News & Blog

Guidance on cases where a Special Guardianship Order is being considered

Fenners’ Azreen Mussa considers the new Public Law Working Group’s guidance on cases where a Special Guardianship Order is being considered.

The guidance is key reading for any care practitioner.

Read the full article here.

FURLOUGH SCHEME EXTENSION AND CHANGES

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until 31st October.

From 1st July, furloughed employees will be able to work part-time whilst still remaining furloughed and employers will be responsible for paying their wages for periods that they have worked. The government will continue to make furlough payments in respect of any part of their normal hours that a furloughed employee has not worked.

Read the full article here.

Mike Magee
Head of Employment Team
Fenners Chambers

Pupil v Pandemic [2020]

“The start to my second six was a little different…”

Fenners’ pupil, Anne Hogarth, provides a light-hearted account of her first day in court prosecuting a CPS Magistrates List at the start of her second-six on the 16th March 2020, one week before the Covid-19 lockdown.

Read the full article here.

Re: P (A Child: Remote Hearing) [2020] EWFC 32

“This hearing cannot properly or fairly be conducted without her physical presence before a judge in a courtroom”

Fenners’ Ellena Forman considers the recent case Re P, on when a final hearing is suitable to be heard remotely:-

Re_P_EF.pdf

Judicial promotion for former member of Fenners

Employment Judge George Foxwell, a member of Fenners until his appointment as an employment judge in 2009, has been promoted to the post of Regional Employment Judge  for the South East region. George joined Fenners after completing his training in London and soon built up a specialist employment practice, starting to sit as a part-time chairman of employment tribunals in 2001 when only 37.

Congratulations from all your former colleagues!

Fenners’ founder member retires from the Bench

On the same day, His Honour Judge Michael Yelton, one of the founder members of Fenners Chambers alongside Jon Haworth and David Levin, retired as a Circuit Judge after 21½ years in office.

Appointed a full time circuit judge at the then early age of 48, he was the third most senior member of the English and Welsh circuit bench by the time of his retirement. Michael also sat as a Deputy High Court Judge from 2000.

Everyone at Fenners thanks Michael for the enormous contribution he made to the success of chambers in the first quarter-century of its existence and wishes him a long and happy retirement.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

A brief summary of the government guidance on Furloughing employees.

 

AN UPDATE FOLLOWING THE TREASURY’S DIRECTIVE TO HMRC  15th April

All businesses registered and operating PAYE and with a UK bank account as of 19th March 2020 can apply.

Employees must have been on PAYE as of 19th March 2020. Those made redundant between 28th February and 18th March 2020 are eligible to be furloughed if re-hired and placed on Furlough.

They can be full time, part time, agency, flexible or zero hours contracts, apprentices (who can continue to train), company directors and LLP members if salaried. Directors can carry out their statutory obligations (narrowly defined) whilst furloughed.  Employees who are working reduced hours or reduced wages do not qualify for the furlough scheme by doing so. Those who cannot work because they are shielding or have care responsibilities can be furloughed.

The employee must have been instructed by the employer “to cease all work in relation to their employment”. Working for a person connected with the employer or working indirectly disqualifies the employee from being treated as furloughed. The instruction must be given “by reason of circumstances arising as a result of coronavirus or coronavirus disease”.

The instruction must be given by the employer in writing and written agreement must be obtained from the employee. This is extremely important and employers should ensure that they get employees’ written agreement.

Employees can still carry out training or voluntary work. They can also work in another job if contractually permitted and continue to be paid whilst furloughed. Employees on unpaid leave or SSP cannot be furloughed until they were due to return. You can bring employees in and out of furlough although the minimum furlough period is 3 weeks.

The maximum amount to be paid by the government is 80% of regular wages including legally enforceable fees and commission (but not discretionary commission or bonuses or non-monetary benefits such as a car) or £2,500, whichever is the lower. If employees’ wages vary then the employer can apply the same month’s earnings from the previous year or the average of the past year (whichever is the higher). HMRC will pay that amount plus employer’s NI and employer’s minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions. There is no minimum wage when an employee is furloughed. The employees will be taxed on the amount paid to them.

Employers are not obliged to top up the additional 20% of wages, however, usual employment law applies, so any changes to the contract must be agreed and are subject to the Equality Act 2010.

There will an HMRC portal on gov.uk to submit the claim. This is expected to be up and running by 20  April 2020.  Employers need to calculate the amount that they are entitled to recover. HMRC will make BACS payments directly to employers.

The payments need to be included in the company’s accounts as revenue.

Mike Magee
Head of  Employment Team
Fenners Chambers

Frequently Asked Questions: Child Contact and the Coronavirus

Contact between children and parents can be a contentious issue at the best of times and the current Government lockdown has only sought to confuse the issue. It is hoped that the information below will help to answer the most common questions parents are asking themselves and their legal advisors.

FAQs_Child_Contact_and_Coronavirus.pdf

Please remember that all situations are unique and not every question has an immediately clear answer. The Family Team at Fenners Chambers are continuing to operate as usual on a remote basis: we are happy to answer any questions and attend conferences; we can represent clients at remote hearings by video conference or telephone; we can offer alternative dispute resolution for swift and effective solutions. All members of the team are happy to work via telephone, Skype for Business, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Please contact the clerks at clerks@fennerschambers.com or 01223 368 761 for more information.

Fenners Family: working for families during the crisis

The Family Group at Fenners is now working remotely. Our barristers, clerks and the administrative team are now based at home. Our barristers are attending hearings by video and telephone as arranged by the courts. Hearings in local courts are now taking place primarily by Skype for Business and we are working actively with the courts to ensure that cases, including Final Hearings,  can continue to be heard. For this to happen the courts expect us all to be flexible. Dan Messenger recently acted in a 4 day final hearing where all participants- parents, witnesses, lawyers and the judge- were in different remote locations.

We are happy  to facilitate video conferences and meetings  through Zoom or Microsoft Team.

Many of you attend the regular training events we organize. We are not anticipating face to face events taking place for several months now. We are hoping to set up a series of webinars instead to cover both Public and Private Law. These will be CPD accredited and details will follow shortly.

Debra Gold
Head of Fenners Family Group

Liam Varnam successfully defends High Court appeal concerning possession orders and the Equality Act

Liam Varnam, of Fenners’ Property Group, recently acted in TM v Metropolitan Housing Trust Ltd [2020] EWHC 311 (QB), representing the housing trust in its defence of an appeal from a possession order made after a trial at Cambridge County Court.

The tenant argued that a possession order should not be made against him because of his mental ill-health, relying on the Equality Act 2010, and alleging in particular that the decision to pursue possession proceedings was unlawful discrimination arising from disability, and that possession should be refused because the housing trust had breached the public sector equality duty. The housing trust succeeded at first instance and again before Mr Justice Johnson. The tenant is seeking permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

The High Court judgment is one of the most recent in a string of judgments on these points, in the context of possession proceedings. Liam Varnam has written a case note addressing the issues arising, which can be read here:-

Case_Note_-_TM_v_Metropolitan_Housing_Trust.pdf

Direct Access at Fenners

For over fifteen years, barristers have been able to take instructions directly from clients, without the need to go through a solicitor. This is known as Direct Access. It is also referred to as "Public Access".

A barrister and a solicitor have different roles, and it is useful to understand the difference between them when considering whether Direct Access is for you. You can read more about the difference between barristers and solicitors here.

Here at Fenners we are proud to have a number of members who are authorised to receive instructions from Direct Access clients, negating the need for a solicitor. But what is Direct Access, and how could it be of use to you?

What is Direct Access?
In a nutshell, Direct Access essentially means that a client can go directly to a barrister without the need to instruct a solicitor first. Not all barristers can accept instructions in this way, as they need to undergo special training and be authorised to do so.

Here at Fenners, we are proud to have many barristers fully authorised to accept Direct Access enquiries. These barristers are happy to accept instructions from members of the public directly, and will provide them with expert legal advice, draft documents, attend court, and represent their clients in mediation, without the client needing to instruct solicitor first.

Why was Direct Access introduced?
Direct Access was introduced in 2004, to allow members of the public to engage the services of a barrister directly. The introduction of Direct Access barristers came about to open up the legal system to the public and to make it both easier and cheaper to obtain access to legal advice. In some cases, a solicitor is still needed, but in many, it is possible to conduct a case without one.

Once a Direct Access barrister has been instructed, it will be that barrister, rather than a solicitor, who will provide legal advice and guides a client through the legal process. Our friendly clerks will be happy to discuss your personal case to establish whether we can provide a Direct Access barrister for you. Give us a call on 01223368761 to discuss your situation in confidence, and we will be happy to suggest a suitable Direct Access barrister at Fenners for you.


What are the benefits of Direct Access?
The most obvious benefit to engaging a Direct Access barrister is the financial saving a client will make by doing so. Rather than paying for both a solicitor and a barrister, under the Direct Access Scheme, clients only need to pay for a barrister to represent them.

Using a Direct Access barrister tends to make the process much simpler, too. Not only will a client only be paying for one lawyer - a barrister as opposed to a barrister and a solicitor – they will also deal directly with the barrister throughout the case, making communications more straightforward.

If a client’s case is handled by one of Fenners’ Direct Access barristers, there will be a continuity to proceedings, which can be lost when there are a number of parties involved.

Direct Access is a useful tool for those seeking advice in unusual areas of law. This is because finding a solicitor to help in these cases is often very costly. Cutting this fee out altogether means that a case can go ahead without breaking the bank, and in these turbulent financial times, reducing costs is a major concern for many embarking upon legal action. At Fenners, we are pleased to be able to help our clients reduce their costs at what can often be a stressful time.

What qualifies a case for Direct Access?
The good news is that almost all cases qualify for Direct Access, under the Public Access Scheme, with the exception of those cases which are funded by Legal Aid. Cases which are likely to be straightforward are the most suitable for Direct Access. This means that Direct Access is not always appropriate for difficult cases involving complex matters.

If you are not sure whether your case is suitable for Direct Access, the best course of action is to call Fenners on 01223368761 and speak to one of our clerks. Our sensitive and experienced team will be happy to advise on whether your case qualifies for Direct Access, or whether it would be more appropriate for you to speak to a solicitor first.

What do I do if my case doesn’t qualify for Direct Access?
If you are advised that your case does not qualify for Direct Access, we will be happy to recommend a solicitor in the first instance, who will guide you through the process. Give us a call on 01223 368761 and one of our friendly and experienced clerks will be happy to help.

Direct Access Client Testimonials
“Just a brief note to thank you both for your help and assistance in court today. We were very pleased with the outcome. Hopefully we can now look forward to a period of stability for James and Jack”

- Representation of a father.

"Ben really was an incredibly good representative to have in court. Behind the scenes he was efficient and helpful with the preparatory paperwork, explaining things clearly and respecting any time I needed to make decisions. In court he was calm and represented me in a clear but firm manner. I would highly recommend Ben as a family barrister to anyone that needed one."
- Representation of a mother.

“I cannot thank you enough for your help and support at Court and how much I appreciated your calm and extremely professional but firm manner. It has been a stressful time getting to the outcome we got at Court and once we had finished it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Once again many thanks for attending court and I couldn’t recommend you enough.” - Representation of a father.