Thursday, February 28, 2013

Public Open Day about Braunton Floods this Saturday

There's a public open day about the Braunton flood this Saturday in Braunton Parish Hall from 10am to 1pm. They'll be discussing the plan for the next few years as well as covering a draft action plan on air quality. For more information visit

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Article on lawyers who sue other lawyers for PI claims

I've done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors on lawyers who sue other lawyers for PI claims. You can read it here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Article on how to complain about bad medical care

I've done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors on the numerous avenues available for making a complaint if you suffer from bad medical care. You can read it here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Recommendation: Privacy and the Press

Do we need a law of privacy? Should judges be allowed to stop us reading about a footballer's adultery or enjoying pictures of a film star's wedding? Is a super-model's cocaine addiction something that she should be allowed to keep private? And aren't we entitled to walk down the street without having our most intimate activities recorded on security cameras and broadcast to the world? These questions have divided not only the country but also our most senior judges. Drawing a line between justified and unjustified intrusion places great stresses on our legal traditions with some judges favouring an approach which stretches existing laws to grant relief to deserving victims, whilst other judges feel that it would be more honest to simply recognize privacy as a new human right. The latter approach creates further problems: should it be up to Parliament alone to create such a right? And what about free speech? Do the newspapers and the public not have rights too? The issues raised are often highly emotive. Newspapers are not allowed to identify Thompson and Venables, the young men who murdered two-year-old James Bulger, because their lives would be in danger. Nobody may identify Mary Bell, who also killed when she was a child, even though there was no such risk. Will paedophiles be the next to demand lifelong anonymity? Steering a course through this minefield requires a grasp of legal concepts and principles and an understanding of how the law develops. This book explores how the English legal system has had to blend old laws on confidentiality with modern human rights law in order to deal with these problematic issues. Written for non-specialists by one of Britain s best known legal journalists, this book provides a uniquely accessible guide to the legal aspects of this public debate. Available from Amazon

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Article on how small mistakes by professionals can have terrible consequences

I've done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors on professional negligence in property cases and specifically how small mistakes can have terrible consequences. You can read it here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Recommendation: More Weird Cases: Comic and Bizarre Cases from Courtrooms around the World

The first book in this series, Weird Cases, was published in 2009 and contained cases which had been dealt with by the courts in the previous two years. The parade of extraordinary human disputes and irregularities that are heard in law courts has, however, run on unabated since then. More Weird Cases provides a further instalment of extraordinary cases from around the world that have featured in the author s popular column in The Times Online. The cases featured in More Weird Cases are those that truly stand out as odd, even among all the unusual dramas that challenge the courts: the case of the man caught with a substantial quantity of marijuana who said in his defence that he only possessed the drug for the purposes of de-worming his ducks; a case where the court authorities didn t accept that being a cat was a proper excuse not to serve on a jury; and one where a man was granted a divorce because his wife thought about having sex with another man. This book is a highly entertaining read for anyone who enjoys reading about the more bizarre aspects of human life that fetch up in the law courts at the beginning of the 21st century. Available from Amazon

Legal DNA Testing

Brought to you by our friends at AlphaBiolabs

Established in August 2004, AlphaBiolabs is an accredited DNA Paternity, Drug and Alcohol Testing Laboratory.

Their brand values centre around providing cost effective Legal DNA tests to whoever requires it. Our clients include a range of Civil Courts, Law Firms, Councils and Members of the Public throughout the UK

They are the only laboratory in the UK that is accredited for DNA Paternity Testing and Drugs of Abuse in hair testing, giving you the peace of mind that you deserve. Utilising the latest technology in their laboratory, they ensure accuracy, reliability and integrity for each and every case, supported by their confidential customer services department and overseen by their highly trained technical staff.

DNA, Drug and Alcohol testing. Who do you trust?
“The results we issue change lives. We understand the importance of the role we play and the effect we have. That’s why we’re committed to delivering results you and your clients can rely on completely.” said an AlphaBioLabs spokesperson.

AlphaBiolabs is independently accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to perform DNA and drug testing to the ISO17025 standard and is also on the Ministry of Justice list of approved DNA testing laboratories.

Confidentiality and Care
“Everyone working for AlphaBiolabs has a legal duty to keep information about you confidential.

We have a training programme to teach staff the importance of maintaining confidentiality, safeguarding information and ensuring they manage personal data legally, securely and efficiently. Plus we never use or pass on any personal information and only provide results to those involved in the testing process and their legal representatives.”

AlphaBiolabs currently perform around 2500 DNA paternity tests per year from a wide range of people each with their own reasons for needing a test. With this high volume of tests being performed there are often questions raised by both the instructing parties and the participants of the test.

One of the commonest is "I know I am the mum so why are you testing me?" It is not uncommon for us to test to determine maternity but in the majority of cases it is the paternity that is in doubt so why do labs require the mother's sample?  The Human Genetics Commission and the Department of Health both recommend that the mother should be at least aware of the test if not directly involved and it is viewed that motherless testing could be "harmful to the child, as well as the family unit as a whole".  All reputable labs would strongly recommend the inclusion of the mother's sample for this reason alone; however there are also scientific reasons to include the mother in a test.

Half of a child's DNA comes from the mother and the other half from the father. A DNA test determines whether or not a tested man could have passed on his DNA to the child. When the mother is included it is possible to identify which of the child's DNA comes from her, leaving the paternal DNA to compare against the alleged father. DNA test reports usually include two values, the Combined Paternity Index (CPI) which provides an odds ratio of how much more likely it is that the tested man is the father rather than an untested man and the Probability of Paternity which reflects the probability that the tested hypothesis is correct.  These values can be calculated with or without the inclusion the mother's sample but provides much greater certainty when the mother is tested. For example, a test that we recently completed with the mother gave a CPI of 56,836,601 and a Probability of Paternity of 99.99999% indicating it is 56,836,601 times more likely that the tested man was the father than another man; removing the mother from this test would have reduced this to around 10,000, more than 5,500 times lower. In some cases this reduction could be even greater and reduce the CPI and probability so much that the test is no longer conclusive or as definite as it could have been, in which case it may be that the mother's sample would be required anyway, leading to more paperwork and delays to the result.

In some circumstances the mother's sample cannot be provided or the delay to a case because of an evasive sample donor can mean that motherless testing is unavoidable, but when the cost of a DNA test includes the mother's sample it really is in the best interest of the test results to include her in the process.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book review: 'Ghostman' by Roger Hobbs - the next Lee Child!

I have to admit that when a book is as hyped as this one with even Lee Child recommending it, I was left both incredibly curious as well as just a little concerned that it might not live up to expectations. But there was absolutely no need to worry. This book is a first rate thriller and grabs you right from the off. Roger Hobbs has found his voice with his first novel and I have to say that it's both as clear as that of John Grisham and as compelling as that of Lee Child himself. He's also given life to a character about whom I hope to be reading more for many years to come.

Just by way of introduction, the Ghostman is the man those in the know call in to do the clear up when a heist goes wrong. In this case it's in Atlantic City and the organiser calls in a favour from the so-called Ghostman who is sometimes called Jack. This is a man who is all but invisible to very nearly the whole world and wherever he happens to go leaves no fingerprints (literally). I don't want to spoil the plot by going into it much more but suffice it to say that I really couldn't recommend this book more highly. This is most definitely written by someone about whom we are going to be hearing a lot more in the future. You can buy it at

Changes to CFAs in clinical negligence cases could lead to clients missing out

Brought to you by our friends at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors

From 1 April  this year changes to the law governing personal injury and clinical negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ court cases will mean successful claimants will have to pay a proportion of their  compensation towards their costs  and this is likely to deter many injured victims from  taking legal action at all. The government say it hopes the changes will act as a disincentive to anyone bringing spurious claims but as a lawyer who has worked in medical negligence for many years, my experience is that spurious claims are most unusual and  identified very early on and rarely proceeded with.  In reality I consider that the changes will mean that people with genuine claims for compensation, particularly those on limited incomes are likely to be too nervous and reluctant to enter into litigation for compensation, where they will have to pay legal costs out of their damages. This post aims to shed some light on some of the changes to CFAs and how this will affect future clinical negligence cases.

What are the current arrangements?
Currently, most people who make a claim against a private health practice or the NHS will either receive Legal Aid to cover their legal costs, or a solicitor will act for them on a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). This is better known as No Win, No Fee agreement which means if your case isn’t successful, you will not have to pay any fees. If you win your case, the costs are met by the losing defendant.

In clinical negligence cases Legal Aid and CFAs are both available to fund cases with sufficient merit. At the moment any person with a clinical negligence claim may be eligible for Legal Aid, provided their chances of success are above 50% and their income is below a certain level. From April 2013 only those who have been injured during pregnancy, labour, or the first eight weeks of life will be eligible for Legal Aid and so legal aid is going for all other cases regardless of whether the potential Claimant may be on a low income.  Most injured parties on a low income will now have to enter into a Conditional Fee Agreement to fund their cases.

Currently if you enter a CFA the solicitors take a risk on their costs and only get paid for their work if they win.  They charge a success fee, in addition to basic charges, to reflect the risk element and the fact that inevitably there will be a considerable proportion of cases which are unsuccessful and where they will not be paid anything at all.  In successful cases the rule has always been the loser pays the winners costs, thus putting the Claimant in the position they would have been financially if the negligence had not occurred.  The Claimant needs to take out insurance against losing, which involves payment of a large premium.  If the Claimant is successful the Defendant has to pay the insurance premium. This means that a successful claimant will recover their compensation and their legal costs will be paid in addition.

The changes to CFAs
The Government’s changes  have been prompted by the opinion that defendants have been paying out too much in costs when they are unsuccessful which is bizarre bearing in mind they have only been unsuccessful because they have been negligent.

However as   of 1 April successful claimants will have to pay their solicitor’s success fee and sometimes an insurance premium, instead of the defendant, from their compensation and be deprived of at least 25 percent of their general damages in order to pay for legal costs.  Clinical negligence cases are expensive because the most important evidence comes from medical experts.  They also take a long time and are inevitably distressing for a person who has been injured having placed their trust in a medical professional or institution. 

The cases take energy and commitment on the part of the Claimant, but they are likely to be disinclined to claim if they consider a large proportion of their damages will be eaten up in legal costs.  This will be particularly likely in cases where the amount of compensation is relatively modest and below £30,000. It will be in the defendant’s interests to make low and unrealistic offers to settle, knowing it will be expensive and risky for the Claimant to proceed with expensive investigations to prove that the case is worth more.
It is the government’s aim to decrease the legal costs involved, but it is very much at the expense of the victim of negligence.

So is there anything you can do now?
The changes are not retrospective so I would recommend anyone who believes they have been a victim of clinical negligence to consult a solicitor now to begin their claim, before the rules change in April.  That way they will be able to recover their legal costs in addition to their compensation. Any Conditional Fee Agreements entered into or Legal Aid granted before April 2013 will not be subject to the new rules, and you could be saving yourself a significant deduction from damages if your case is successful.  Some people may be concerned that they are still receiving treatment for their injury but this will not affect them.  If you consider that you have a claim act now.

About the author: Kay Kelly, partner and head of the medical negligence team at Lanyon Bowdler solicitors in Shrewsbury,  who specialise in providing expert legal advice and support for victims of clinical negligence.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Travel Law & technology Infographic by asb law "the digital revolution"

Brought to you by our friends at ASB Law

With the world becoming more and more digital – do you understand the risks to your travel business? To help answer this question, travel lawyers at ASB Law, specialist providers of legal expertise in travel law, charity law and aviation law have researched the latest digital trends in the B2B travel sector and the technology legal implications for consideration by the travel industry. The key findings from the research are in the creative infographic below.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Recommendation: Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest

'The price of life is death' For Mallory, as for all of his generation, death was but 'a frail barrier that men crossed, smiling and gallant, every day'. As climbers they accepted a degree of risk unimaginable before the war. What mattered now was how one lived, and the moments of being alive. While the quest for Mount Everest may have begun as a grand imperial gesture, it ended as a mission of revival for a country and a lost generation bled white by war. In a monumental work of history and adventure, Davis asks not whether George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Everest, but rather why he kept climbing on that fateful day. Available from Amazon

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Information about Braunton flood defences

Just a heads up for information which is now available at about the plans and discussions about Braunton's flood defences following the severe flooding in December. Specifically a campaign is being organised by Ben Byrom of West Cross Garage You can read it here.

Weekend Video: Ken Robinson on Passion

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top North Devon photographer Rob Tibbles @robtibbles

A big heads-up for those that don't know him for top photographer Rob Tibbles. Not only does he get some great surf pics but he's a wedding photographer as well as the North Devon Journal's man of choice to cover the latest story to hit our part of the West Country. You can follow him on Twitter on @robtibbles or on his blog.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Article on professional negligence in personal injury cases

I've done an article for a blog I write for a firm of solicitors 
on professional negligence in personal injury cases. You can read it 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: The Strange Laws Of Old England

A fun and fascinating tour of the by-ways of British legal history. Did you know that the law requiring a London taxi driver to carry a bale of hay on top of his cab to feed the horse was in force until 1976? Or that Welshmen are not allowed in the city of Chester after dark? Nigel Cawthorne has unearthed an extraordinary (and sometimes hilarious) collection of the most bizarre and arcane laws that have been enacted over the centuries. Some of which, incredibly are still in force! It is still illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour. Available from Amazon