What have Human Rights done for us?
By Shaun Underhill

The Government has launched an Independent Review of the Human Rights Act (HRA). The Act is now over 20 years old and there is a call for evidence to consider how the HRA relates to other legislation and the constitution of the UK.

Although the HRA was passed in 1998, the convention and charter originally came into being after the atrocities of WWII. In 1948 Winston Churchill said…

“In the centre of our movement stands the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law. “

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.

In his recent book Fake Law, the Secret Barrister notes that the mainstream Media tend to print very scathing reports of the HRA being abused but not many of the positive things that the HRA has done for the UK, such as:

• In 2013 the families of 37 British soldiers were paid compensation due to a claim under the HRA; the soldiers had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan due to sub-standard equipment

• The public enquiry into Mid-Staffordshire Hospital, and the deaths of numerous patients through ill-treatment, was only possible due to the HRA

• The decriminalisation of homosexuality and the corresponding age of consent came as a result of challenge using the HRA

• The second Hillsborough Inquest, in which the families of the 96 finally obtained answers as to how their loved ones died, was only possible due to the HRA

It will be interesting to see what the Review concludes and whether the HRA is altered in any way.

Is Court really necessary?
By Zoe Minton
Family & Civil Partnership

A Judge has warned family solicitors and parties involved in legal proceedings about making unnecessary interim applications to the Court.

In a recent case (2020) a Mother was successful in appealing an Order that required her to disclose 5 years’ worth of her medical records which she felt was excessive and a breach of her right to privacy.

The Judge agreed that the Order was excessive and disproportionate to the issues of the case and took the opportunity to remind court users to consider carefully whether Judicial input is required in issues such as this. The Judge also emphasised the amount of court time and therefore public funds were used in the preparation and hearing of the appeal on an issue that could have arguably been agreed between the parties. In the Judgment, examples were also given of minor issues which were put before the Court including an argument regarding which specific junction on the M4 should the child be handed over for contact.

The Judge, HHJ Wildblood, allowing the appeal said…

“…the message in this judgment to parties and lawyers is this, as far as I am concerned. Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so. You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you. There are many other ways to settle disagreements, such as mediation”.

Although not detailed, we can assume the “sanctions” that may be imposed are likely to relate to costs and this is something which should be considered very carefully. Very often, with good communication and negotiation, most issues can be agreed leaving the Court free to deal only with the main disputes in the case.

If you are making an application to the Court, do take specialist advice to avoid these pitfalls. A Solicitor can advise on the merits of any application and assist in trying to reach agreement and compromise with the other party. Given the current Judicial guidance, that may well be much more cost effective and beneficial in the long term than making an application to the Court.

If you require assistance with any family matter, please contact our specialist family team on 01962 844544

Legal Aid Mortgage Restriction Lifted
By Tamsin Stevenson

It is no secret that the restrictions to Legal Aid have caused difficulties for many, leaving many without legal advice and having to face their abusers in Court alone, without legal representation.

In some instances, someone who would otherwise be eligible for Legal Aid may have to attend Court alone, cross-examine their abusive ex-partner and put forward complicated legal arguments. The Legal Aid Agency have, however, introduced an important change to the financial eligibility criteria.

Beforehand, an if an individual owned a property with a mortgage, no matter of the value of the mortgage, only £100,000 could be deducted from the value of a home when calculating available equity in a property. This cap was initially introduced in 1994 has never been increased despite the significant increase the average house price. This outdated cap left many individuals to be over the capital threshold despite being unable to access this money without selling their property or securing additional loans.

This cap to the maximum deduction has been removed, allowing the full amount of the mortgage to be deducted when calculating equity. This recent change in the legislation will allow more victims of domestic abuse to access legal advice and representation without facing crippling debts.

Staff News

Last month we welcomed two new junior secretaries to our busy family department. Lisa Mckellar is just finishing her Law Degree at Winchester University and has valuable customer service experience. Holly Gillard comes to us with a wealth of admin experience and an enthusiasm for extreme sports.

We’ve recently welcomed back Zoe Minton, the head of our Family Law department, from maternity leave. She has worked successfully in Family Law for over ten years and advises on all aspects of family law, specialising in children and financial matters following relationship breakdown. Zoe is an advocate for mental health and wellness within the firm and works hard to help make Shentons a great place to work for everyone.

Modern Slavery
By Chloe Jay

“Jade” Jade was arrested following forced entry to her flat by the fire service as there were concerns for her welfare. She was found in a flat with a large number of cannabis plants and arrested for cultivation. In interview with police she made a full confession that she had grown the plants and the whole enterprise belonged to her. There were however tell-tale signs that something wasn’t right – she couldn’t really explain the set up of the plants and whether they had been grown from seed or not. The police though accepted her admissions and she was charged. One of the Shentons team met Jade at court as duty solicitor. By then the police had become aware there was a background and Jade had been moved to a refuge out of area. It took us some time to build trust with Jade but through speaking to her, her grandmother and finally obtaining her medical notes – the dramatic truth became clear… Jade had been essentially imprisoned in the flat of her partner and landlord, Greg, for three years. He had physically abused her and forced her to have sex with people for money. When she tried to escape the flat she had been grabbed and beaten so severely that she never attempted it again. Greg had convinced her to give up her job in a pub and had stopped her seeing her friends. She became completely financially dependent on him. When he told her to feed and water some cannabis plants she simply did as she was told and lied when the police questioned her. We argued that Jade had a clear defence under the Modern Slavery Act and invited the Crown and Police to reconsider the prosecution. They were reluctant to drop the matter as Jade did not want to make statement of complaint against Greg. The view appeared to be that her complaints were not genuine if she would not support a prosecution of Greg. She was forced to reveal her confidential medical notes to prove what had been going on. We instructed an expert in human trafficking and drafted a legal argument for the Judge to consider ruling the case as an Abuse of Process. Finally, at that point the case was dropped against Jade and she went on to try and repair her life.

Christmas Contact Arrangements
By Zoe Minton - Partner

It is that time of year again when we start thinking about arrangements for the festive period. This can be particularly difficult for separated parents when trying to plan and ensure that both parents see their children over the festive break. Of course, this year we have the added difficulty as the country continues to deal with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Government are yet to formally announce any particular rules for Christmas and we are waiting with bated breath to see what will happen when the current lockdown ends on 2nd December. The Government has however, always been clear that children of separated parents can move between households during lockdowns. It is important therefore that arrangements are made in good time to avoid any confrontation or conflict.

Things to consider:
1. The best thing you can do is make arrangements in good time and via direct communication if possible. If you are concerned that communication may be an issue you may wish to consider attending Mediation sessions or asking a solicitor to help with correspondence.

2. Some families agree to split Christmas day itself in half or for the children to spend all of Christmas Day with one parent and all of Boxing day with the other which then alternates the following year. There is no right answer – each arrangement must work for everyone and more importantly be in the best interests of the children.

3. On a more practical sense, it might be helpful to try and agree or discuss gifts to avoid any duplication or disappointment on the day.

4. The Court can be asked to make a decision if agreement cannot be reached. The Courts remain open to hear family matters although any hearing may well take place remotely via telephone or video conferencing at the current time. Think about whether you really want to go down that road – or whether communication or compromise could help you reach agreement without the added stress that comes with making an application to the Court.

If you would like any assistance or advice in respect of these, or any other family law matter, please contact our specialist family team on 01962 844544 for advice.

Charitable Giving
By Lisa Warriner - Legal Executive

Excellence is something that you see and that you know is special and merits acknowledgment. This special quality is embodied in Chloe Jay.

Although less than half the adult population in Britain has a Will, there are encouraging signs that this is improving. There has been a 6% increase in the last year in adults making Wills and this may be due to campaigns made by leading charities to encourage people to leave them legacies in their Wills.

There have been some stories doing the rounds that Donkey charities receive the most donations, leaving Medical and Children’s charities a long way behind. However, whilst the RSPCA is popular, it appears that most of the best funded charities are those involved in (human) medical research, treatment and nursing care with the British Heart Foundation currently topping the leader board. The RNLI is also a very popular charity. Whilst, occasionally, a charity may receive a large and unexpected legacy from a benefactor, as Naomi House did a few years ago, allowing them to go ahead with building Jack’s Place, most legacies remain fairly modest (below £500). However, charities are becoming more adept at marketing and many have initiated or joined campaigns that both encourage people to make wills and to leave a charitable legacy. Even with modest legacies, such schemes clearly work, since 2016 the percentage of adults with wills has increased by more than 6%. In recent years, legacies to charities have reached £2.96 billion. Gifts to charities in Wills represent around 3.5% of all money left in estates and these legacies represent 6% of charities’ total income. Clearly, this is a win-win situation. Charities benefit from the generosity of these legacies and an increase in people making Wills is always going to be positive, particularly if the Wills in question are properly drafted. If you have been meaning to get a Will drafted for peace of mind, give us a call any time.

Solicitor Of The Year 2020 (Private Practice)
By Adrienne Edgerley-Harris - Practice Manager

Excellence is something that you see and that you know is special and merits acknowledgment. This special quality is embodied in Chloe Jay.

Over the years that I have worked with her, a solicitor and equity partner at Shentons Solicitors and Mediators, I have been struck by her dedication, enthusiasm and boundless energy to fight for justice for her clients and support her Crime Team to achieve the highest standards.

My challenge was to find a way of reflecting her obvious talent, so it was with great delight that I read about the Law Society Excellence Awards 2020 and realised she more than met the requirements for nomination.

There was no shortage of people – including a Judge, a Chief Constable, others in the justice system and those at the start of their legal careers- who were keen to provide testimonials in support of the nomination. I was struck by their overwhelming accolades and acknowledgements of her contribution to the legal profession.

When making the nomination, I considered it a good possibility that Chloe would do well. To be shortlisted was a fantastic achievement, but Excellence prevailed and- she won! Well done Chloe.

Chloe was given the award (virtually of course) by the newly appointed Law Society President David Greene. He said that Chloe’s social impact was ‘truly inspirational’ and that she was an ‘excellent example of a criminal defence solicitor who is dedicated to her work.’

She says ‘I am absolutely thrilled to win the award. Working in the criminal justice system is the great passion of my life and I am delighted to help bring attention to it.’ Chloe heads the Crime and Road Traffic team at Shentons and represents the defence community on the Hampshire Criminal Justice Board.

Your Questions on Driving Offences
By Alex Chessum

Alex Chessum, Solicitor Advocate at Shentons Solicitors, answers your questions on driving offences.

Does a conviction for drink driving always mean you lose your licence?

In almost all cases, yes. Disqualification from driving for a minimum of a year is mandatory unless you can run an argument that there are ‘special reasons’ not to disqualify you. These include things like an emergency situation e.g. rushing someone to hospital if there was no one else around, or driving after your drinks were spiked. You would need to call evidence to support any such argument at court and we can assist with this. If you are banned, you can usually reduce the length of a ban by completing the drink driver’s rehabilitation course.

Would you commit an offence if you just sat in your car with the engine on, whilst over the alcohol limit?

You would be at real risk of being prosecuted for the offence of being drunk whilst in charge of a vehicle. What constitutes ‘being in charge’ will depend on the individual circumstances of your case but the fact that the engine is on would certainly concern the court. Ultimately the question centres on whether you had an intention to drive but the onus will be on you to prove that you did not intend to do so. We can advise you on whether your defence is likely to succeed and how to conduct the trial process.

My son has got 6 points in his first two years of driving – what does this mean?

Unfortunately your son’s driving licence will now be revoked by DVLA. This essentially means the licence is cancelled. He’ll have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence and pass both theory and practical parts of the test again. If you have any questions regarding your driving licence, we can obtain the DVLA record and advise you on the current status.

Staff News

Congratulations are in order for Laura Keith who has recently moved from our Family and Civil department into Wills and Probate as a Probate Assistant! Laura has been a valued member of staff since 2011 and we are looking forward to seeing her thrive in her new role.

Our Marketing Assistant, Lucy Barrott, has just finished an apprenticeship in Marketing whilst working at the firm. She achieved top marks in her assessments and passed the qualification with ease. Lucy joined the firm in 2016 as a receptionist and was invited to work with the Marketing Lead in 2017. She has proven herself to be invaluable in helping the firm grow and provide the best possible service to our clients.

Do you have a safe space?
Family & Civil Partnership

By Rachael Cole

Shentons are supporting a campaign by Hampshire County Council to support victims of domestic violence.

If you aren't safe in your home because of violence, abuse or threatening behaviour, you can get help with a safe place to stay or support to stay in your home safely. We understand that due to self-isolation staying with family and friends might not be an option.

Help making your house safer
In many situations, Hampshire County Council can support you to remain in your own home by supplying and fitting a variety of security measures. Specialist support workers are also available to help ensure you can remain safely at home rather than having to move. Call the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service Advice Line who will signpost you to the right service for your area.

Find a place in a refuge
You might be able to get safe housing and support in a refuge.

• Refuge services could still be an option for you. You can find out about available refuge places by calling the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service Advice Line on 03300 165 112, asking another support service or the police to help you.

• Refuge services are still open and accepting referrals. There is guidance for refuges on how to provide support during the Covid-19 pandemic including for survivors and children who may need to self-isolate with them.

• You may be able to get free rail travel to take up a place in a refuge. Ask the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service about this.

• There are some refuge options available to male victims of abuse. You can call the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service, the You Trust or the Men’s Advice Line for help finding refuge or similar accommodation.

• Pets: many refuges are unable to accommodate pets. But there are specialist pet fostering services that can provide a solution. For more information please contact the Dogs Trust Freedom Project or Paws Protect.

Help is available from:

• Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service
Advice Line (provided by Stop Domestic Abuse) 03300 165 112 weekdays 9.30am-8pm

• YOU Trust, Dorset
Offers a service to support male victims and families with older boys who would not be able to access most refuge spaces, and people from LGBTQ+ and BAME communities.  
Telephone: 0800 032 5204
Email: youfirst@theyoutrust.org.uk

• Men’s Advice Line
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Telephone: 0808 801 0327

• Shelter provide free confidential housing information, support and legal advice on all housing and homelessness issues. They also have an emergency helpline: 0808 800 4444  Webchat https://england.shelter.org.uk/

Justice Week

by Chloe Jay - Partner

Welcome to the first edition of Lawtalk 2020. This is a special edition celebrating Justice Week.

We wanted to celebrate the amazing work that we do here to achieve justice for our clients in all manner of different forms. Whether we are ensuring that someone has not been pressured by a family member in the making of their will, obtaining access for a father to his children or securing an innocent person’s release from prison; upholding people’s rights and the freedom to make their own choices is an integral part of a lawyer’s job.

In this edition you will read about some of our clients and the difficult situations in which they find themselves. Often they are facing one of the lowest points of their life; bereavement, divorce or even incarceration, and the legal side that goes along with it can be extremely distressing and difficult for them. Our job is to guide them through that process with compassion and try to achieve an outcome that is fair and right; in other words, to achieve ‘justice’ for them.

Justice Week is a joint initiative from the Law Society, Bar Council and Institute of Chartered Legal Executives, the aim is to promote the important of the justice system and the rule of law. Why is this needed? In recent times we have seen judges be declared the ‘enemies of the people’ and many cases are incorrectly summarised and reported by the Media. Such things have led to an erosion of faith in the justice system within the mind of the general public and to widespread misunderstanding. The Judiciary are not able to defend themselves as they are not able to comment on the cases over which they preside, likewise lawyers are often unable to correct details due to the confidentiality they owe their clients. It is vital that we understand the importance of the rule of law which protects our fundamental freedoms and allows us to enforce our rights when they are violated.

We hope the articles here will show how these principles operate in everyday life for everyday people.

If you need advice call us for an appointment on 01962 844544.

Fighting for your Rights
Wills and Probate

By Melanie Armstrong Legal Executive

Fighting for justice can take many forms and does not always involve courtroom drama. In my 18 years working in law I have been appointed to act as attorney for many people who have a long-term illness or disability.

As attorney I try to actively engage the care home staff, social workers and independent advocates to try to achieve what my client wants; this is usually to be allowed to return home. Hospital staff are generally concerned with getting the person out of the hospital bed and the assumption then seems to be that the client will be taken to a nursing home for ‘respite care’ despite their clearly expressed intention to return home.

I am often fighting to remind the professionals of the client’s right to return home. The law says “people have the right to make decisions that others regard as unwise or eccentric. You cannot treat someone as lacking capacity for this reason. Everyone has their own values, beliefs and preferences which may not be the same as those of other people”. I remind them that someone’s continuous expression of a wish to return home has to be considered by medical staff, care staff and their social worker even if it is unrealistic. In fact, a Deprivation of Liberty Order must be sought if the situation is so unworkable that it would leave the person vulnerable or unsafe.

The risks of returning home can be assessed and care packages can be determined by the medical team, social worker and family input so that the person is safe. This may take more work but it is important to honour someone’s wish to return home if this is what they want.

Appointing a professional Attorney to fight your corner can be invaluable.

If you need advice call us for an appointment on 01962 844544.

Property and Conveyancy

One of the strengths of having a multidisciplinary firm is that we can call on colleagues from other departments to assist us rather than have to send our clients to another firm and incur further costs.

The Property Team recently dealt with an elderly man who wished to enter into a mortgage and sell his home to a developer. The purpose appeared to be solely to release money to pay off his son’s debts.

As solicitors it is our duty to ensure that choices such as this are being made entirely of someone’s own free will and that there is no undue influence or pressure coming from a third party. It is also important to ensure that they have the full mental capacity to make this decision. If we did not ensure this, then others could challenge what took place, after the person’s death for example.

In this case we were able to call on a colleague from our Wills and Trusts team who also had experience in Land Law to meet with our client and check his mental capacity. We were satisfied that our client had the capacity to make important decisions concerning his finances and that there was no undue influence and this was genuinely what our client wished to do and we proceeded with the transaction.

If you need advice contact our team of specialist lawyers.

Justice online?
Road Traffic Offences

by Alex Chessum - Solicitor Advocate

Most people would agree with the two propositions…

1.The need to modernise a justice system that can be out of touch with the fastpaced realities of the digital age AND

2. That participants in the justice system, be it witnesses, victims, police officers, magistrates and defendants should be able to participate without having to travel hundreds of miles to achieve justice.

But is online justice the answer?

As defence solicitors, our job as advocates in the Magistrates Court is trying to persuade Magistrates around to our point of view. We decry decisions that are wrong or unjust and we can appeal to a higher court. Criticisms that Magistrates have faced over the years is that they are drawn from too narrow a background and they are not representative of the communities to which they deliver justice.

There may be some merit in this point, however, in my opinion, the answer is not to be found in closing Magistrates Courts so that everybody has to travel for miles to get to a Court, nor is it going to be solved by turning summary justice into a process driven by online algorithms.

The Magistrates’ ability to use their discretion in deciding a defendant’s fate can sometimes work in a defendant’s favour and I am yet to be convinced that the most technologically advanced online systems can replicate this intrinsically human factor in the justice system.

The Magistrates’ discretion was utmost in my mind when I recently argued a case of exceptional hardship. My client had never been to court before but they were faced with losing their licence as a result of totting up speeding points over 3 years. The client, however, lived in a rural location and visited their elderly father every day (as he was suffering from dementia,) in another rural location. Buses were infrequent and taxis prohibitively expensive. The daily visits meant that the elderly father could stay in their own home and the client could give the carer a break. The carer did not drive and for differing reasons, no-else in the family could visit every day.

We demonstrated to the Court that the loss of the licence would be of exceptional hardship to the client’s father as he would be effectively house bound and likely to end up in permanent residential care without the daily visits. The Magistrates used their discretion and the client kept their license knowing that any further speeding or road traffic offences would result in an immediate ban.

If you need advice call us for an appointment on 01962 844544.

Staff News

Chloe Jay and Patrick Hunter have been invited in to deliver the ‘Big Legal Lesson’ at St. Swithuns’ school in Winchester. The project is organised by Young Citizens and runs as a part of justice week to promote the biggest public legal education event of its kind. Children all over the country will be learning about justice and the importance of the rule of law. Chloe Jay says ‘we wanted to offer our practical experience to bring the subject alive for people.’

Partner Elisabeth Pollard was invited to speak on inheritance tax at a local event held at Hotel du Vin, Winchester. She is pictured here with two independent financial advisors Victoria Toan and Mark Holmes of Vision Financial Planning having delivered her speech!

Vulnerable clients
Family and Civil Partnerships

Solicitor Rachael Cole works in our family department

A recent survey by the Legal Services Board found that the lower your level of education and intellectual capability, the more likely you are to struggle to handle a legal issue and in particular the less likely you are to have access to justice or feel you have access to justice (Legal Needs of Individuals in England and Wales 2019/20).

Our family department experience this all too frequently when dealing with clients who have learning difficulties and/ or mental health problems. Rachael Cole says, “Clients often feel they have been written off as a parent because children’s services assume they are incapable of looking after a child, despite government guidance making it clear that people with learning disabilities can be good parents and should be supported to care for their children. It has been highlighted by the Court that having a learning disability does not mean that a person cannot learn new skills”.

Rachael speaks of a recent case involving such a client whose parenting assessment was initially negative. Rachael pushed for an independent assessment to be undertaken to focus on the support available to the client from her family, particularly her mother with whom she had moved back to live with. Rachael was pleased to find that the result was positive. “The client simply did not have the ability to fight her own corner, it was my job to do that for her.” She will hopefully now be able to care for her children as opposed to losing all contact via the adoption process, and most importantly, the children will have the opportunity of remaining within their birth family.

In another case, Rachael and the team had to fight to obtain legal aid for a client with learning difficulties who was denied funding on the basis that he could ask a family member or friend to assist him with the legal proceedings. The team successfully appealed this decision pointing out that there was no one in his life who could fulfil this role and that it was essential he had the assistance of a qualified professional or he would be put at a significant disadvantage. Rachael says, “It can be incredibly daunting and stressful for anyone to face legal proceedings alone, but this can be almost impossible if you struggle to read and understand the lengthy and complex case papers. Often people do not even engage in legal proceedings for this reason, which can result in adverse Court Orders being made against them. This can have very serious consequences.”

Shentons have always supported the legal aid scheme and the concept of access to justice for everyone.

If you think you or a loved one could potentially be in a similar position, call us for advice on the issue on 01962 844544

Abigail McCarthy answers your questions on domestic abuse
Family and Civil Partnerships

What can a solicitor do to protect me from my abusive partner?

We are often contacted by our local refuge to assist vulnerable people who have fled domestic abuse. Typically, we will invite them into our office, where we can then apply to the court for an urgent order to prevent the perpetrator contacting them and subjecting them to any further abuse. If this order is breached, the perpetrator would have committed a criminal offence and, as such, could be arrested, therefore giving our clients a level of protection they can rely upon in an emergency.

In some cases, we can obtain orders to prevent the perpetrator attending or returning to their address. If they do not comply, an application can be made to the court for their committal to prison.

I can’t bear to face my ex in court, is there anything that can be done about this?

Yes. We can apply for special measures to assist you. This can involve several different options, including separate entrances to the court building, separate waiting areas and either appearing from behind a screen or via telephone conferencing.

Can I prevent my ex from knowing where I am living with the children?

This would depend on the gravity of the case but yes, in cases of serious violence or threats, we are able to conduct proceedings on your behalf without disclosing your whereabouts to your ex-partner. You would still need to attend court at certain points but, again, we could apply for special measures to keep you from seeing each other in the court building.

If you need advice contact our team of specialist lawyers.

A case of Inheritance Tax
Wills and Probate

By Patrick Hunter Solicitor

I was instructed by a son following the death of his father. The father and son were both farmers who ran their farm together. However, the farm in its entirety was owned solely by the father. The farm consisted of several farm buildings and two farmhouses.

On the face of it, it appeared that the whole of the farm was owned by the father solely at the date of his death. This meant that the whole value of the farm would be subject to inheritance tax at 40% because the more usual agricultural and business reliefs were not available to cover the whole of the farm. For my client this would be an astronomical bill that would almost certainly endanger the future of the farm.

It is my role to fully explore the history of a situation and establish exactly what has taken place. After further discussions it became apparent that the father and son had previously owned a farm together; albeit approximately 27 years earlier. When the jointly owned farm had been sold, the new farm was bought in the father’s sole name for reasons that were unclear. It was evident that the son’s half of the jointly owned farm had been used towards the purchase of the current farm. Further discussions with the farm’s accountants and visiting the father’s home allowed the relevant accounting evidence to be found which went back to the running of the previous farm and to the point of its sale.

I was then able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of HM Revenue & Customs that not all of the farm was actually owned by the father at the date of his death but was held upon a Bare Trust for himself and his son.

Applying various other rules this then meant that the farm was able to pass to the son without any inheritance tax needing to be paid.

If you need advice call us for an appointment on 01962 844544.

A Modern Epidemic – Running County Lines
Wills and Probate

By Harriet Parker - Solicitor

Young children are being exploited by inner-city gangs to run “county lines”. Drug gangs are coercing young children to hold a mobile phone (the ‘line’) and then to supply class A drugs to the users calling the number. The children are normally moved from their home to sell drugs in rural or coastal towns in different counties. They are often placed in the home of drug users and forced to live there until the drugs are sold. The attraction is that these areas are usually less intensely policed and if something does go wrong it is the child who is arrested not a member of the gang. They focus on young, suggestible, vulnerable children who can be manipulated to carry out the work. These children then find themselves enslaved to the gang with no real means of escape. In my role as a solicitor I am frequently called to the police station to represent such a young person who has been arrested for drug dealing or related crimes. It is my job to try to identify victims of modern slavery and determine whether they may be able to rely on a defence to the allegation under the Modern Slavery Act. I have to ensure that a referral has been made to the National Crime Agency who make the final determination as to whether a child is a victim of exploitation.

If a conclusive decision is made this gives me the tools to challenge the prosecution as to whether it is in the interests of justice for the child to be criminalised. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have guidance stating that young children who have committed non-violent offences, as a direct result of exploitation, should not be prosecuted. It recognises that they are victims themselves. Even if the CPS does not agree to drop the prosecution, we can still run the defence at trial. For me personally, a conclusive grounds decision should mean that the child is treated as a victim, and they should not be prosecuted. Justice cannot be served by a prosecution for something a child has done under exploitation and coercion. Thankfully our success rate for this is very high and we have seen many cases discontinued.

If you need advice regarding your child being a possible victim of this, please call us.

If you need advice call us for an appointment on 01962 844544.