The Supreme Court made the latest reform to personal injury in its judgment in Knauer v Ministry of Justice

Christopher SharpThe Supreme Court made the latest reform to personal injury this morning in its judgment in Knauer v Ministry of Justice. Christopher Sharp QC explains why this decision marks a fundamental change in claims for future loss of dependency in fatal accident cases.

The appellant was the widower of Mrs Knauer, who died from mesothelioma in 2009. The Court was faced with two issues.

First, it had to determine the proper approach to calculating the multiplier for financial losses of a dependant in fatal accident cases. It considered whether multipliers should be assessed from the date of death (the current approach) or the date of trial (the proposed approach). It held that calculating damages from the date of death resulted in claimants suffering a discount for early receipt of the money when that money will not be received until after trial. It results in under-compensation.

The leading House of Lords authorities of Cookson v Knowles and Graham v Dodds were said to have been decided in a different era. At that time, the Ogden Tables did not exist and the calculation of damages was nothing like as sophisticated as it is now. The Respondent accepted the force of the Appellant’s argument.

Second, the Court needed to be satisfied that it should depart from the previous House of Lords’ decisions in Cookson and Graham. It held that (i) these cases established a legal principle rather than merely giving non-binding guidance; and (ii) if the current law on the issue (made by judges) is defective then, unless there is any good reason to the contrary, it should be corrected by judges rather than Parliament.

The Court had no hesitation in overturning those previous decisions. The Respondent’s only substantive argument was that the system should be seen as a whole and that there are other aspects which over-compensate claimants. However, the Court found these resulted from legislative choices and not from judicial decisions. Claimants should not be deprived of compensation to which they are entitled because some other claimants receive more as a result of changes made by Parliament. It would be wrong to preserve a flawed practice affecting most claimants in order to counteract those legislative choices.

The proper approach is now to use the date of trial. One small point of interest is how this will work in practice. The Ogden Tables have, for sometime, provided worked examples of the ‘date of trial’ approach. These examples remove the discount for early receipt. However, in respect of other contingencies, they only apply a discount for a hypothetical death and not for other ‘vicissitudes of life’.

Christopher Sharp QC alongside Richard Stead will be hosting a 2-hour seminar on 12th May in Bristol which will look at catastrophic injury claims and will touch upon this recent case. A full programme will be made available shortly. If you would like to receive a copy of the programme, please e-mail: .

View Christopher’s comments on the decision: Knauer v Ministry of Justice

View judgment: Knauer v Ministry of Justice

The New Land Registration Tribunal: neither fish nor fowl – latest article from Kate Harrington

Kate_HarringtonSt John’s Chambers’ academic pupil, Kate Harrington has written an article that was published on Friday in the Conveyancer. In her article, “The New Land Registration Tribunal: Neither Fish nor Fowl” Kate examines the role of the First-tier Tribunal (Land Registration) and asks whether it is meant to be a Court for all registered land disputes (in which case, she argues, it lacks many powers that would normally be associated with such a tribunal) or if it is simply meant to ensure that entries at the Land Registry are up to date (in which case it is overcomplicated and expensive).

Charles Auld, a member of our Chancery and Commercial Team assisted Kate with some practitioner’s points and a copy of the full article will be available to download from his profile in March.

View profile: Charles Auld

Guardian article provides unique insight into the reality of care proceedings

The Guardian Weekend published a feature article by journalist Louise Tickle about a mother’s journey through care proceedings. The article is unusual in the detail given about the proceedings and the experiences of the various family members, and provides accounts from both the mother and the local authority.

Lucy ReedSome months ago Lucy Reed and Sarah Phillimore, members of our family practice group acted pro bono for journalist Louise Tickle in her application to be able to report this case (see here). That application was successful and the article published this week is the culmination of both of their hard work over a number of months. Lucy and Louise have written about their experience of making the application in Family Law Journal: Press Reporting of Care Proceedings.

Read this article: I saw his fluffy little head going out the door’: one woman’s fight to keep her baby

Multi-Disciplinary Conference on child protection: Where do we go from here?

Sarah PhillimoreOur family practice group is pleased to announce its sponsorship of the second multi-disciplinary child protection conference – Where do we go from here? To be held on 3 June 2016 in Birmingham.

This conference, organised in conjunction with the Transparency Project, follows on from the successful conference which took place in London last year. Our family team are proud to be part of this unique initiative which aims to facilitate conversations between a wide range of professionals and parents with a view to improving communication, understanding and ultimately the effectiveness of the child protection / family justice system.

A number of members from our family practice group have been heavily involved in the conferences and the broader work of The Transparency Project, and we are pleased to be able to continue our support to these important initiatives.

Speakers include Dr Lauren Devine (UWE), Lucy Reed (St John’s Chambers), Maggie Siviter (IRO and Director at Independent for Children), Surviving Safeguarding (parent and blogger), Louise Tickle (journalist), Dr Clare Fenton-Glynn (University of Cambridge), Brid Featherstone (University of Huddersfield) and others.

This event will be accredited for CPD for barristers. To find out more about the conference, and to book a place on the conference please visit The Transparency Project website.

St John’s Chambers raise £2,400 for charity Cerebra

St John’s Chambers’ Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence teams hosted a child brain injury conference on 13th October 2015 in aid of Cerebra and raised a fantastic sum of £2,400. Cerebra is a unique charity set up to help improve the lives of children with brain related conditions through research, education and by directly supporting children and their carers.

20160211 - St Johns Chamber Cerebra Cheque Handover. Image Credit: ©

Left to right – Gareth Owens (Cerebra), Glyn Edwards (Barrister – St John’s Chambers), Emma Zeb (Barrister – St John’s Chambers)

The conference, sponsored by Nestor and held at The Marriott Royal, was attended by over 80 delegates. Guest speakers included Dr Anna Adlam, Chartered Clinical Psychologist and academic Neuropsychologist from the University of Exeter, Dr Michael Carter, Paediatric Neurosurgeon and Claire Broughton-Welsh, Occupational Therapist and Expert Witness with Jacqueline Webb & Co. Speakers from St John’s Chambers were Christopher Sharp QC, Timothy Grice, Emma Zeb and Glyn Edwards, Head of our Personal Injury team.

Gareth Owens (pictured above), of Cerebra, has said “Cerebra would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to St John’s Chambers for supporting us through their October conference. The monies raised will go towards our grant scheme where they will help fund vital equipment and services for children with neurological conditions living in the South West.”

St John’s would like to thank everyone involved in helping to raise this sum of money and in particular, conference sponsors, Nestor.

To find out more about the charity, visit their website:

Guy Adams and Nicholas Pointon take part in annual moot competition for University of Bristol

Guy AdamsCommercial and chancery barristers Guy Adams and Nicholas Pointon took part in the annual University of Bristol lecturers’ moot competition on 10th February at the Wills Memorial Building.

Guy adopted the role of a Supreme Court Justice and heard argument from four of the university’s lecturers on the scope of protection afforded to the manifestation of non-relgious beliefs under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Nicholas PointonThe lecturers who took part were Professor Michael Ford QC, Professor Antonia Layard, Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells and our very own Nicholas Pointon.

The moot was attended by over 150 students of the university and has raised in excess of £300 for the Avon and Bristol Law Centre.

For further details about Avon and Bristol Law Centre, please visit:

Family barrister Jack Harris takes part in annual moot for Bristol Young Resolution

Jack HarrisFamily barrister Jack Harris took part in the annual moot for the Bristol Young Resolution on 10th February at The University of Law in Bristol.

Jack played the role of a litigant in person who was the applicant husband, and Gemma Borkowski of Albion Chambers was counsel for the respondent wife.  They dealt with issues of the instruction of expert reports, interim periodical payments, and legal services payment orders.  Following the moot, District Judge Exton gave her top tips for FDA’s, and Jack gave advice on the instruction of experts in financial remedy proceedings.

This event was extremely successful, and in attendance were students from The University of Law and Young Resolution lawyers. Dianne Martin, Nick Miller and Luke Hodgson from our family team also came to watch.

Special thanks go to District Judge Exton for supporting the event again this year, The University of Law for hosting, and Sarah Green the recently elected Chair of the National Young Resolution for organising. Our family team would like to congratulate Sarah Green on her recent election.

For more information about the Bristol Young Resolution, please visit:

Lucy Reed guests on BBC Radio 4 discussion ‘Splitting the Assets’

Lucy ReedLucy Reed, member of our family practice group takes part in a programme for BBC Radio 4 called ‘Splitting the Assets’, airing at 8.00pm on 3rd February.

BBC Radio 4 describe this programme as a glimpse behind closed doors of the Family Courts to hear from divorcing couples forced to struggle, without the help of lawyers, through the complex and emotionally fraught court process of dividing their financial assets.

Lucy and panellists Sir Paul Coleridge (retired High Court Judge), Nicola Mattheson-Durrant (Professional McKenzie Friend) and Marc Mason from the University of Westminster discuss the experiences of litigants in person dealing with financial remedy cases in the family court.

Resources out there to help litigants in person can be found at: This website contains both links local to the Bristol area and nationally applicable resources and information.

Listen to programme on BBC Radio 4 website: Splitting the Assets

View Lucy’s blog: Pink Tape

St John’s Chambers welcomes family law barrister Graeme Harrison

Graeme HarrisonCalled to the bar in 1997 Graeme Harrison joins St John’s Chambers’ Family Practice Group from 12 College Place, Southampton.

Graeme is a specialist child law barrister with extensive knowledge and experience in public law, representing local authorities, parents and other family members, and children’s guardians in a large number of cases. He also has experience in private law applications and appears regularly in the Court of Protection.

Graeme is known for his calm and patient manner. He has considerable experience of working with clients with mental health difficulties and learning disabilities.

Judi Evans, Head of the Family Practice Group said: “We are delighted  to welcome Graeme to St John’s Chambers. Graeme adds further strength and depth to our Family Team and will ensure we can continue to offer our clients fantastic cover at all levels – he has proved himself to be popular with instructing solicitors and lay clients because of his  down-to-earth approach and his ability to get on with people.”

Graeme Harrison said: “St John’s has such a fantastic reputation that I had no hesitation in accepting the offer of tenancy. Luke and the other clerks have really pulled out the stops to make my move from Southampton to Bristol as smooth as possible – I’m really grateful for all their help in getting things organised. The family team have been so welcoming and their enthusiasm is infectious. I’m looking forward to getting to know Bristol better and working with everyone.”

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

View profile: Graeme Harrison

Tom Leeper represents Interested Party in inquest into death of Private Gavin Williams

Tom LeeperTom Leeper, a member of our inquests team, represented an Interested Party in the inquest into the death of Private Gavin Williams, which concluded on 8 January 2016.

Private Williams was serving with 2nd Battalion, The Royal Welsh when he died in July 2006 having been subjected to a physical punishment at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire.

Three non-commissioned officers were acquitted of his manslaughter in 2008. The inquest sat for 26 days and heard evidence from over 100 witnesses, 61 of whom gave live evidence.

The coroner returned the following narrative conclusion: “Gavin died as a result of imposition of unofficial physical punishment in the form of marching drill and physical exercise conducted on a very hot day. This punishment was part of a system of such unofficial punishments operating in the Battalion which the chain of command had failed to identify or prevent. The exertion from the marching drill and the physical exercise, combined with the effects of Gavin’s recent use of ecstasy, led to the onset of hyperthermia. Gavin’s symptoms of hyperthermia included involuntary aggressive behaviour, as a result of which he was restrained. The effect of Gavin’s struggle against this restraint further contributed to the hyperthermia. Gavin was taken to Salisbury District Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 16.26 on 3 July 2006.”

This case has received national press coverage which you can view by clicking the following links: The Independent  The Guardian  ITV News

View profile: Tom Leeper