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Domestic Abuse: Live Fear Free

Ashleigh Portrait

As a Trainee Solicitor in the Family Department of Watkins & Gunn, I often speak to and deal with clients who have suffered, or are suffering from some form of domestic abuse or violence. It is harrowing to hear that both men and women suffer alone and do not know who to turn to for support.

A new and important Welsh Government initiative, Live Fear Free, aims to help those suffering with domestic abusive and sexual violence.

With the help and management of Welsh Women’s Aid, the helpline will be available to anyone to raise concerns about any form of violence against women. The caller will then be referred to a local service to provide further support that they need.

Reports show that calls to the helpline increased from 583 between April 2016 and March 2017 to 671 from March 2017 to March 2018.

Domestic abuse survivors will meet with ministers in Cardiff Bay today to share their stories. It is hoped that the voices of these survivors help shape and influence the service. 

The Welsh Government is also launching a campaign to encourage people to come forward and report their concerns. The Don’t Be a Bystander campaign hopes to raise family and friends’ awareness of domestic abuse and violence in an attempt to urge them to raise their concerns with people who can help. Experts have suggested that although an astonishing 38,583 domestic abuse related incidents were reported to the Police last year, according to Home Office figures, there are likely to be many more incidents and people who suffer from domestic abuse and sexual violence that do not report the incidents.

Japanese Knotweed and Moving House

knotweed2

The results of the world's largest field trial on the control of Japanese knotweed, which was conducted in Wales, have recently been published. Researchers from Swansea University have found that eradicating the plant is not possible.

Japanese Knotweed is a huge problem for home owners and those that are hoping to buy a home where this invasive species exists. It can cause physical damage to buildings and land, thereby affecting the value of the property together with impacting on its marketability and insurability.


Japanese knotweed is the most invasive plant in the UK and spreads rapidly by its roots and stems. It has been noted that it can grow up to 10cm a day between the months of April and October. If even a small piece of root or stem is left in the ground, it is enough to re-infest the land. The roots can penetrate foundations, concrete and walls which can cause considerable damage.


Based on the research it cannot be eradicated, and it can be time-consuming and expensive to manage and treat. Therefore, potential buyers and lenders can be understandably deterred from proceeding in transactions where Japanese knotweed is discovered on the land.


As a property lawyer we must ensure that we have made all the relevant enquiries and have carried out our due diligence in respect of determining the presence of Japanese Knotweed. In most instances (save for a few exceptions) the principal of Caveat Emptor (let the buyer be aware) applies in the purchase of a property. Therefore, the seller is not under a duty to disclose any information about the physical state of the property, which places the onus on the buyers and their legal representation, as a part of their in pre-contract enquiries to discover the existence of the plant.


The Law Society Transaction Form TA6: Property Information Form asks the seller whether the plant exists as a standard and if so, is there a management plan in place to control it. The answers available are ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The seller, by answering this, is implying he has made reasonable checks. It would be wise for any seller (if such checks had not been made) to answer ‘unknown’.


It is therefore a sensible precaution, when purchasing a property, to commission a physical survey of the property. Lenders will expect the presence of knotweed be noted on a valuation report. The lender will then consider a number of factors such as the level of severity and the plan in place to treat the plant. This will often by a condition of the lending. There has been reluctance to lend from some mortgage lenders because of the difficulty in treating the plant.
Generally, building insurance polices do not cover damage caused by Japanese Knotweed. A specialist company will need to be instructed to manage and treat the plant where it exists, and that can result in a programme of works that may lasts a few years.


If you are buying or selling a property that you fear may be subject to this invasive plant, we suggest you take legal and environmental specialist advice as soon as possible.

Janine Edwards, Head of Property at Watkins and Gunn explains the steps that house buyers should take when buying a property that may be affected by Japanese Knotweed.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

Challenging the decision on school uniform grant?

School Uniform 

Following the revelation that the Welsh Government is to scrap school uniform grants, Michael Imperato outlines the steps it should have taken in the run up to the decision.

The Welsh Government’s school uniform grant was available to Year 7 students eligible for free school meals, offering £105 towards the costs of essential kit. The announcement that it was to be scrapped came as something of a surprise. As a lawyer dealing with public law and Human Right challenges for vulnerable people I query whether the Welsh Government have complied with their ‘due regard’ under three different laws.

 

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and Due Regard

Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 provides:

A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to –

(a)         Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited under the Act;

(b)         Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;

(c)         Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

The requirements of the PSED are by now uncontroversial. The public decision maker has to have due regard to the need to take steps to meet the needs of persons.  They have to take steps to gather all the relevant information.  It must be considered with rigour and an open mind.  It must be an essential preliminary to any important policy decision, not a rear-guard action.  Consideration of the duties must be an integral part of the proposed policy not justification for its adoption.

Children are one of the protected characteristic groups. The grant clearly targeted financially disadvantaged  families. What information was gathered, how does this change of policy meet the needs of families who struggle to buy food let alone school uniform? What steps have the Welsh Government taken to mitigate the impact of the scrapping of the grant? Decision makers produce an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA), which should evidence the above – it would be interesting to see the EIA relating to this.

 

Due Regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Welsh Government must not just give due regard to the PSED but also to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UNCRC is an international agreement that protects the human rights of children under the age of 18. It was ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1989.

In 1991 the United Kingdom formally agreed to ensure that every child in the UK has all the rights listed in the convention. The Welsh Government adopted the Convention as the basis for policy making for children and young people in Wales in 2004. The ‘Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure‘ 2011 received unanimous, cross-party support when it was passed at the National Assembly for Wales in January 2011.  It placed a duty on all Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the substantive rights and obligations within the UNCRC and its optional protocols.

The Children’s Rights Scheme

Section 2 of the Measure requires Ministers to publish a Children’s Rights Scheme which sets out the arrangements Ministers will have in place to have due regard to the UNCRC.  Welsh Ministers published their first Children’s Rights Scheme in May 2012. Central to this is the Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA).

Have the CRIAs undertaken so far delivered? This was looked at by Simon Hoffman of Swansea University on behalf of the Welsh Government in 2015. He was critical of the CRIA’s so far, stating that, ‘there were a number of findings that might get litigators thinking about the possibilities.’

The evaluation found:

  • Limited understanding of the objectives of the UNCRC amounts officials completing CRIA

  • Failure to consult with children

  • Limited use of available evidence

  • Tendency to assume positive benefits of policy

  • Reluctance to raise negative aspects of policy

 

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 includes provision that:

a person exercising functions under this Act in relation to a child ….must have due regard to Part 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

This is a provision, which sets out the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensuring many of Wales’ most vulnerable children and young people receive services which respect and uphold their rights. This is a far reaching application of the due regard duty which has a direct impact on service delivery and requires providers of services to consider whether or not the way in which they are delivering services to children and young people upholds their rights under the UNCRC.

This significant obligation reinforces the way in which the regulations, statutory guidance and codes of practice under the Act have been or are to be child rights impact-assessed and where due regard under the Measure has been applied through the Ministerial duty.

 

Conclusion

The Welsh Government told BBC Wales many schools and local authorities in Wales have arrangements in place to support families struggling with the cost of uniforms.  A spokesman said: “Since the introduction of the grant… school uniforms have reduced significantly in price and their availability has increased.  We have also worked with school governing bodies to encourage schools to follow Welsh Government guidance on keeping uniform costs low.”

But the key legal questions are:

  • have they given ‘due regard’ to the PSED and the UNCRC?

  • How ‘robust’ was their ‘due regard’ duty applied?

  • How thorough were the EIA and CRIA?

It would be interesting to examine this, and a legal challenge might well test the Welsh Government approach to, and its commitment to, children’s rights in Wales.

 

Michael is a partner at Watkins & Gunn Solicitors and a trustee of the Bevan Foundation.

https://www.bevanfoundation.org/commentary/challenging-decision-school-uniform-grant/

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

 

There has been a lot of information regarding the deadline of 25th May 2018 which is the date that the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), come into force.  This will be a substantial change to the current data protection legislation and it would be wise not to regard matters as business as usual.  The GDPR will impose major changes which include:

 

  • Individuals having greater control over their personal data including the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the right to have their data transferred;
  • In certain circumstances an organisation will have to appoint a data protection officer;
  • Organisations will have to report breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours;
  • There will be much stricter rules on obtaining individual’s consent on how their personal data can be used, including use for marketing; and
  • Higher penalties will be imposed on organisations who breach data protection regulations.

 

Many organisations are already working to accommodate the changes but there is still a substantial number who are not turning their attention to GDPR.  It is important to, at least, make a start on implementing the necessary changes now, even if these are not completed before the deadline.  This will demonstrate to the ICO, should a breach occur, that you are taking the regulations seriously and may well reduce any possible penalty.  It can also minimise the risk of a breach happening in the first place.

 

There needs to be an administrative as well as a legal approach to complying with GDPR.  Some of the matters an organisation may want to consider are:

 

  • Understanding what personal data is held by the organisation and how it is used within the organisation;
  • Allocating responsibility within the organisation for the implementation and safeguarding of personal data;
  • Cleansing an organisation’s existing personal data to remove any excess data with no legitimate reason for holding on to it;
  • Having proper systems in place for safeguarding personal data and for reporting breaches to the ICO;
  • Ensuring a commitment from senior management and training of staff on the new GDPR;
  • Reviewing the internal privacy policy and the privacy and cookies policy on the website (external policy); and
  • Reviewing an organisation’s legal agreements with other entities to ensure there are proper provisions for safeguarding and dealing with personal data.

 

The above are just some of the considerations which an organisation should be turning its attention to from now.  You may want to engage external advisors with GDPR knowledge to help you navigate this fairly complex area of law.

 

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

The Peace of Mind of a Lasting Power of Attorney

 

Most people are aware of the importance of making a Will,  to make sure that their estate is paid out according to their wishes. However, many people forget the importance of making a Lasting Power of Attorney, in addition to their Will, to ease any potential burden on their families.

 

This is partly due to the fact that we don't like to think about, or discuss, what would happen if we, or a close family member, lost capacity. 

 

There is a common misconception that, if you lose capacity, your family or your spouse can automatically take over the reins, access your money and even pay for your care. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to be the case, as your assets may be frozen, even if you have joint accounts, unless the proper paperwork is in place. 

 

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to nominate a trusted friend or family member to look after your affairs. 

 

Making a Lasting Power of Attorney is in some ways like taking out an insurance policy. It is a one off transaction. You hope that you will never need to use it, but should you need to, you have the peace of mind of knowing that the correct paperwork is in place. 

 

Sadly, mental or physical incapacity can strike at any time, and so I recommend that you have a Lasting Power of Attorney drawn up by a specialist solicitor. 




Linda Dack is a Solicitor and the Head of the Private Client Department at Watkins & Gunn. She is an accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. 

 

 

 

Dragons’ Den baker set to thrive with the help of Welsh lawyers

 

A successful Dragons’ Den contestant is whipping up a frenzy across the baking industry with the help of South Wales solicitors, Watkins and Gunn.

 

Adelle Smith, founder of children’s baking business BKD, has successfully secured an offer of investment in the latest series of the BBC Two show.

 

Adelle and BKD attracted the interest of media and leisure entrepreneur Peter Jones after successfully pitching her London-based business, which specialises in children’s baking parties, kits, and events, to the panel.

 

Following her success, the businesswoman has now instructed head of business law at award-winning firm Watkins and Gunn, Faris Dean, to support the company as it expands.

 

Mr Dean, is not only a solicitor but also a qualified accountant. He specialises in providing legal support to local and national SMEs and will now work with Ms Smith going forward.

 

He said: “We are delighted to be working with Ms Smith following her recent successful appearance on Dragons’ Den.

 

“This investment will be significantly beneficial for her as she looks to grow the business across the UK, and make BKD a household name.

 

“We wish her every success, and look forward to working with her to make BKD a success.”

 

Watkins and Gunn, with offices in Cardiff, London, Newport and  Pontypool, provide  a wealth of corporate and commercial services including partnership and investment agreements, buying and selling of businesses and shares, shareholders agreements, advising on commercial contracts anddrafting terms and conditions of business.

 

 

 

For media queries contact Gemma Gwilym at jamjar PR on 01446 771265 or email gemma@jamjar-pr.co.uk

Local law firm wins contract with festive family game

 

Regional law firm Watkins and Gunn is getting an early start on the Christmas spirit by helping to bring Scrooge to a new gaming audience.

 

The firm, with offices based in Cardiff, Newport, Pontypool and London, recently acted on behalf of the makers of a new board game due to hit the market in time for the festive season.

 

Following the high-profile appointment of Faris Dean to spearhead the business law team at the firm, the new recruit has wasted no time in winning new contracts.

 

Mr Dean has acted on behalf of board game creator Peter Gerring, providing legal services relating to the raising of finance.

 

A twist on a classic Christmas tale, Scrooge The Board Game, is a strategic survival game, urging players to navigate 56 different streets of London while avoiding Scrooge’s tricks and traps, while interacting with five different decks of cards.

 

The game, inspired by the Gerring family’s Dickensian appreciation and love of board games, is now available to back on Kickstarter and has received almost 200 pledges to date.

 

Faris Dean, Head of Business Law at Watkins and Gunn, said: “We’ve had an incredible response to our business law services so far, and it’s been a great experience to represent such an exciting local business as it gets its bearings. I have no doubt that the game will be a huge success, and that families will love coming together to play Scrooge during the run up to Christmas.”

 

Peter Gerring discussed his relationship with the firm, saying: “Watkins and Gunn has been instrumental during our journey of bringing Scrooge The Board Game to the market, and working with Faris has been a wonderful, professional experience. We’re looking forward to continuing the relationship for future endeavours.”

 

Watkins and Gunn offers a wide range of legal services including Accident Claims, Medical

Negligence, Wills and Probate, Employment Law, Education Law, Public Law, Business Law, Divorce

and Family Law, Childcare Law, Criminal Law, Road Traffic Law and Property.

 

It now provides a wealth of corporate and commercial services including partnership and investment agreements, buying and selling of businesses and shares, shareholders agreements, advising on commercial contracts and drafting terms and conditions of business.

 

 

For media enquiries, please contact Shelley Phillips at jamjar PR on 01446 771265 /

shelley@jamjar-pr.co.uk

For more information on Scrooge the Board Game, please visit https://www.scroogetheboardgame.co.uk/the-game/  

 

 

 

 

Sepsis the Hidden Killer

 

Jonathan Wellington, Head of Clinical Negligence, at Watkins & Gunn, reports on the importance of being alert for the symptoms of Sepsis.

 

There has been much press coverage in recent weeks and days of a condition of Sepsis. Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection which can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

 

In children under 5, then the symptoms are the child looks mottled, blueish or pale; can be very lethargic or difficult to wake. They are often cold to the touch, fast breathing and a rash that doesn’t fade. It may be accompanied by a fit or convulsion.

 

In older people then symptoms include a high temperature, fever and a lower body temperature; chills and shivering; a fast heartbeat and fast breathing. More severe sepsis or sepsis shock can also lead to confusion or disorientation; nausea or vomiting; severe muscle pain and slurred speech.

 

If identified and treated quickly then sepsis can be treated relatively easily with the use of antibiotics. However severe sepsis and septic shock require immediate admission to hospital and severe sepsis can prove fatal.

 

The TV presenter, Fern Britton was reported this week as being “resigned to dying” when she suffered sepsis. In her case she suffered sepsis after a routine hysterectomy when symptoms went undiagnosed. She was in agony following the operation, but was told to wait and see before being admitted to hospital. Fortunately the sepsis was caught just in time and she is on the road to recovery.

 

Another case that attracted attention was that of Stephen Jackson aged 37 of Essex who died after doctors missed his sepsis condition three times. He suffered with epiglottitis, which are symptoms of a sore throat. When he attended A & E he was told to purchase over the counter medication. An ambulance was later called and a paramedic examined him and diagnosed a virus. A matter of hours later an ambulance was again called but unfortunately he suffered a cardiac arrest and died. He was found to be suffering with epiglottitis which had led to severe sepsis.

 

Sepsis is a condition which affects 150,000 people or so in Britain each year and can be a hidden killer as it results in 44,000 deaths. However, if spotted quickly it can be treated relatively simply, however there have been a number of cases where symptoms have been missed and severe sepsis has developed leading to death or complications.

 

It is important therefore to be alert for the symptoms of sepsis and to seek urgent medical treatment and keep questioning medical experts if there are concerns regarding the diagnosis given.

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Our medical negligence lawyers can help can you make a claim if you’ve suffered because of errors by health professionals.

 

 

 

Sound as a Pound - The New Pound Coin

 

Pound Coin1

 

There are thought to be more than 30 million fake £1 coins in circulation. There is estimated to be a one in 30 chance that any pound in your pocket is a fake. So the Royal Mint designed what they consider to be “the most secure circulating coin in the world”, made from two types of metal with a host of security features.

The old round £1 coin has been in circulation since April 21, 1983 and will continue to be legal tender only until October 15, 2017. The new, "unforgeable", 12-sided £1 coin was introduced at the end of March 2017 and are now in circulation in banks and shops across the country. 

It has caused significant issues with Supermarket trolleys, Pay-and-display machines, vending machines and train ticket machines.  These machines will all need to be modified to accept the new coin by the 15th October.

So if you have got a collection of old-style £1 coins in a piggy bank or down the side of your sofa - then either spend them or pay them into the bank before the October cut-off date. Otherwise, you could be left out of pocket.

 

THE NEW £1 COIN'S FEATURES

 

12-sided

Its distinctive shape makes it instantly recognisable, even by touch.

 

Dimensions

The new £1 coin’s dimensions are different from the current round £1 coin. It is 2.8mm thick, making it thinner than the 3.15mm round £1 coin. It weighs 8.75g, down from 9.5g, and its diameter measures 23.43mm making it slightly larger than the round £1 coin, the maximum diameter (point to point) is 23.43mm.

 

Bimetallic

The new pound coin is made of two metals. The outer ring is gold coloured (nickel-brass) and the inner ring is silver coloured (nickel-plated alloy).

 

Latent image

The new coin features an image like a hologram that changes from a ‘£’ symbol to the number '1' when the coin is seen from different angles.

 

Micro-lettering

The new £1 contains tiny lettering on the lower inside rim on both sides of the coin. One pound on the “heads” side, known as the obverse side, and the year of production is engraved on the reverse “tails” side.

 

Milled edges

The coin has grooves on alternate sides.

 

Hidden high-security feature

A secret security feature is built into the new pound coin to protect it from counterfeiting in the future.

 

 

 

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

Help Fathers Use Their Rights at Work

 

 

Lisa Guscott, Partner and employment specialist at Watkins & Gunn, looks at the impact of fathers’ increased rights at work.

 

Despite the introduction of shared parental leave, fathers have been slow to take up their new rights at work.

 

The focus of the original legislation aimed at improving employment rights in this area was firmly fixed on improving the lot of working mothers. Paternity leave and pay weren’t introduced in the UK until 2003 and whilst parental leave has been available since 1999 for both mothers and fathers, this is unpaid.

 

In April 2015 shared parental leave and shared parental pay were introduced. Mothers must still take the initial two weeks after birth and fathers will still be entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave. However, then both parents then have a flexible choice of how to split up the rest of the leave entitlement - of up to 50 weeks. Shared parental pay (currently £140.98 a week or 90% of an employee's average weekly earnings whichever is lower) is only given for 37 weeks and the remaining 13 weeks of leave entitlement, if taken, is unpaid.

 

Example - If a mother ends her maternity leave after the 12 weeks following the child's birth, that leaves 40 weeks of leave. She could split this remaining leave and take 30 weeks and her partner can take the other 10 weeks. Alternatively, the couple may choose to take 20 weeks of leave at the same time or at different times.

 

It was the Government’s intention that the introduction of shared parental leave would help encourage more working fathers to take more time off after the birth of a child and encourage mothers to return to work. However, statistics show that the take-up of shared parental leave is only approximately and 1% and 40% of companies report that not a single father has taken shared parental leave it was introduced.

 

There are numerous possible explanations behind the poor uptake of shared parental leave.  However, one of the key reasons is financial. Whilst mothers often have their maternity pay topped up by their employer, employers are much less likely to top up shared parental pay – working families will therefore very often be worse off if the mother shares her leave with the father. It could be argues that this is discriminatory against men, but no cases have yet been brought to date. In addition, statistics show that 50% of fathers thought that taking shared parental leave would be perceived negatively by their employer and may harm their career prospects.

 

So what can employers do to help? Educating employees to raise awareness about the options available to them and combating negative perceptions would help. Also, they could enhance paternity pay and/or shared parental pay to match what is offered to mothers - but not all employers can afford to do it. A less costly alternative would be to offer more flexible working opportunities, such as working different patterns of hours or job-sharing. According to the TUC, the majority of employed fathers with young children (over 90%) work full-time, but the Working Families study showed that fathers want more flexibility in the workplace. So alternatives to the traditional fixed hours structure may appeal to many working fathers. Flexible working not only helps well-being at work but can also often lead to increased productivity for businesses.

 

Employers should consider actively supporting working fathers as well as working mothers. Although there may be cost implications in the short-term, these should be weighed against the potential long-term benefits of attracting and keeping the best workers and having a happy and productive workforce.

 

Fathers’ rights at work include the right to -

  • make a flexible working request;
  • paid shared parental leave;
  • paid paternity leave;
  • take unpaid parental leave;
  • take emergency unpaid leave to look after a dependant; and
  • take unpaid leave to attend antenatal appointments

 

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. For more information contact Watkins & Gunn Solicitors on 01633 262122 or visit to our website www.watkinsandgunn.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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