. We have been recognised in a total of 19 separate practice areas, with individual members listed in Band 1 for 13 of those.

For the full list of rankings, please click here

If you would like to instruct any of our barristers please contact the clerks:

Inquests: more fundamental change on the horizon? Latest article from Marcus Coates-Walker

St John’s Chambers’ InquestsPersonal Injury and Clinical Negligence barrister Marcus Coates-Walker once again provides an update for readers on another interesting area of the law. Marcus discusses whether there is more fundamental change on the horizon with two reports published following wide scale reviews, which make over 130 recommendations for improvement between them. He asks readers whether we are we set to see another fundamental shift in how inquests are conducted?


In the last week we have seen two headline-worthy publications focusing on the fundamental principles that guide the inquest process.

On 30 October 2017, the Government published its response to the ‘Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody’ conducted by Dame Elish Angiolini QC earlier this year (‘the Angiolini report’).

Then, on 1 November 2017, The Right Reverend James Jones KBE published his report titled ‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’ – A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the families involved in the Hillsborough inquests was not repeated (‘the Hillsborough report’).

They are two reports that go to the very heart of the principles that govern the inquest process. So what are the key points and what impact are they likely to have?…

Read/download the full article: Inquests: more fundamental change on the horizon?

If you would like to instruct Marcus on a related matter please contact his clerks:  | 0117 923 4730 

Dr Rachel Segal Interviewed by Times Law

Our Dr Rachel Segal, barrister within St John’s Chambers’ Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Teams, has recently been sought out by The Times for her views on a number of topics relevant to the Junior Bar.  Along with four other recent tenants from Chambers across the country, she was asked about morale within the profession and general concerns about being a female barrister including sexual harassment and equality.

A selection of her views have now been published within Times Law online.

To view the full article (via Times Online subscription or their 14 day free trial) written by Linda Tsang please click here.

View profile: Rachel Segal

If you would like to instruct Rachel on a related matter please contact her clerks:  | 0117 923 4730 

Re-opening of the Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre

Following discussions with its contractors, the court has announced it will re-open to the public on Tuesday 14th November 2017.

In preparation for this, a closure order has been approved for Monday 13th November 2017, meaning there will be no counter services available on Monday the 13th November but court hearings will go ahead as planned at the temporary venues currently being used.

The Court of Appeal on approach to findings of fundamental dishonesty for the purposes of CPR44.16 in claims subject to QOCS

James MarwickJames Marwick, a member of St John’s Chambers’ Personal Injury team, is regularly instructed in matters where fraud or fundamental dishonesty is alleged. Yesterday the Court of Appeal gave important guidance on the approach to findings of fundamental dishonesty for the purposes of CPR44.16 in claims subject to QOCS.

Case Note: (1) Howlett & (2) Howlett –v- (1) Davies & (2) Ageas Insurance Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 1696

Lord Justice Newey has approved the meaning of the expression provided for in Gosling v Hailo (29th April 2014) and, as distinct from fraud, held that fundamental dishonesty need not be pleaded for QOCS to be displaced albeit that claimants must have adequate warning and opportunity to deal with the possibility of such a conclusion.

The appeal concerned a claim arising out of an alleged road traffic accident where the defence did not allege fraud but rather pleaded non-admissions in accordance with the guidance in Kearsley v Klarfield with reference to matters upon which the credibility of the Claimants’ account would be challenged and from which the Court would be invited to draw inferences.  The district judge at first instance dismissed the claim and found that the claimants had not suffered any injury from any accident.  In the circumstances, he found they had been fundamentally dishonest such that QOCS was displaced.

There were challenges on appeal as to whether the Judge was entitled to find fundamental dishonesty where it had not been pleaded and where it was not expressly put to the claimants that they were dishonest in cross examination (the decision having been upheld on appeal to a circuit judge).

The Court of Appeal’s key findings can be summarised as follows:

1.     It approved the definition of fundamental dishonesty provided by HHJ Maloney QC in Gosling v Hailo (29th April 2014) in which he considered it to mean dishonesty going to the root of the whole of a claim or substantial part of it: paragraphs 16 and 17 of Howlett.

2.    Fundamental dishonesty does not need to be pleaded for QOCS to be displaced under CPR 44.16.  It was held that the mere fact that an opposing party had not alleged dishonesty in his pleadings will not necessarily bar a judge from finding that a witness is lying.  Where a case had been pleaded in accordance with the Kearsley v Klarfield guidance, it was open to a judge to state not only that a claim was not proved but to conclude that an alleged accident had not occurred or that the claimant was not present (on the facts of the present case).  The key question was whether the claimant had been given a warning and proper opportunity to deal with the possibility of such a conclusion.  The claimants in this case could not say they were ambushed: paragraphs 31 to 33.

3.    Whilst the terms “fraud” or “dishonest” had not been used in cross examination, it was made plain that the honesty of the claimants was being challenged looking at the totality of matters and therefore they had fair notice of the challenge to their honesty.  It was, however, good practice, to challenge the honesty of a witness explicitly so as to leave no doubt: paragraphs 38 to 39.

The decision accords with the practice that has been adopted at County Court level in personal injury cases of this nature.

Gosling has for some time been the starting point for consideration of the meaning of “fundamental dishonesty” and now there is Court of Appeal approval of HHJ Maloney’s analysis in that case.

Similarly, most judges have approached CPR44.16 on the basis that it is a costs matter and, distinct from fraud, does not require pleading so long as the claimant is made aware that his honesty is being challenged.  In most cases that will be an obvious conclusion from the manner in which the defence is pleaded and the cross examination of the claimant.  The more common battleground is whether a witness has simply been unreliable rather than dishonest.

Howlett ought therefore not to lead to a seismic shift in approach but it is nonetheless important guidance and makes clear that insurers have wide scope to seek findings of fundamental dishonesty at trial.

View profile: James Marwick

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

Pupil barrister Harriet Dudbridge interviewed by Legal Voice

Pupil barrister, Harriet Dudbridge has recently joined our Family team as a Justice First Fellow after spending the first year of the fellowship with the Bar Pro Bono Unit. The publication Legal Voice has interviewed Harriet documenting what attracted her to the Justice First Fellowship and her experience so far.

For the full article please click here

View profile: Harriet Dudbridge 

If you would like to instruct Harriet, please contact her clerks:  StjohnsChambersFamilyClerks@stjohnschambers.co.uk or 0117 923 4720

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