Meet Justice Lamb

Justice Lamb - FrontSt John’s Chambers’ Shaun in the City sculpture, Justice Lamb, was put into place, grazing in Queen Square, over the weekend. The Shaun in the City trail begins today, with 70 giant sculptures of Aardman Animations’ Shaun the Sheep popping up all over the city.

Justice Lamb is currently situated outside the Graze restaurant, 63 Queen Square, he will be moved back to his official grazing pasture, near the Farr’s Lane side of Queen Square, on 13th July. 

Justice Lamb was designed by artist Mike Ogden. Mike has been a professional artist since 1980 after completing a 3 year degree in Illustration at Bristol’s Bower Ashton Campus. 18 years as a freelance illustrator took him to 1998, after which he changed direction, moving into fine art and setting up a picture framing business.

St John’s will be hosting a number of fundraising events and activities throughout the trail including a Twitter Selfie competition which will run from 7th July – midday 28th August. Take a photo of yourself with Justice Lamb and tweet it to @stjohnschambers with #RaisetheBaa to be in with a chance to win a tablet device. The winner will be announced on 28th August at 5pm.

JustGiving Page:
BBC News Coverage: Putting on the Shaun in the Sheep show


© and TM Aardman Animations Limited 2015.  All rights reserved.
“Shaun the Sheep” and “Shaun in the City” (word marks) and the character ‘Shaun the Sheep’ are trade marks used under licence from Aardman Animations Limited. “Shaun in the City” is a fundraising initiative by Wallace and Gromit’s Children’s Foundation, raising money for children in hospital across the UK. Charity no. 1043603.



St John’s Chambers Proud Sponsor of Shaun in the City!

SITC_Sponsor-Logo-BRISTOLSt John’s Chambers are very excited to announce that we are proud sponsors of Shaun in the City. Like the Gromit Unleashed public arts trail in the summer of 2013, Shaun in the City will see 70 giant sculptures of Aardman Animations’ Shaun the Sheep popping up all over the city.

Shaun the Sheep made his debut in the Oscar-winning 1995 Wallace & Gromit film, ‘A Close Shave,’ and hit the big screen earlier this year with the release of ‘Shaun the Sheep the Movie.’ Shaun the Sheep was voted the nation’s favourite BBC children’s TV character from the last 70 years in a recent Radio Times poll.

All money raised from this art trail will be donated to The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity. Bristol Children’s Hospital is one the UK’s leading children’s hospitals treating patients from across the South West, South Wales and beyond with life-threatening illnesses and serves as the pediatric intensive care centre for the whole South West region.

The Gromit Unleashed trail raised over £2.3 million for The Grand Appeal and St John’s are thrilled to be involved in another fantastic fundraising opportunity.

We believe in giving back to the local community and we organise many fundraising events for worthy causes throughout the year. We are delighted, therefore, to be sponsoring our very own Shaun in the City Art Trail. This is a fun and quirky way to raise much needed funds for the Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Each Shaun sculpture has been individually designed by the flock of artists, designers, and famous faces. The identity and location of St John’s Chambers’ Shaun will be revealed on 6th July……Watch this space!!

For more information about The Grand Appeal visit:

Family Barrister Lucy Reed speaks to the BBC on the Family Court Process

Lucy ReedLucy Reed, a member of our Family Team, was interviewed on BBC radio 4’s Today Programme this morning on the family court process.

The discussion was prompted by the recent case of Roger Williams v Rebecca Minnock v Ethan Freeman Williams, involving a mother who disappeared with her son as the Family Court ordered that her son should move to live with his father.

Lucy Reed explained that the case of Rebecca Minnock was unusual, and that the family court process can be very confusing and stressful for parents.  Lucy is chair of The Transparency Project, a charity set up to explain how the family courts work.

Lucy suggested that the family court system can be improved by making it more accessible to parents, she stated that processes aren’t made clear enough to parents and can therefore seem very slow. There are however limitations to how far the court can solve the difficulties faced by families. Lucy said :

“Judges are not in children’s homes, day in day out, if parents can’t resolve things by themselves, courts can make orders, but they cannot micromanage…..there are inevitably limitations on whether courts can solve all of these problems for all of the children who are caught up in these disputes.”

You can listen to Lucy’s interview on the BBC radio 4 website here: family court process ‘can’t change parents.’

You can also read Lucy’s blog post on the Minnock case on the Transparency Project website here: The Missing Mum Case

Family Asset Protection: latest article from Wills & Trusts barristers Alex Troup, Chris Jones and Jody Atkinson

Barristers from ourAlex_Troup Wills and Trusts team, Alex Troup, Chris Jones and Jody Atkinson, consider family asset protection in a litigation context in their latest article published in the June 2015 edition of the STEP Journal.

Alex, Chris and Jody suggest that a number of cases over the past decade or so have had significant repercussions for family-asset protecChristoper Jonestion in England and Wales.

Their article discusses some of the most important cases and covers claims against trusts; disclosure rules, claims by spouses; prenuptial agreements, and claims by cohabitees.

Alex, Chris and Jody are speaking at a number of conferences thiJody Atkinsons year on Family Asset Protection, the next being on Thursday 11th June in Cardiff. For more information visit our event page here

View full article on the STEP Journal website here

Fun on the river for Headway Somerset

Dargon Boat 070615Members, colleagues and friends of St John’s Chambers took to the river on a beautiful hot Sunday for the 3rd year running to take part in the Taunton Dragon Boat Race raising funds for Headway Somerset.

The team, which included Family Barrister Jack Harris, Chancery Barrister Adam Boyle, and Pupils Robert Mills and Joss Knight, took part in 3 races in total, narrowly missing out on the final. Although they were beaten to first position the St John’s team beat rivals Clarke Willmott and Foot Anstey and came 5th out of 17 boats smashing their record with a new fast time of 57.72.

So far the team have raised £1000 for Headway Somerset, a unique organisation helping people to live as independent a life as possible after brain injury.

There is still time to sponsor the team via their Just Giving page, if you would like to make a donation please visit the link below.

Donate now click here



Is the Child Protection System Fit for Purpose?

St John’s Chambers were delighted to sponsor a Multi-Disciplinary Conference that took place in London on 1st June. This important initiative was organised by the Transparency Project, whose trustees include St Johns family barristers Sarah Phillimore and Lucy Reed.

Sarah Phillimore100 delegates attended the conference with speakers representing all those involved in the child protection system – lawyers, magistrates, Cafcass, social workers, guardians, psychologists, therapists, charities, parents, care leavers and campaigners. The conference discussed issues of concern about the current system and how to move forward. The conference was opened by Sir Mark Hedley, who highlighted the need for an honest acceptance that no system could ever be perfect.

Presentations followed from Dr Lauren Devine of UWE who is carrying out research into the efficacy of the current system. Dr Devine is concerned to note that interactions with families are now seen in terms of ‘risk assessment’ rather than providing support. Brigid Featherstone, co-author of Re-Imagining Child Protection spoke about the dangers of ‘muscular authoritarianism’ towards struggling families. Psychologist Lisa Wolfe and social work practitioner Vicki Ellis considered about how families could be effectively helped by expert intervention. Cathy Ashley spoke about the work of the Family Rights Group, highlighting her frustration at the reduced funding at a time when more and more parents were looking for help. Representatives from Kids Company attended and noted the common themes with their own campaign ‘See the Child’ which was pushing for recognition that the current system of child protection was failing children.

Lucy ReedKirsty Seddon, a care leaver, and groups of parents also gave their perspectives about the system and spoke with powerful and raw emotion about how traumatic they had found the state’s intervention in their family lives.

Dr Kate Harrington, of Exeter University and pupil at St John’s Chambers, spoke about the impact of language on how we think and analyse cases and delegates completed a questionnaire to discover how they understood certain common professional terms.

Sarah Phillimore noted that a common theme ran through the discussions; “We have been drifting ever further away from the guiding principles of the Children Act 1989. Current policies and practice have emerged that cause trauma to families without actually helping children or keeping them safe.”

The feedback from the delegates was very positive and all wanted to return next year for an update on the progress made.

A more detailed account of the issues discussed and consideration of what happens next will be published by Jordans Family Law in August 2015 and copies of the conference papers will be published in a special summer edition of the Nagalro Journal Seen and Heard.

You can review the live tweets from the day at #CPConf2015

The latest article from Patrick West – Exemplary damages: credit hire, fraud and QOCS

Patrick WestPatrick West, Personal Injury and Civil Fraud barrister, looks at the latest cases and explores the future of the law’s oldest way of punishing wrong-doers in his latest article.

“That the law never admits of a general search-warrant. That in France, or Spain, even in the Inquisition itself, they never delegate an infinite power to search, and that no magistrate is capable of delegating any such power…That the constitution of our country had been so fatally wounded that it called aloud for redress of a jury of Englishmen.”

That was the Court of King’s Bench in Wilkes v Wood (1763) Lofft 1, an action for damages by the radical politician and journalist John Wilkes who loudly criticised George III in print for a peace treaty with the French. It was one of the earliest cases of what have come to be known as exemplary damages. Humbling the Crown, the Court ruled that the actions of the King’s messengers in breaking into Wilkes’s house and seizing his papers without a search warrant justified damages of £1,000 (a lot of money in them days!).

Fast forward past the Spanish Inquisition and John Wilkes to the present day and the recently reported case of Sayeera Hassan v (1) Sandra Cooper (2) Accident Claims Consultants Ltd [2015] EWHC 540 (QB) in which Mrs Hassan was held liable to pay exemplary damages of £7,250 for her part in an exaggerated claim for damages arising from a road traffic accident.

Mrs Hassan was driving her car when it was involved in a collision with Mrs Cooper’s car. Mrs Cooper conceded negligence. There was it appears a genuine but modest claim for repairs and personal injury. However, Mrs Hassan’s claims management company (ACC) made a deliberate attempt to exaggerate her claim which Mrs Hassan actively supported even though initially she had been an innocent party. Credit hire in the sum of £42,045.12 and recovery and storage charges of £5,808.00 were added to the Claim. Surprisingly the repairs were said to have cost precisely the same as the estimate (£3,598.00) and when the repair shop was contacted by investigators they said the invoice produced by Mrs Hassan was a forgery. Later ACC tried to make the garage owner sign a statement stating he had forgotten he had in fact repaired the car. He refused to be intimidated, denied the allegation and furnished witness evidence for the D. On the day of trial the D successfully made application to amend to plead fraud and bring a Pt 20 claim for exemplary damages. Staggeringly, the Amended Defence pleaded that ACC had prepared the invoice themselves as the garage owner was “too busy” and had asked them to do it instead (!).

The credibility of the C’s case collapsed and the D obtained summary judgment. At a further hearing the D obtained judgment in the tort of deceit and the entire claim was struck out. The instant case was an assessment of damages hearing heard by HHJ Butler sitting as a High Court Judge at Preston. Perhaps foolishly, Mrs Hassan took the stand to give evidence and it emerged she had lied about the recovery of the car from the scene, admitting she drove it home herself. She verified by signature a claim for credit hire for a different car to that which was obtained, verified the falsified repair invoice and also exaggerated her whiplash claim by some months. She was held to be 10% responsible for the continued pursuit of the claims. HHJ Butler described the case as “a very serious false exaggerated claim”. ACC had gone into liquidation by the date of the damages hearing.

Exemplary damages may be awarded in three categories of cases (Rookes v Barnard [1964] A.C.1129):

  1. Cases of oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional acts by government servants (e.g.Wilkes);
  2. Cases where the defendant’s conduct had been calculated by him to make a profit for himself which might well exceed the compensation payable to the plaintiff;
  3. Where expressly authorised by statute.

It is the second category which was applied in Hassan and which is of relevance in fraud cases. The burden of proof is still the civil one and a claim for exemplary damages must be specifically pleaded (CPR 16.4). Although the point remains undecided, it has been assumed that exemplary damages can apply in cases of vicarious liability (Racz v Home Office [1994] 2 AC 45, [1994] 1 All ER 97, HL).

Continue reading full article here: Exemplary damages: credit hire, fraud and QOCS


St John’s host 5th annual Local Government Law Conference

Group of Multiethnic Diverse Mixed Occupation PeopleBarristers from our Public and Administrative and Family Law Teams hosted their 5th annual Local Government Law Conference on Tuesday, 28th April 2015. The one day conference included talks from Peter Wadsley, David Fletcher, Roy Light, John Dickinson, Kathryn Skellorn QC, Sarah Phillimore and Leslie Blohm QC.

The conference was chaired by Peter Wadsley, Head of the Public and Administrative Law Team, and began with David Fletcher addressing legal issues concerning funding for the disabled, and in particular the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment in R (Cornwall) v Sec of State for Health & others. Roy Light, of our Licensing Team, followed David’s talk with an update on Licensing Law. His talk covered two legal issues; setting lawful taxi license fees and the constitution of licensing sub-committees. John Dickinson then gave an overview of some of the potential hazards to look out for when formulating tender contract terms regarding Highways and Streetscene contracts.

The afternoon session began with Peter Wadsley providing a planning up-date, Peter’s talk dealt with the recent cases in planning law and major policy changes with special reference to cases on housing and listed buildings. Kathryn Skellorn QC, a member of our Family Team, then discussed best practice in care and adoption for Local Authorities. Kathryn’s talk was followed by Leslie Blohm QC. Leslie set out the duties of Registration Authorities when faced with Town and Village Green applications. The day was closed by a talk from Sarah Phillimore of our Family Team on Protection v Autonomy, Sarah discussed how to approach best interests decisions in Court of Protection cases in light of Cheshire West.

The conference attracted delegates from 12 Local Authorities with 46 delegates attending in total. Delegates have described the conference as; “A very good course.” and “Extremely good value for money.”

You can download copies of John and Peter’s talks here:

To find out more about our Public and Administrative Law Team, click here

The Innovative work of St John’s Family Team highlighted at The President’s Conference

The innovative work of St John’s Family Team was highlighted when our family barristers Judi Evans and Kathryn Skellorn QC were invited to speak at a recent conference organised by the President’s Office for the judiciary on Monday 11th May.

Judy_Evans-300x198Judi Evans, alongside Claire Wills-Goldingham QC of Colleton Chambers, has had key involvement in creating and implementing changes to help Litigants in Person access the Family Justice System – see ‘The way we are: accessing the Courts after LASPO’.  Sarah Phillimore, Abigail Bond and Lucy Reed, of our family team, have also contributed to these initiatives. At the conference Judi spoke about the Duty Lawyer Scheme, alongside a more recent initiative focusing on the need to provide earlier therapeutic intervention  to parents pre care proceedings.

Recently featured in The Guardian newspaper for her work highlighting the need for early therapeutic intervention for parents in care proceedings, Judi Evans was quoted as saying: “Before a child is removed permanently, if something can reasonably be done, then it should be done and at an early-enough stage so that the child has got a fighting chance of his or her own parent being able to engage with help.” She is also helping to organise a conference on the issue of recurrent care proceedings, which will take place on July 9th in Bristol.

Kathryn-Skellorn-300x198Kathryn Skellorn QC spoke about support systems to assist litigants in person, modest means clients and vulnerable court users in England and Wales against a backdrop of the ‘Californian model.’ This has been a piece of on-going research, feeding into projects at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre wherein they are seeking to coordinate the contributions of the Bristol Family Court Judiciary, magistracy, local practitioners and agencies in providing information and assistance to court users.

HHJ Wildblood QC, Designated Family Judge for Bristol spoke about these Bristol innovations.

This conference shines a light on the innovative work that other members of St John’s Family Team are involved in since the legal aid cuts. Our family barristers have been working on numerous projects regarding supporting litigants in person and vulnerable witnesses.

Lucy ReedFamily barrister Lucy Reed has given a number of lectures and written articles on the impact of Litigants in person, and is the author of ‘The Family Court without a Lawyer: A Handbook for Litigants in Person.’ Lucy led a team of volunteers from St John’s Family Team, which included Christopher Sharp QC, in producing 3 short films giving practical guidance for litigants in person who are preparing for a first court hearing.

Kathryn Skellorn QC recently chaired a seminar addressing vulnerable witnesses and the Advocates’ Gateway in which St John’s Family Team members, Sarah Phillimore, Julia Belyavin and Lucy Reed spoke alongside Naomi Mason of Communicourt and Beth Tarleton of The Norah Fry Institute.

Kathryn Skellorn QC and Sarah Phillimore also recently delivered best practice updates in public law Children Act and Court of Protection work to a dedicated St John’s Chambers Local Government Law Conference hosted by our Public Law Team.

Sarah PhillimoreSt John’s are proud to sponsor an exciting and ground breaking conference on June 1st ‘Multi-Disciplinary Conference – Is the Child Protection System Fit for Purpose?’ This conference has been organised by St John’s family barristers, Lucy Reed and Sarah Phillimore as part of their work with the Transparency Project, a registered charity which seeks to improve understanding of the workings of the family court. The conference will take place in London and speakers include Sir Mark Hedley, Dr Lauren Devine of UWE and Brigid Featherstone, author of ‘Re-imagining Child Protection’. The conference will bring together a range of perspectives from all those who are part of the child protection system, to examine the current difficulties and challenges which must be met by parents, professional and children alike. To book your place visit the link below.

Abigail BondAbigail Bond is involved, alongside Joanna Lucas (of Albion Chambers) with increasing the access of children and young people to the family courts so that they can see what is happening. Visits of local school children to the Bristol Civil Justice Centre are in progress, the purpose of which is to de-mystify the Family Court whilst also providing an educative experience. This is of particular relevance now that the 2015 Report of the Vulnerable Witnesses & Children Working Group has made several important recommendations to  reform and modernise the involvement of children and young people in proceedings which directly concern them.

Kathryn Skellorn QC, Lucy Reed and Sarah Phillimore will also be speaking at St John’s Annual Children’s Conference on 7th July 2015. The conference will be covering topics related to vulnerable witnesses and litigants in person, speakers include Professor Elizabeth Trinder who is the author of ‘Access to Justice? Litigants in Person before and after LASPO’, which was published in this month’s edition of Family Law magazine. Visit the link below to book your place.

Book your place at our Annual Children’s Conference here: Annual Children’s Conference 2015
Book your place at the Multi-Disciplinary Conference here: ‘Multi-Disciplinary Conference – Is the Child Protection System Fit for Purpose?’
View The Guardian article here: Are we failing parents whose children are taken into care?
View LASPO article here: The way we are: accessing the Courts after LASPO


John SharplesJohn Sharples, head of our Property Team, is sharing weekly updates, new cases, legislation and other developments in Property and Private Client law via his twitter feed @Sharples_John.

John specialises in all areas of real property. He is frequently instructed on behalf of major land developers and owners, national house builders and large public authorities as well as private clients. John has recently written a book on Land Licences, printed by Jordans Publishing in which Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, writes the foreword his is also a contributor to the New Law Journal.

John has recently been described as “One of the Western Circuit’s leaders in property litigation and is an authority on the subject of land licences. ‘He’s very easy to deal with. He’s very down to earth, and very impressive at cross-examination.’” Chambers UK, Chancery (2015) and is lauded for his “considerable real estate expertise …  He is particularly user-friendly and wise as can be.” Chambers UK, Real Estate (2015). Legal 500, Property (2015) calls him “Extremely intelligent, resourceful, down to earth and approachable.’

Follow John on Twitter for all the recent updates in Property and Private Client law @Sharples_John.