St John’s awarded ‘Chambers of the Year’ once again

St John’s has been awarded ‘Chambers of the Year’ for the third consecutive year at the Bristol Law Society’s Annual Awards 2012/13.

This prestigious award was recently announced at the Law Society’s annual glittering awards dinner and presented by the Society’s President Nick Dell to our Chief Executive, Derek Jenkins and Head of Chambers Richard Stead.

This award clearly highlights St John’s is a leading set in the South West, showing our dedication and commitment to the legal profession and wider community.

Ashley Palminteri, Acting Deputy President of Bristol Law Society says: “it is a notable achievement that St John’s Chambers have won this award for the last three years. They continue to excel and demonstrate a remarkable ability to maintain the highest standards.”

Unlawful killing verdicts in RTA inquests

Emma ZebEmma Zeb, member of our Personal Injury Team summarises the High Court’s guidance on using unlawful killing verdicts in RTA inquests.

The High Court have provided guidance on whether it is appropriate for a verdict of unlawful killing to be returned in an inquest  where there is evidence that death was caused by the offence of causing death by dangerous or careless driving.

R (on the application of Sophie Wilkinson) v HM Coroner for Greater Manchester South District & Wendy Livesley [2012] EWHC 2755

There has for some time been a conflict amongst Coroner’s as to whether evidence that a driver has committed the offence of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to section 2 B of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is sufficient to justify a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest.  The High Court have for now settled the dispute.

In brief the circumstances of the accident that lead to the inquest are that whilst driving on the M60 in snowy and icy weather conditions Ms Wilkinson’s vehicle spun out of control and struck a stationary vehicle on the motorway hard shoulder.  In the process a vehicle recovery technician working on the stationary vehicle was killed.  There was no criminal prosecution against Ms Wilkinson.  At the inquest the Coroner directed the Jury that they could return a verdict of unlawful killing if they were sure that the offence of causing death by dangerous driving had been committed.

Following a Judicial Review of the matter the High Court handed down Judgment on 11 October 2012 to the effect that the verdict of unlawful killing should be restricted to murder, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and infanticide.  Cases of bad driving having caused death should only be regarded as unlawful killing for the purposes of an inquest if they satisfy the ingredients for manslaughter (gross negligence manslaughter).  It is worth noting therefore that the present guidance on this issue in Jervis (12th edition 2002) remains sound.

The judgment is reported at [2012] EWHC 2755 and is available here.

Emma Zeb

View: Emma Zeb’s profile

Lucy Reed wins Family Law Readers’ Commentary Award

Congratulations to Lucy Reed, member our Family Practice Group, who has been awarded the Family Law Readers’ Commentary Award at the Family Law Awards 2012.

Lucy was presented with this award at the awards ceremony last night which was held  at the London Hilton hotel in recognition of her “entertaining and informative” family law blog Pink Tape. Lucy was also shortlisted for Most Innovative Family Lawyer for the second year running.

View: Lucy Reed’s profile

Maintaining your stake in a partnership: latest article from Martha Maher

Martha MaherMartha Maher,  member of our Partnership Team has recently written an article for the UK’s leading medical weekly publication Pulse.

Martha looks to other professions for examples of ways a GP can hang on to a stake in partnership if he or she feels pushed out.

Download article: Maintaining your stake in a partnership
View: Martha Maher’s profile

Revision to 10% rise in general damages from 1st April 2013

The Court of Appeal has today (10/10/12) revised its decision in Simmons v Castle [2012] EWCA Civ 1039.

The previous decision was that all cases determined from 1/4/13 would have a 10% increase in general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (and other similar types of loss arising in tort claims:- nuisance, defamation etc).

The Court of Appeal has now added contractual claims which will also receive a 10% rise in appropriate circumstances.

It has also excluded from the 10% rise in general damages those claimants who are on CFAs which pre-date the new system (i.e. the system due to come into force on 1/4/13 under which uplifts become irrecoverable on an inter-partes basis). The court did this by excluding claimants covered by s.44(6) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

The old decision meant that all personal injury claimants whose claims would have been determined after 1/4/13 would have had their damages for PSLA increased by 10%. Under the revised decision privately paying claimants, claimants litigating with the benefit of BTE insurance cover (or non-CFA ATE cover), and self-represented litigants still get the 10% rise. Current CFA claimants (i.e. those represented on what will, I suspect, soon become known as “old-style” CFAs) do not get the 10% rise. Rather they have the benefit of not having to meet any CFA uplift from their damages.

The new judgment is reported at [2012] EWCA Civ 1288 and is available here.

The key paragraph is this:-

“Accordingly, we take this opportunity to declare that, with effect from 1 April 2013, the proper level of general damages in all civil claims for (i) pain and suffering, (ii) loss of amenity, (iii) physical inconvenience and discomfort, (iv) social discredit, (v) mental distress, or (vi) loss of society of relatives, will be 10% higher than previously, unless the claimant falls within section 44(6) of LASPO. It therefore follows that, if the action now under appeal had been the subject of a judgment after 1 April 2013, then (unless the claimant had entered into a CFA before that date) the proper award of general damages would be 10% higher than that agreed in this case, namely £22,000 rather than £20,000”.”

Matthew White

St John’s raises £6,500 from charity ball for AvMA

St John’s Chambers hosted an extremely successful charity ball on Friday 28th September at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, raising a fantastic sum of £6,500, for AvMA to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

The event was sponsored by Foot Anstey, Frenkel Topping and Wesleyan for Lawyers and it attracted over 180 legal professionals throughout the South West.

Earlier this year we also organised a golf day at The Bristol Golf Club sponsored by Withy King which raised £4,000, bringing the total monies to-date to £10,500 for this worthy cause.

Peter Walsh Chief Executive AvMA says: “The funds raised for AvMA by St John’s Chambers will directly support local families and patients across the South West who have been traumatised by a medical accident and will help to ensure that patient safety remains high on the agenda in the region. Without the tireless fundraising efforts of St John’s Chambers and others like them the impact of AvMA’s patient safety work would be significantly reduced and we are hugely grateful to them.”

St John’s Chambers would like to say a huge thank you to Scott Law who printed the  programmes for the ball, as well as thanking the local companies who have been extremely generous in donating prizes prizes for the raffle and auction.

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.

Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) is the independent charity which promotes better patient safety and justice for people who have been affected by a medical accident.

A legal right to gay marriage? – latest article from Andrew Commins

Andrew ComminsAndrew Commins member of our Family Finance, ToLATA & Inheritance Team has recently written an article for Family Law Week.

The article analyses the legal issues relating to the question of gay marriage.

Download article: A legal right to gay marriage?
View: Andrew Commins’ profile

St John’s Chambers shortlisted for ‘Regional Set of the Year’ (Chambers Bar Awards)

St John’s Chambers is delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for ‘Regional Set of the Year’ at the 2012 Chambers Bar Awards.

The awards, hosted by Chambers & Partners, reflect both pre-eminence in key practice areas, and achievements over the last 12 months, including notable work, strategic growth, excellence in client service, and contribution to the legal profession.

This position clearly illustrates that St John’s has earned its reputation as a leading multi disciplinary set, this success follows on from Chambers being awarded “Chambers of the Year” for the second year running at the Bristol Law Society annual awards.

The 2012 Chambers Bar Awards will be held at The London Hilton on Park Lane on Thursday 25th October 2012.

Robin Tolson QC acts in hair-strand testing case

Robin Tolson QCRobin Tolson QC has acted on behalf of Wragge & Co in the case of Bristol City Council v A and A, and SB and CB, and Concateno and Trimega (interveners) [2012] EWHC 2548 (Fam).

An erroneous hair-strand test conducted by Trimega pursuant to its instruction within care proceedings purported to show the mother was continuing with her addiction to hard drugs. A second test undertaken by Concateno/Trichotech produced a different result demonstrating – as it later transpired correctly – that she had ceased taking drugs some while before. Faced with an obvious conflict the court invited both drug testing companies to intervene. The matter was transferred for hearing before the President. On the morning of the trial, Trimega admitted human error on its part and agreed to pay all of Trichotech’s costs. It was directed to file a report explaining the error. Once filed, Trichotech did not accept that the report was accurate or correctly explained the error as emanating from the person collecting the sample of the mother’s hair. Trichotech argued that mistakes must have occurred within Trimega’s own laboratories, which were not accredited to the “gold” standard.

The remaining drug testing issues were adjourned to Baker J.  The outcome of the case was that the judge recorded 4 propositions as to the accuracy of hair-strand testing for drugs but decided not to investigate the matter further.

Robin Tolson QC, for Trichotech argued that the hair sample test for drugs was, unlike its counterpart for alcohol, well-established and accurate if carried out by a reputable, accredited laboratory. The errors in question could not be said to be limited to the collection of the sample but may have arisen in the laboratory and on any view went undetected through system failures. Trimega’s approach, suggesting inaccuracy in the testing process, risked “throwing out the drug testing industry’s healthy baby with the bathwater that was Trimega’s own”. The court should accept 4 propositions that were agreed between the interveners.

They were:

a. The science is now well-established and not controversial.
b. A positive identification of a drug at a quantity above the cut-off level is reliable as evidence that the donor has been exposed to the drug in question.
c. Sequential testing of sections is a good guide to the pattern of use revealed. d. The quantity of drug in any given section is not proof of the quantity actually used in that period but is a good guide to the relative level of use (low, medium, high) over time.

Piers Pressdee QC for Trimega argued that, whether the report was accurate or not, any further enquiry could not or should not take place within the care proceedings as it would be disproportionate.

Download: Judgment
Robin Tolson’s profile 

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

“St John’s Chambers is an excellent modern set where the quality of the barristers is excellent.” Legal 500 (2012)

St John’s Chambers is listed in the six main areas of law in the 2012 edition of Legal 500. These rankings clearly illustrate that St John’s has earned its reputation as a leading multi disciplinary set.

  • Commercial, insolvency and property
  • Construction, planning, licensing and environmental
  • Employment
  • Family
  • Health and safety, and regulatory
  • Personal injury and clinical negligence

To view the latest recommendations, please click here.