Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

Diary news plus insights, commentary and appointments from the legal world

December 2nd 2022

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: DEMOCRATISING THE LAW

Even if you have only glanced casually at ITV’s coverage of the World Cup you will have seen the striking advertisement from MyDieselclaim.com. “You could be eligible for up to £10,000 with My Diesel Claim if you owned or leased a diesel vehicle between 2009 and 2020,” it declares – which certainly distracts from puzzling over the metaphysics of a ball ‘crossing a line’ (as wrangled over extensively last evening by the TV pundits).

But the MyDieselclaim promotion is clearly hitting the target. According to a report from Portland Communications 60% of the UK public would be willing to join a class action against a company if they were directly impacted by their wrongdoing and 55% would join a claim against their own employer. “This comes despite a low public understanding of class actions,” points out Portland.

So there is now a popular appetite for recompense and using the law to achieve it. . “Since our inaugural report in 2020, we have witnessed an exponential rise in class actions across the globe and a marked shift in the public’s attitudes towards group litigation, with European class actions up 120% between 2018 and 2021,” said Philip Hall, Head of Portland’s Litigation and Disputes practice.“The old adage that information is power is as true in the world of class actions as it is elsewhere.” Including among sports commentators on the more baffling rules of the game.

The LegalDiarist

For more information about the Class Action Report 2021 contact disputes@portland-communications.com |

In this week’s edition

+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Art of Law at Dentons

Acting Pro Bono for Ukrainian Refugees

Young and Keen Wins Out

Atlantic Challenge backed by ARMA Litigation

PLUS: ‘ANGELS’ NEEDED TO STAGE POST OFFICE TRIAL

+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review, the inquest into the Shoreham Airshow Disaster,the Official Injury Claim portal and de-criminalising homosexuality in Singapore

+ LEGAL APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at Fox Williams and Shakespeare Martineau

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Art of Law at Dentons

As we approach the year’s end it’s been a period of prizes and awards in LegalLand.

Let’s start with artist Enam Gbewonyo ( pictured above) who won first place and collected a prize fund of £5,000 at the 10th annual Dentons Art Prize. The event and the accompanying exhibition weresuspended during the pandemic but have bounced back with an extra zing. Hence Gbewonyo was selected by the judging panel of Louisa Buck (Art Newspaper journalist), artist Thomas J Price and gallerist Maria Varnava for works that ‘investigate identity, womanhood and humanity through the medium of textiles and performance’. As the winners’ announcement explained, Gbewonyo’s ‘work advocates for the spiritual healing power of hand crafts, using processes such as embroidery, knit, weave, print and wirework’. Meanwhile Louis Caseley was awarded second place, with a prize fund of £2,500, for a series of assembled objects and images that question notions of value and how it is created and simulated.

As part of the initiative, the shortlisted artists display their work at Dentons’ Fleet Place and are supported with expert pro bono legal advice.“Once a year, 15+ artists, many of whom have gone on to great success, showcase their work at Dentons, “ said Lucille De Silva, the partner who is the Dentons Art Prize lead. “ For our lawyers and clients, who spend many hours in meetings, the changing art collection provides inspiration in challenging negotiations. We thank all our “Dentons Art Prize” artists and judges for another superb competition!’

Acting Pro Bono for Ukrainian Refugees

Olivia Clark with her prize and representatives of the City of London Law Society and the City of London Solicitors’ Company

This time last year the prospect of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing for refuge across Western Europe would have seemed extraordinary. Now, of course, we have adjusted to the sad reality that assistance is desperately needed by refugees in a myriad of ways from accommodation to education – and including legal advice.

The Ukraine Advice Project connects Ukrainians fleeing the war with lawyers who can advise about legal pathways to the UK. And in recognition of her work in co-ordinating the project’s services Olivia Clark, Pro Bono Senior Associate and UK Pro Bono Manager at DLA Piper, has been awarded this year’s ‘Wig & Pen Prize’ for pro bono legal work by the City of London Law Society and City of London Solicitor’s Company.

Clark works closely with a number of NGOs to secure refugee and asylum rights including by representing asylum seekers and refugees at the European Court of Human Rights. DLA Piper itselfhad previously acted pro bono for Afghan nationals following the fall of Kabul but in the past nine months it has delivered 3,000+ pro bono hours for Ukrainian refugees alone.

Via a secure online portal, lawyers and Ukrainians are connected in message-style chat, ensuring that legal information is highly accessible. The portal has provided information to over 4,300 Ukrainians and their families, and has linked over 1,500 Ukrainians with expert pro bono immigration legal support.

“This award recognises the collaborative efforts of over 300 lawyers from city law firms, including DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Eversheds Sutherland and Clyde & Co,” said Clark. “It is fantastic for this project to receive this acknowledgment, and to have a light shone on the efforts by our team and our peers to ensure Ukrainians could access timely legal information and advice.”

Starting at the BottomYoung and Keen Wins Out

Paralegal Winner – Ellie Searle

As well as awards to experienced solicitors it is good to see encouragement and recognition also being given to more junior members of the profession – especially outside of the London bubble.

For example, Ellie Searle has won the Paralegal of the Year award at this year’s Kent Junior Law Division supported by the Law Society. Searle started as an Administrative Assistant in 2017 at Loch Associates Group (which operates in Kent, Sussex and London) and she was later promoted to the role of Legal Secretary.

What’s more, during the pandemic she stepped in as an HR Advisor in working on payroll and background screening. “She has become a valued member of the team due to her determination, conscientiousness and sharp eye for detail,” said the firm. More recently she helped to develop a new debt collecting service for Loch Associates’ clients.

Meanwhile Holly Moxon from Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors has been named Apprentice of the Year 2022 at the in-Cumbria Business Awards regional awards ceremony. She was the first ever apprentice solicitor in Cumbria and is currently five years into a six-year apprenticeship. After her original plan to study law at university did not work out, Moxton opted for an 18-month apprenticeship in business administration at Cartmell Shepherd recognising it as an alternative route into the profession.

During her initial apprenticeship, Moxton impressed the team with her positive attitude, enthusiasm and hard work prompting the firm to offer her a position as an apprentice solicitor.“I think it’s important that young people are aware of alternative opportunities which are available,” she says. “My apprenticeship allows me to combine work and study which means I can put into practice the theory I’ve learnt at university through practical, on-the-job experience.”

Peter Stafford, Managing Director of Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, agreed, “Legal apprenticeships offer great opportunities to identify and nurture talent,” he said. Other firms take note.

Holly Moxon – Top Legal Apprentice

Atlantic Challenge backed by ARMA Litigation

Row, row, row the boat – with the aid of ARMA Litigation

Fancy rowing single-handed across the Atlantic in the next few weeks? That’s what former commando Mike Bates will shortly be doing as a fund-raiser for the Leeds Children’s Hospital as part of the 2022 Talisker Atlantic Challenge – a mere3000 miles from the Canaries to Antiguadeparting Monday 12th December 2022 and, one hopes, arriving safely 50-60 days later in early February 2023.

“I chose this test as I am not very confident in the water and have no previous rowing experience,” said Bates in a rather astonishing interview. “It’s going to push me to do something I’m not that comfortable with, and I’m not really built for rowing as I am only 5ft 8in.”

Fortunately in this awe-inspiring – and one might almost say dare-devil – undertaking Bates has a backer in the shape of Leeds law firm ARMA Litigation. “Mike is an extraordinary man whose commitment to duty, service and supporting others is unparalleled and inspirational in my view,” said Rajat Sharma, managing partner at the firm. “More people have been into space than solo rowed the Atlantic. The challenge he is to overcome will be incredible, but he will succeed, of that I have no doubt. We are proud to partner with and support Mike in all his initiatives and his amazing journey.”

Bates’ motivation is to support the hospital which saved the life of his baby son some years ago and he has previously raised£160,000.00 to fund the purchase of six specialist neo-natal monitoring machines.

Mike Bates’ Atlantic Grappler project is supported by a range of sponsors. Fund raising details can be found at www.theatlanticgrappler.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. His progress can be tracked on www.yp.tl.

ANGELS’ NEEDED TO STAGE POST OFFICE TRAGEDY

Hoping for a longer run – if funding can be found

The Post Office’s relentless pursuit of entirely innocent sub-Postmasters in the ‘Horizon’ case will go down in the annals of infamy as a shameful episode in British legal history. The only redeeming feature is that, late in the day, campaigning lawyers and politicians were able to call the powerful to account (although full justice is still yet to be done).

To ensure that the scandal is not forgotten too easily the scandal has been brought to life on stage through FALSE ACCOUNTS, written by Lance S A Nielsen  the Co-Founder of The Outcasts Creative. Already it has had a run in theatre in Ealing to enthusiastic review (not least from the Sub-Postmasters victims).

The play is a satire which tells the story of the Horizon horror from start to finish. The first half of the play sets up our five postmasters and their lives before Horizon, then following the escalating issues, their subsequent treatment by the Post Office, lack of support from their union and the ineffectiveness of the helpline. There is also insight into Fujitsu (whose flawed computer system was the cause of the mayhem) seen through the eyes of one of the IT managers, constantly under strain to get the system to work. This act culminates in one of our five characters taking their own life. Central to the production is the complicated legal dimension with two lawyers Chris Aujard and Susan Creighton featuring in the play. Meanwhile the key Post Office executives Paula Vennells, the part-time Anglican priest, and Angela Van de Bogerd  are held to account.

So far the performers have gone unpaid. But the plan now is take the play on a run at between four to six venues in different regions of the country. But this now needs financial support. “ We need at least £60,000 to get going, which would cover between 2 to 3 venues,” says Nielsen. “To do the whole thing would require closer to £100,000, so that’s the end goal. The show has 12 cast and 2 crew, and this is based on paying everyone the minimum daily rate for the production.”

A GoFundMe site is about to be set up. But potential ‘Angels’ can contact Nielsen direct at lancenielsenfilmmaker@gmail.com. If any travesty of justice warranted further public awareness this is surely it. Remember innocent parties went to gaol – and some took their own lives.

LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK

TOPIC:  The government’s response to the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review and consultation on policy proposals

COMMENT BY: Chair of the Bar Mark Fenhalls KC

 “The criminal justice system only works when the whole system works. Our solicitor colleagues are clear that this announcement risks significant flight from criminal legal aid by solicitors which would leave the system in danger of collapse. At the same time we wait to learn whether the Government will increase prosecution fees in line with defence fees. There is already a capacity crunch with too few people willing to undertake criminal work and no one wants to return to the days where barristers decline to prosecute where they have a choice. 

 “Everyone understands the financial difficulties facing the country, but we know from previous budget cuts that failure to invest properly strips away experience and skill and damages the public interest, storing up greater expense for the future.”

COMMENT BY: Chair CILEX, Professor Chris Bones

The government’s response to criminal legal aid is a step in the right direction given the need for investment and reform to ensure that the underpinning principles of our justice system are retained, and the sector attracts and retains the best legal talent.

We have always supported the creation of an Advisory Board to encourage effective partnership working between the Ministry of Justice, representative bodies (including CILEX). However, we are disappointed that the Advisory Board will not act in the capacity of providing a fee review function, which we have previously suggested would be an optimum mechanism to regularly assess any related amendments and uplifts to prevent further disparities in remuneration arising.

CILEX has continuously championed diversity and inclusion within the legal industry. There are currently around 1,150 CILEX members working in criminal law, and they add significantly to the diversity of the sector: nearly two-thirds of these members identify as female, while almost one in five is from an ethnic minority. We therefore look forward to working further with the MoJ in assessing, evidencing, and increasing diversity within the criminal legal aid sector, as we share concerns about remedying the present long-term recruitment and retention crisis.

We are pleased to see the government’s continued commitment for making it easier for appropriately qualified CILEX lawyers to take up the role of duty solicitor and we look forward to entering further discussions with the LAA and the Law Society with a view to aiding wider understanding at how members can be recognised in the legal aid scheme. Suitably qualified CILEX professionals are equivalent to solicitors in their chosen area of law when it comes to skills, expertise and professionalism, and it is high time the artificial barriers placed in their way are removed.”

TOPIC: The inquest into the Shoreham Airshow Disaster which opened this week (more than seven years after the accident).

COMMENT BY: Sarah Stewart, Partner in the Aviation department at Stewartswhich is representing the majority of the families who lost family members in the disaster alongside leading counsel Gerard Forlin KC and junior counsel Kirsten Heaven.

This is the last step in a long road to justice and truth for the families of those killed in the Shoreham Airshow disaster. After seven years, they are finally about to get some answers on how this disaster happened. The Senior Coroner’s conclusions will not bring their loved ones back, but there will be some solace in the hope that the findings lead to improved safety in the planning of future air shows.”

TOPIC: The MoJ’s assessment report into the Official Injury Claim portal  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1120876/oic-one-year-report.pdf

COMMENT BY: Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers.

The report may say it is just an analysis of the OIC’s operational performance, but it clearly goes much further than that. Unfortunately, it is a very one-eyed perspective of what has been happening.

Motor claims are at a record low and the data we have seen so far suggests that is, at least in part, because claimants don’t understand the complex system.

Despite promising the portal would eliminate the need for lawyers, around 90% of users still instruct one. And even that is becoming harder, with our own ‘State of the Market’ survey revealing that half of firms that previously handled low-value RTA claims have stopped doing so.

The knock-on effect of such change is that people seeking a lawyer now find their choice is severely restricted. This at a time when the Competition and Markets Authority is advocating more choice for consumers of legal services, not less.

The Ministry of Justice has been kicking this can down the road for long enough and must now answer serious questions about the effectiveness of the portal in delivering access to justice.”

TOPIC: Announcement by the Singapore Government that it plans to repeal the law (Section 377A) that criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men

COMMENT BY: Téa Braun, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust

 ‘Section 377A was a relic of a tarnished past. It is wonderful to see the government finally do the right thing and decriminalise consensual sexual conduct that is simply not the law’s business.’  

 ‘After almost 85 years of oppression, this final step of the repeal process liberates gay Singaporean men and sends a wider message across Asia and the world, where millions of people are still criminalised based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Countries that maintain these laws will continue to become increasingly isolated.’ 

APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK

FOX WILLIAMS

Bryan Shaw is joining Fox Williams as a partner in the firm’s multidisciplinary technology group. Previously a partner at MBM Commercial, Shaw has significant experience advising on venture capital investment in technology. He has regularly advised entrepreneurs and companies in the tech, digital and financial services sectors and investors along the journey from equity fundraising through to exit. He also advises a range of corporate clients in various M&A, private equity, and venture capital transactions. The aim is that he should now deepen Fox Williams’ capacity for working with high growth technology companies, market-leading fintech and traveltech businesses.

“Fox Williams’ focus on the technology sector is well known and it’s a pleasure to be joining its team of excellent lawyers,” says Shaw. “This is a challenging but nevertheless exciting time in the UK for tech companies and I look forward to providing clients with all my experience and expertise.”

SHAKESPEARE MARTINEAU

Grant Docherty is joining Shakespeare Martineau as a partner to head-up the firm’s banking practice in Scotland. He comes from running Rooney Nimmo’s banking team for the past three years. Previously he spent almost 13 years as the partner in charge ofDWF’s Scottish banking practice.

Docherty has extensive experience across all areas of banking, including real estate, acquisition, renewables, asset, investment fund, large corporate and project finance and has acted for banks and financial institutions, corporate borrowers, real estate funds, and banking regulators.

“Shakespeare Martineau is a fast-growing law firm with an extremely attractive high-performing, empowering culture,” said Docherty. “The firm is expanding and cementing its reputation in Scotland, which presents an exciting opportunity to play a significant role in developing the business in the country. I also thrive in playing a significant role in the development of junior team members and seeing them progress into more senior positions. I am looking forward to growing the banking practice and the broader capabilities of Shakespeare Martineau in Scotland.”

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fennell.edward@yahoo.com

Hope that you have a great weekend!