St John’s Chambers organise charity ball in aid of Headway Bristol

St John’s Chambers hosted an extremely successful black-tie charity ball on Friday 26th September at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, raising a fantastic sum of £5,000, for Headway Bristol.

Headway provides social and cognitive rehabilitation services for adults with brain injury and support for families and carers. Sponsored by NewLaw Solicitors, the event attracted over 185 legal professionals throughout the South West who enjoyed a champagne reception, three course dinner and live entertainment by Limited Edition.

Charity and auction prizes were generously donated by local businesses; Nick Agg-Manning offered his time as Master of Ceremonies and auctioneer, and local company Scott Law kindly printed the event programmes.

Earlier this year we also organised a golf day at The Bristol Golf Club sponsored by Haines Watt Accountants which raised £4,200, bringing the total monies to-date to £9,200 for this worthy cause.

We would particularly like to say a big thank you to all those who supported us in raising much needed funds for our chosen charities.

Leslie Blohm QC and Alex Troup speak at Bristol Law Society’s Private Client Conference

Leslie Blohm QCMembers of our wills, trusts and probate team spoke at Bristol Law Society’s Annual Private Client Conference on Tuesday, 30th September at Clarke Willmott LLP. In attendance were solicitors from Hugh James, Osborne Clarke, Thrings, Wards along with many more. This event was sponsored by Citimark Partnership and Scott Law.

Alex TroupThe conference kicked off with HHJ McCahill QC speaking on The Bristol Chancery Court. Leslie Blohm QC spoke about a current trend in agricultural property disputes in ‘farms and estoppel – the new growth area’,  whilst Alex Troup reviewed the latest developments in an update on wills and capacity, with particular reference to Simon v Byford [2014] EWCA Civ 280 and Re Meek [2014] EWCOP 1.

 You can download a copy of these notes below:

Expert evidence and the removal of a child to a non-Hague Convention country: latest publication from Abigail Bond

Abigail BondAbigail Bond, member of our children’s team has published an article on expert evidence and the removal of a child to a non-Hague Convention country for Lexis Nexis.

Abigail looks at the court’s approach to an application to remove a child to a non-Hague Convention country and the difficulties in funding the appointed expert.

Download article: Expert evidence and the removal of a child to a non-Hague Convention country

View profile: Abigail Bond

Robin Tolson QC shortlisted for ‘Silk of the Year’ at the Legal 500 UK Awards 2014

RTolson_sliderRobin Tolson QC one of our leading children and family law specialists has been shortlisted for ‘Silk of the year’ (Regional and Scottish) at the Legal 500 UK Awards 2014.

This clearly illustrates our reputation to provide high quality legal advice and expertise in family matters; with a team of five nationally renowned silks, Christopher Sharp QC, Susan Jacklin QC, Kathryn Skellorn QC and Frances Judd QC, and 22 juniors, has become a demonstrable alternative to the London sets.

The winners will be announced at 10.00 am on 8 October 2014. The full list of firms, sets and silks is available at

The awards are based on the opinions of the 250,000 in-house lawyers Legal 500 contact throughout the year, and in-depth research into law firms carried out by their team

At an exclusive dinner in central London hosted by The Legal 500, the winners will have the opportunity to meet with each other, network and celebrate their success. Entry to the dinner will be strictly limited to the winners of the awards by invitation of The Legal 500.

View profile: Robin Tolson QC

Legal 500 identify St John’s Chambers as a top tier set

“St John’s Chambers is ‘a very professional set’, with ‘an excellent spread of barristers’, who ‘can be relied upon to come back to you with solid, comprehensive advice’ across a range of disciplines.” Legal 500 (2014)

UK_top_tier_set_2014We are delighted to announce that we have been recommended as a top-tier set, and listed in the eight main areas of law in the 2014 edition of Legal 500.

This year we have seen an increase in the number of our rankings in the directory, from 43 in 2013 to 52 in 2014. This clearly illustrates the reputation of St John’s to provide high quality legal advice and expertise.

Five of our QCs are listed in the “Leading silks” list, and Robin Tolson QC has been shortlisted for ‘Silk of the Year’ (Regional and Scottish) at the Legal 500 UK Awards 2014.

  • Leslie Blohm QC – “A leading commercial and Chancery barrister.”
  • Christopher Sharp QC  – “A first-class strategist, who monitors the detail as well as the bigger picture.”
  • Kathryn Skellorn QC – “Excellent knowledge of medico-legal issues.”
  • Robin Tolson QC – “A leading specialist in family and children law, with a national reputation.”
  • Susan Jacklin QC – “Client friendly, and experienced in both finance and children work.”

Seven of our barristers are recommended in The Legal 500 2014 editorial:

35 of our barristers are listed in the “Leading juniors” within their specialist areas:  

“The clerking team is highly efficient and extremely helpful.” Legal 500 (2014)

Please contact our clerks, should you require any further assistance.

Andrew Kearney chosen as after dinner speaker for construction industry event

Andrew KearneyAndrew Kearney, member of our construction and engineering team has been invited by the Chairman of Arbrix Construction Group to be the after dinner speaker at the Arbrix Construction Group Autumn Conference in Southampton from 3-5 October 2014.

The after-dinner speaker is traditionally a prominent member of the Construction Bar, a leading figure from the ADR community, or a member of the judiciary. Arbrix is a private club set up by and for members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ panels of arbitrators and adjudicators. The purpose of the club is to provide its members with the opportunity to discuss their problems and exchange experience.

For more details about the Arbrix Autumn Conference, please visit this page.

View profile: Andrew Kearney

St John’s take part in the 4th annual Bristol Legal Walk

Bristol Legal Walk 2013Our members and staff are taking part in the 4th annual Bristol Legal Walk to raise both awareness and funds for the South West Legal Support Trust on Monday, 22nd September.

HHJ McCahill QC and President of the Law Society, Andrew Caplen will lead the walk at 5.45pm from the Bristol Civil Justice Centre.

The Legal Walks bring together the legal profession and the advice sector to raise much needed funds to support the provision of early, free legal advice to those across the South West who don’t qualify for legal aid and can’t afford to pay for advice.

Our fees clerk, Ramon Youseph has written a blog all about the South West Legal Support Trust, and how important the services are.

If you would like to sponsor our team, please visit

Sarah Phillimore and Lucy Reed launch The Transparency Project website

Lucy ReedOur family team’s two resident bloggers Sarah Phillimore and Lucy Reed are both involved in an exciting new project aimed at providing balanced and accessible information to the public about the Family Court.

The idea for The Transparency Project came from a blog post
written by Lucy on her Pink Tape blog some months ago, and has resulted in a group of Sarah Phillimorepractising lawyers, legal academics and legal bloggers and publishers getting together to make the idea a reality.

The Transparency Project website has recently launched ( and over coming months the members of the founding group will be refining their goals and making plans for the future of the project. The site already hosts a number of useful blog posts and resources for members of the public looking for information about the Family Court. If you have any feedback about the site, please e-mail:

You can follow the progress of the project on twitter by following @seethrujustice.

The President’s judgment in Q v Q, Re B (A Child) and Re C (A Child) [2014] EWFC 31: latest article from Lucy Reed and Judi Evans

Judy EvansJudi Evans and Lucy Reed, members of our children’s team have recently published an article for Jordans Family Law on the President’s judgment in Q v Q, Re B (A Child) and Re C (A Child) [2014] EWFC 31, where they look at the implications of these cases.

Judi and Lucy acted in the matters of Re B (A Child) and Re C (A Child). Judi acted for the father in the matter of Re B and Lucy represented the mothers in both Re B and Re C.

The President’s judgment in Q v Q, Re B (A Child) and Re C (A Child) [2014] EWFC 31: thinking through the implications

Lucy ReedThe bare facts in two of these three cases (Re B and Re C) are strikingly similar, but they are no doubt not unique. There will be other cases with different facts but involving equally grave allegations and complex issues, and which require a forensic approach and an understanding of the potentially significant legal consequences of the court’s determination of such allegations within family proceedings – significant both for a parent found responsible of gravely abusive and potentially criminal conduct or for a parent found to have fabricated such allegations. In either instance there is potential for far reaching ramifications – perhaps an effective termination of a direct relationship with a child or a change of residence – and beyond the specific dispute about this child, child protection concerns may impact on the care of other children by that adult, or criminal proceedings may follow.

Notwithstanding the scrutiny by Parliament of the provisions of LASPO 2012 (including s 10 – exceptional funding) there are private law cases of real difficulty and complexity that require legal expertise to navigate fairly and effectively. In the writers’ view whilst such cases are not typical, neither are they exceptional. And as highlighted in Re W (Residence Order: Appeal) [2014] EWCA Civ 1065, [2014] 2 FLR (forthcoming) there are concerns in some quarters that care proceedings ‘by the back door’ may be becoming more prevalent in places. Surely such cases (along with any true private law cases that involve potential severing of a parent child relationship) are as meritorious of legal representation as the care cases in respect of which parents benefit from non-means non-merits tested public funding. It is after all plain that the rigorous ‘last resort’ approach set out in Re B is applicable to such cases, and that the duty of the court as public authority to ensure that Arts 6 and 8 are respected is engaged.

Because of course whilst the scope of legal aid has been intentionally narrowed by Parliament, the court remains under as much of a duty as ever to afford a fair trial to litigants. In addition Parliament legislated for the creation of the Family Court on 22 April 2014. One of the amendments to the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 that formed the raft of provisions creating the Family Court was the inclusion of a new s 31G. That provision specifically creates a duty upon the court to ‘put or cause to be put’ questions where a witness is unable to do so. It must be taken to have been Parliament’s specific intention to create this new and very specific obligation.

In the first judgment in Q v Q (Q v Q [2014] EWFC 7), in the course of grappling with a similar difficulty with how to achieve a fair trial in the absence of public funding for a father who was facing the potential termination of his relationship with a child, the President had mooted various scenarios that might enable the case to fairly proceed. One of the scenarios was the ‘Some other pocket [of the state] must pay’ scenario. Neither the Minister nor the LAA took up the invitation to engage in that discussion and so in the conjoined judgment in Q v Q the President was left to answer his own questions without their input. Ultimately he concluded, whatever arrangements had been made for the provision of legal aid, the court remained under a duty to afford a fair trial, and (to adopt the language of Re B) as an option of last resort there may some cases where the court itself would have to pay.

It remains to be seen if this ever comes to pass, and if it does how often recourse will be needed to the ‘HMCTS emergency representation fund’ (or whatever it may be called). It remains to be seen how such a scheme would operate, although it seems likely that the civil servants at HMCTS would require it to be set up so as to be properly auditable just as with the LAA. It may be that the father in Re C secures public funding and the issue falls away in this case (his application was pending when judgment was handed down) – but there are likely to be other cases in which there are similar difficulties and where the question of HMCTS providing financial assistance might be raised. Much depends upon the progress and outcome of the various judicial reviews and appeals relating to s 10 LASPO 2012 ‘exceptional funding’ that are in progress or pending (for example Gudanaviciene & Ors v Director of Legal Aid Casework & Anor [2014] EWHC 1840 (Admin) is on appeal) – if exceptional funding begins to be granted more readily, perhaps as a result of the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on s 10 being revised, the court coffers may not be called upon.

It appears though that the sorts of cases where this issue may arise for determination are these:

  • Cases where there is a prospect of a decision that will effectively terminate the relationship between a parent and child (‘no contact’ cases), and / or where there are grave allegations that would raise the prospect of future criminal proceedings if proven (or for the person making the allegation if found to be false?), and possibly where the court is determining whether to remove / return a child from / to the care of its’ parents (so-called ‘back door care’ cases).
  • Where the case does not qualify for exceptional funding (for example where the parent falls foul of the means test but is nonetheless too impecunious to fund representation) or where exceptional funding has been applied for and refused (but will a parent have to apply repeatedly, pursue JR first etc?).
  • Where other avenues have been tried and failed (Bar Pro Bono Unit etc).

The judgment in Q v Q represents the court’s attempt to find ways to comply with the statutory obligations imposed upon it by Parliament using such resources as are available to it. Sadly, the ‘solution’ of ‘court must pay’ is only partial, and less than ideal. It will leave parties and children expending a great deal of emotional energy and time on working through and exhausting all options in a protracted preliminary process – before the court can get on with the substance of an application and make decisions for children.

Private law proceedings are stressful for all involved, more so when grave allegations are made. In each such case there is a victim – either a victim of abuse or violence or a victim of a false or exaggerated allegation. Whatever the truth in the particular case the delay and uncertainty caused by the lack of representation of one party is not only stressful and traumatic, but it is wasteful of public resources through unnecessary hearings (including ironically additional legal aid costs where the alleged victim is represented) and is forensically deleterious because evidence becomes stale, memory fades and vulnerable witnesses become exhausted by the process. A child is left in limbo. In Re B and Re C proceedings have been running for many months, the parents have been to court on many occasions and subjected to no doubt distressing uncertainty – but to date the court has not been able to begin dealing with the substance of their cases. As yet there is no solution in place that will prevent other families going through similar delay before their cases can be said to qualify for funding under Q v Q and are subsequently ready to proceed.

View this article on Family Law website:

Guy Adams appears in Court of Appeal in misdirected CHAPS transfers case

Guy AdamsGuy Adams member of our banking and commercial dispute resolution teams appeared in the Court of Appeal in the important case of Tidal Energy Ltd v Bank of Scotland Plc [2014] WLR (D)  369, which is the first case concerning misdirected CHAPS transfers.

The claimant was subject to a common fraud in which the fraudster impersonated one of its suppliers and provided it with false bank details for the payment of an outstanding invoice.  The claimant filled in a form of instruction for a CHAPS payment naming the correct beneficiary but using the wrong sort code and account number.  The claimant’s bank initiated the transfer and Barclays Bank plc purported to accept the payment even though the account with that account number was held by someone completely different and the defendant made a debit entry on the claimant’s account.

The claimant claimed and sought summary judgment on the basis that, as no payment had been made to its supplier, who did not even bank with Barclays Bank plc, its account should be restated. At first instance HHJ Havelock-Allan QC held on a cross summary judgment application that on the true construction of the form of instruction that the claimant had authorised its bank to pay whoever held the account and the information as to the identity of the beneficiary was irrelevant.  The bank had therefore fulfilled its instructions and was entitled to debit the claimant’s account.

Lewison LJ gave permission to appeal on paper because the point is of general application and a decision of the Court of Appeal was needed.  The appeal was dismissed in the Court of Appeal by a majority.  The leading judgment was given by the Master of the Rolls with a strong dissent from Floyd LJ.  Tomlinson LJ found himself “in the invidious position of having to choose between them” and by the end of the hearing “was more or less persuaded that that instruction should be construed as Floyd LJ has done”, he ultimately however agreed with the Master of the Rolls’ conclusion albeit for different reasons.  Tidal are seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

View the report in the Times: CHAPS transfers depend on sort code and account 
Download the full judgment: Tidal Energy Ltd v Bank of Scotland Plc [2014] WLR (D) 369