Mental Health law: Support, resources, and insights.

We have come a long way in terms of awareness and support, but Mental Health matters continue to have a stigma and an air of uncertainty overshadowing them. For example, a 2016 survey by Time to Change Wales revealed that 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health illnesses can never fully recover, and 1 in 7 believed that people with mental health problems should not be allowed to hold public office. People still have reservations about speaking openly and honestly about their personal mental health experiences and challenges.

In a bid to raise awareness, the CJCH Solicitors mental health department have shared insight into some of the information we believe people should be aware of when it comes to mental health law.

We asked Craig Mills, a solicitor in the mental health law department to answer a few important questions:

What the aim of mental health law is?

The Mental Health Act protects the rights of people with mental health challenges, not only when someone is detained in hospital but also when someone is being treated for their ailments within the community under the Act. People should only be admitted to hospital against their wishes when it is essential to their health and safety or the protection of others.

What should people be aware of when it comes to matters relating to mental health?

Personal rights are an important thing for people to be aware of. There has been a lot of mental health advocacy recently and people need to be aware that it can affect individuals in a number of different ways  (Read a recent article in BBC News on South Wales Police wanting mental health lessons for youths). It can sometimes be difficult to identify when/if people are suffering from mental health problems, but it is important that everyone is aware that help is available. There are a number of mental health charities that can provide support.

Here are some links to assist with finding the right support for you or your loved ones:

For an example of how these matters are impacting people in Wales, you can read this recent article about three people’s personal struggle with mental illness which was shared for World Mental Health day.

For more information or assistance with a mental health legal issue, contact our team via email: mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk ; to telephone: 0333 231 6405.

Misconceptions we hear about Divorce

Much like politics, the topic of divorce is often widely discussed but not always fully understood. As specialists in family law, the CJCH team of expert solicitors are often faced with the many myths and misconceptions surrounding matters of relationship breakdown and divorce. Jodi Winter (Family Law Partner) and Sarah Perkins (Family Law Solicitor) address some of the common issues raised by new clients, who might have benefited from seeking assistance sooner, if they had the correct information.

Jodi Winter: People sometimes assume that what they see on TV or in the news is how things actually work. It is important to note that media representations are often dramatised. For example, there is no such thing as a “quickie” separation or divorce. In non-contentious divorces, the judge’s ruling and the Court process might be concluded quickly, but there is a requirement for specific criteria and processes to be satisfied and completed before it gets to that point. On the other hand, some people assume a divorce will take years and be ridiculously expensive so are put off starting the process. A divorce could be processed in as little as 4 months, but it will often take far longer to negotiate, agree and conclude the financial settlements. You need to consider a divorce from two perspectives, the first being the legal attachment to one another, and the second being the financial attachment.

 

Sarah Perkins: Aside from the timeline, there are other questions raised which can be misunderstood. Who gets the house? Who gets the kids? What if my spouse won’t agree to a divorce? Can’t we just list irreconcilable difference as our reason? The short answer to these questions are that they are case specific. The best way to ensure you have the correct information is to seek advice at the earliest opportunity and give your solicitor all the information they need.  You will then receive expert advice on your own particular circumstances.  The notion of irreconcilable differences (i.e. no-fault) is not currently a part of the law in England and Wales. You would need to show that your relationships have irretrievably broken down, with specific facts of proving such.

 

Jodi Winter: The financial aspects of the matter are what often take the most time to negotiate, which is often why it is best to get advice on a pre-nuptial agreement before you get married. Again, pre-nuptial agreements can be misconstrued but they provide a fair and considered starting point which is often upheld by the court if constructed properly. The same goes for agreeing child contact once the divorce is underway. Address the matter as early as possible and come to an agreement that you are both happy with, otherwise the court will decide for you.

The CJCH Solicitors Family Law team specialise in supporting and navigating the difficult situations that arise at the end of a relationship. You’re not alone, Jodi and Sarah are here for you. For more information and contact, please see here.

Need to recover debt from an individual or sole trader? New protocol in place from October 2017.

By Nerys Thomas – Solicitor (Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution)

From 1st October 2017 a new Pre-Action Protocol will be introduced which sets out the steps needed to be taken when looking to pursue a debt claim (The Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims). 

All businesses (including public bodies and sole traders) seeking to recover a debt from an individual will need to comply with the Protocol.   

The Protocol will not apply to business-to-business debts unless the Potential Defendant/debtor is a sole trader. 

As is the case with all Protocols, the intention is for the procedure to provide a way of filtering through potential claims, possibly facilitating a resolution where possible, or if the matter could not be resolved the parties will hopefully be in a position where the issues have been narrowed and/or a clearer understanding of the issues in dispute will be known.    

It is the intention that the Protocol will complement any regulatory regime to which the Potential Claimant/creditor is subject and should any conflict arise between the regulatory obligation and the Protocol, the former will take precedence.   

The likely impact upon the Potential Claimant/creditor in complying with the Protocol is the cost of preparing the required correspondence and responding to queries, should any be raised. 

Furthermore, the Protocol specifies deadlines, of mostly 30 days, which become relevant at various stages of the procedure, hindering the Potential Claimant/creditor from being able to issue the claim at their own discretion.

From a Potential Defendant/debtor’s perspective, a Letter of Claim requires a Reply Form being completed and possibly, depending upon the response being given in the Reply Form, a Standard Financial Statement which requests a great deal of personal information surrounding the person’s/sole trader’s finances, something a great deal of people/sole traders are likely to be uncomfortable with due to the imbalance this presents between parties.  

As with all Protocols, unless there is a justified reason for not using it, there may be cost consequences for failing to comply with the process.

Should you have any queries in relation to the above or any other dispute matters, please contact Nerys Thomas and the rest of the Commercial Law team on commercial@cjch.co.uk

Access to Justice: Supreme court rules to quash Employment Tribunal fees

The Supreme Court has handed down a game changing judgement relating to Employment Law. Seven Supreme Court Justices agreed, in the case of Unison v Lord Chancellor, that the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fee Order 2013 prevented access to justice and furthermore was considered unlawful.

The result of this judgement is that fees structure for Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals has now been removed.

Nigel Daniel, CJCH Employment Law and HR Services Lead had this to say on the developments:

The implications of this decision are numerous. When the fee structure was in place (As of today, it no longer is), employers had a certain protection from vexatious claimants, who may very well have filed a claim hoping for an economic settlement, when in reality the claim may have had no prospect of success whatsoever.

CJCH represents both employers and employees in various matters, and we would predict that this development will result in a sharp increase in new instructions.

Immediately after the introduction of fees, claims to the Employment Tribunal dropped by 79%, so we would expect that trend will see an immediate reversal.

Claimants, who are at their most vulnerable, after losing their job, no longer have to worry about finding £1200 (estimated) to actually get a case to the Tribunal. I still feel, however, that we have a duty to advise responsibly, and inform possible claimants of potential costs penalties if that claimant persists in bringing a vexatious, or malicious case.

Our Commercial Law Lead, Gareth Thompson, considers the point of view of employers:

Since the run up to Brexit and its aftermath, the current government appears to have taken a semi-detached approach to their relationship with business and employers.  Following the election and its now precarious hold on power in parliament, it seems increasingly desperate to demonstrate its ‘People’ friendly credentials.

The announcement that employment tribunals are going to abandon the requirement for fees to start claims might be seen as the latest evidence of this.  The last upwards hike in fees slashed all new employee claims to tribunals by nearly 80%, almost overnight.  The removal of any fees promises to usher in a tsunami like wave of fresh claims.  From the employee’s perspective, this may be perceived as good news and the employment marketplace as a new happy hunting ground.

From an employer’s perspective, it may provoke a collective groan of despair and knee jerk defensive responses.  All may agree that prevention of claims is better than cure.  Some reactive employers may be tempted to simply look even harder than they otherwise have done at anyone employed by them for less than two years and pro-actively purge the ranks of anyone likely to prove problematic in the longer term.

However other employers will sensibly take a more enlightened approach.  They will look hard and long at their recruitment processes to ensure that they take on the right people for them in the first place.  They will also review their training and appraisal policies to ensure they become meaningful and valuable personal development tools instead of internal compliance-driven tick-box exercises.  They might consider giving them representation on management boards or simply have regular meetings to share knowledge and experience, air any issues and invite constructive suggestions for improvement.  They might also want to consider imaginative reward schemes to incentivise everyone employed by them and give them a real vested interest in the success of the business.

Businesses don’t need to introduce truly radical human resource management to prevent negative confrontation.  All that is required to create a positive and productive working environment is good management practice and a healthy dose of common sense. Traditional hierarchies and old fashioned practices should be the first thing to be axed if any organisation is serious about success and growth.  Conversely, an inclusive and all-embracing approach to their workforce should be the first thing to be introduced as the best defence against negative and expensive grievances and claims.