Divorce

On 7th August 2017 a new Divorce Petition went into circulation and can now be used by anyone applying as a Petitioner for a divorce, judicial separation or to end a civil partnership.


Alex Anastasiou
Alex Anastasiou
Partner - Head of Financial Remedy

The new style Divorce Petition will be mandatory from the 4th September 2017 onwards.  However, Petitioners will still be able to issue the old style Petition upto and including the 3rd September 2017 and any old style Petitions submitted to court on or after 4th September 2017 will not be accepted. 

Welcomed by Divorce Lawyers

The changes to the Divorce Petition have been welcomed by practitioners, but as ever with anything there are a few areas of improvement. The new style Divorce Petition now needs to be verified by a Statement of Truth. The layout is straight forward, requiring, save where necessary, very few words. It is a precursor to the plans for online Divorce  and aims to make it more accessible to the lay person in plain English.

What are the New Changes?

The new Divorce Petition:

  • Makes reference to both the Applicant and the Petitioner which may cause some confusion.  However, these legal terms mean the same thing, the person applying for the Divorce.

  • Contains a specific confidentiality clause which allows a party to withhold their contact details when filing a confidential form.

  • includes individual boxes for recording Solicitors details.

  • amends the jurisdiction clause which now includes all the legal grounds, rather than simply accepting that the parties are habitually resident in England and Wales.

  • includes summary notes which explain the circumstances where the court accepts that a couple might be living apart even while living under the same roof.  This makes the petition much easier to understand.

  • includes a revised "Prayer for financial claims" which removes the specific list and abbreviates the claims of the Petitioner and those made on behalf of any children.

  • includes a "Statement of Truth" in place of the signature that was traditionally used by the Petitioner (or a Solicitor on the Petitioner’s behalf).

  • provides clarity regarding when costs orders can be made.

  • removes the need to include the names and dates of birth of any children from the Divorce Petition, bringing it into line with current legislation.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, Our Mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including those who are going through a divorce or legal separation.  Our solicitors are experts in all aspects of Divorce and Legal Separation including Mediation and Ancillary Relief. 

If you have any questions or would like legal advice on the impact of the changes to the Divorce Petition, call our Divorce and Separation team, today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

MW Solicitors were proud to attend the Hazards Conference 2017, held on the 28th to 30th of July 2017 at Keele University, Stoke on Trent.  Hazards Conference is the biggest grassroots Health and Safety conference in the Northern Hemisphere attended by over 350 Union Safety Representatives and Health and Safety Campaigners.  The theme of this year's conference was "Organizing Health, Safety and Welfare in an Insecure World"

MW Solicitors strongly supports the work of the Hazards Campaign which supports individuals and groups fighting for justice over work-related injuries and diseases. This includes challenging the victimisation and blacklisting of safety activists, supporting bereaved relatives of those killed at work, workers suffering occupational injuries or diseases in pursuit of justice, highlighting the unfairness of the compensation system and pressing for improvements to policy, law and practice.

Head of Personal Injury, Helen Clifford and Head of Road Traffic Collisions Joanna Bailey, represented MW Solicitors at the conference and spoke at Saturday's Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) Seminar "Work-Related Death, Supporting Families and Fighting Back. The Seminar was Chaired by Hilda Palmer, Co-ordinator of Greater Manchester Hazards Campaign.  FACK is supported by TU donations and sponsorship from Irwin Mitchell and McMillan Williams solicitors.

Helen Clifford and Joanna Bailey

(Left to Right) MW Solicitors Helen Clifford and Joanna Bailey

FACK supports families after a work-related death and advocates for them throughout the investigation process, inquest and any prosecutions which may result.  The seminar also focused on the role played by supporting solicitors, such as MW Solictors, who provide essential legal support to ensure that those families who suffer work-related deaths have "equality of arms" in terms of legal representation at Inquests.

Helen Clifford was honoured to speak at the closing Plenary meeting on Sunday Morning entitled "Enough is Enough: End deregulation now!" 

Helen Clifford speaks at closing plenery meeting of Hazards Conference 2017

Helen Clifford speaks at closing plenery meeting of Hazards Conference 2017

Hazards Conference

(Left to Right) Hilda Palmer (Chair of FACK), Michael Lancaster (GMB Union), Tracey Seward (FACK Member) and her daughter Daisy Seward, Joanna Bailey (MW Solicitors), Helen Clifford (MW Solicitors)

On 7th March 2014, René Tkacik, then aged 44, was crushed to death by a fall of freshly applied shotcrete (sprayed concrete lining) at the Crossrail Fisher Street site.

At the time René was working for the BFK Joint Venture (BAM Nuttal Limited; Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Limited and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Limited).  BBC London News

Timeline

  • 23 February 2015 - An Inquest into his death took place at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court. The jury made a narrative determination which raised concerns about health and safety practices on site.

  • 07 December 2016 - The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) the body responsible for enforcing Health & Safety laws in Great Britain, decided to prosecute BAM Nuttal Limited; Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Limited and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Limited individually, rather than as a joint venture. A decision was also made to prosecute the 3 companies in relation to two further incidents which occurred in January 2015 in tunnels being constructed by BFK.

  • July 2017 - BAM, Ferrovial and Kier approached the HSE and suggested that they would enter guilty pleas in respect of all charges, but that those please would be entered by the Joint Venture. The HSE accepted those pleas.

  • 19 July 2017 - BFK pleaded guilty to all charges at a hearing.

  • 27 July 2017 - BFK sentenced at a hearing at Southwark Crown Court.  The case received coverage across News Media outlets including; BBC London News

The Charges

  • One charge under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

  • One charge under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

  • Two Charges under Regulation 22 (1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007

We Can Help

MW Solicitor's Head of Personal Injury, Helen Clifford, represents the family of René Tkacik and Alex Vizitiu, one or the 2 men injured in January 2015.  She is a lifelong campaigner for Health and Safety at Work and in particular the construction industry and a supporter of the Blacklist Support Group who support workers who have been fired for raising Health & Safety concerns in the workplace.

If you or a family member have suffered an accident in the workplace, our dedicated and expert team of Personal Injury Lawyers can get you the justice you need.  To talk to one of our team call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

Subsidence Drought Trees

Your home is your castle and it is quite proper to seek to protect what is normally the largest investment you will ever make.

Drought is a Root Cause of Subsidence


Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Partner & Head of Professional Negligence

Recent newspaper reports have highlighted that 2017 could experience a serious drought caused by a hot dry summer and the driest winter in 20 years.  When the ground dries out, it is increasingly prone to movement and shrinkage.  According the British Geological Survey (BGS) shrinking and swelling of the ground (often reported as subsidence) is one of the most damaging geohazards in Britain today.  This shrink swell situation is often exacerbated by trees and shrubs which suck up what little moisture is left in the ground in a bid to stay alive.

What Can I Do To Protect My Home from Subsidence?

Home owners can mitigate the risk themselves by maintaining the trees and shrubs on their property at levels where their “zone of influence” does not extend to under the foundations of their property.  Care must be taken that any trees to be treated are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) as this could possibly lead to a breach of the TPO and land you the homeowner legally liable.  Read our article Tree Preservation Orders: The Facts for more information about Tree Preservation Orders and how to deal with them.

However, trees are living organisms and they will sometimes extend their roots beyond the recognised zone in order to source moisture from further afield. Each species of tree has a different recorded zone of influence to the point where a copse containing an Oak, a Willow and an Ash for example will have roots extending for different distances and treatment will need to tailored accordingly.

How Do I Identify Subsidence?

Tell-tale signs of subsidence are:

  • windows and doors sticking on opening and closing
  • diagonal cracking to walls extending from ground level towards the corners of windows or doors
  • cracks which are mirrored inside and out and flow along the line of cement between bricks

If you spot any of these signs you should contact your buildings insurance company immediately.

What Will My Insurance Company Do?

Your insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster to inspect your property and seek to identify the cause of the problem. It may also be necessary to appoint an arborist, soil engineers and a structural engineer if the tree belongs to a third party which will need convincing to remove the cause.

If the tree belongs to you then, subject to any TPO protection, it should be more easily removed although it will also be necessary to assess whether the tree pre-dates the property in which case “heave” where the soil recovers too much and pushes the property higher than it was originally designed for should be considered. In these cases the tree is usually removed in stages to allow recovery of the moisture levels in manageable stages. Often a property will be monitored before and after removal to ensure that the cause has been remove an the property stabilised before repairs are undertaken so these claims can last for months – the sooner the claim is reported the earlier the remedy can be in place.

If the cause is caught early then repairs can be as simple as raking out and replacing the cement but, in more severe cases, the property may have to be underpinned which involves the owners normally having to vacate the property for the duration of the works.

In cases where the cause of the damage is vegetation belonging to a third party, it may be possible to recover the costs of any repairs from that party. Any subsidence claim will be subject to a £1,000 excess if it is the first occurrence.  This is a significant sum for any householder to find and therefore, if this sum and subsequent repairs costs can be recovered, you should appoint Solicitors to deal with the claim.

At MW our specialist Solicitors have many years experience acting for homeowners and their insurers in recovering significant sums from Councils, Housing Associations and other public bodies and private individuals.

If you have insurance, your insurer will cover the costs of an insured peril subject to your policy coverage and adherence to the terms of the contract by the policyholder.  They will then seek to recover the costs of those repairs under its right to step into the shoes of the insured. This removes undue and unnecessary stress from the insured who has already experienced the worry of seeing their property damaged.  At this point MW Solicitors can be instructed by your insurer if you require.

What If I Do Not Have Valid Buildings Insurance?

Where there is no valid insurance, you should look to instruct a Solicitor as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially costly repairs falling on you personally.

If we can assist we will approach the liable third party for a contribution towards the repair costs at the earliest opportunity.  In the case of private individual owners of the problem tree, it is vitally important that they are placed on notice of the damage as soon as possible.  If they remain unaware of the cause under their control, it is more difficult to convince a Court that they failed to act in a reasonable manner to abate the nuisance.

Subsidence Claims Require Specialist Solicitors

Claims involving subsidence are always a complex combination of Science and the Law.  Taking the correct approach to preparing evidence before the claim is presented will pay dividends and you should always instruct a specialist Solicitor who has experience with the claims process and is capable of dealing with insurers, experts and other third parties.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including homeowners who are worried that their home is suffering or might be at risk from subsidence. If you believe that your property is suffering subsidence damage, it is important to act quickly.

We can help homeowners whose property is damaged through the actions of a third party.  We will explore every legal avenue and our experts in MW’s are not just experienced in the law regarding these matters, but also in the underlying geological and biological causes.

We can advise if you are entitled to bring a claim for the recovery of your insurance excess and any repairs costs and we will act on behalf of your insurer should you wish to instruct a local firm.  We can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with third parties in order to resolve any dispute.  We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and we will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way. 

If you are worried that your home is at risk from subsidence or you need to make a subsidence claim don't delay.  Call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

BBC

A High Court judgment at the end of May 2017 in favour of Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC illustrates how the principle that a journalist must protect their sources has its legal limits.


Ryan Dunleavy
Ryan Dunleavy
Partner & Head of Media Law Reputation Management

In the above case the Court ordered the BBC to disclose whether or not its information that Sir Cliff was under investigation by South Yorkshire Police came from Operation Yewtree, which is the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into historic sex offences.

The background to Sir Cliff’s application was neatly summarised by the judgment in this way:

‘On 14th August 2014 his flat in Sunningdale was raided by the South Yorkshire Police (the second defendant - "SYP") seeking material in connection with an investigation of child abuse. Mr Dan Johnson, a journalist working for the first defendant, had been told of the raid in advance, and as a result the BBC was able to be in place to cover it as it happened, which it did with journalists, photographers and a helicopter. It was thus able to broadcast its occurrence more or less concurrently and did so, giving apparently extensive coverage both at the time and subsequently. In due course the police announced that there would be no further investigation into Sir Cliff.’

The judgment was part of a larger High Court case by Sir Cliff against the BBC for alleged breaches of his privacy rights and his rights under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Sir Cliff has argued in his claim that BBC journalist Dan Johnson found out about the existence of an investigation into him from a person involved in, or from a person associated with, Operation Yewtree. Both Sir Cliff and South Yorkshire Police said that Mr Johnson was able to use information about Sir Cliff being the subject of the Yewtree investigation to get more information out of South Yorkshire Police, particularly to provide Mr Johnson with advance information of the raid.

In relation to protecting its source, the BBC pleaded in its Defence to Sir Cliff’s overall claim,

‘The BBC asserts its right and the rights of its reporter Mr Johnson, to withhold information which may lead to the identification of the Confidential Source… and any information tending to identify the Confidential Source, including whether the Confidential Source was from within Operation Yewtree (which is neither confirmed nor denied)…

‘The source was not an open source. The source provided information to Mr Johnson in confidence and on condition that Mr Johnson would protect the source's identity. These are familiar attributes of a confidential journalistic source.’

The importance of protecting a source is recognised by section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. It is also a right protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression). Protecting a source is regarded as a ‘negative right’ for the purposes of Article 10 – ie, a right not to be compelled to provide information.

The European Court of Human Rights explained in the case of Goodwin v United Kingdom (1996) that, ‘… limitations on the confidentiality of journalistic sources call for the most careful scrutiny by the Court,’ and the judge in Sir Cliff’s case took the above into account, although ultimately ruled that Sir Cliff’s matter was not a Goodwin-type case.

The Court when making its decision struck a balance between the journalist’s Article 10 rights and Sir Cliff’s Article 6 right (right to a fair trial) and Article 8 right (right to respect for private and family life). It decided that the risk that the answer to Sir Cliff’s question would lead to the source of the BBC’s information being identified was very low but could not quite be regarded as non-existent. The Court also considered that the information was likely to be something that the source would be uncomfortable with having disclosed (ie, that there would be a ‘chilling effect’). This was diminished however by the fact that Operation Yewtree had already been suggested as the source.

Balanced against the above was the fact that the journalist’s knowledge of the source was of real significance, which will not be fully revealed until the trial of this case. The Court ruled that the information is something that Sir Cliff may well need in order to be able to make his case, or to rebut one of the BBC's defences, or to improve his chances of success. The Court also weighed in the balance that Sir Cliff had a procedural right to the information under normal principles of disclosure. The Judge ruled that, ‘A fair trial, with the benefit of being able to argue that which can legitimately be argued, requires that the question [posed by Sir Cliff] be answered.’

In striking a balance between the above competing points, the Court found that the balance came down clearly in favour of the question being answered.

The lesson for journalists to take from this judgment is that there are limits to how far they can protect their sources.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors, our mission is “To make quality legal services accessible to everyone” including Journalists and other media professionals who need representation in Court or wish to protect the anonymity of their sources of information.

If you are worried about having to divulge your sources in an impending legal case or need representation talk to one of our team today, call us on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

 

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