News Archive: January 2019

New Harrogate Office

Posted: 31st January 2019

New Year new office! The Harrogate team are on the move to larger premises. The new centrally located offices in Victoria Avenue will accommodate the expanded team and help to offer the people of Harrogate an even broader range of specialist legal support. The new office will open on Monday 4th February 2019.

Government publishes landmark domestic abuse bill

Posted: 23rd January 2019

In the year ending March 2018, two million people told the Crime Survey for England and Wales that they had been a victim of domestic abuse.

Now domestic abuse victims will receive a wide range of new measures to protect them in what ministers are describing as landmark legislation, as new laws will create a legal definition of domestic abuse for the first time, including economic abuse and control.

The legislation will also see the banning of abusers from cross examining victims in family courts, something which has been long awaited by many people.

The new measures have been described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to combat the impact of abuse.

It is also thought that the draft bill going before MPs will create new powers to force perpetrators into behaviour changing rehabilitation programmes. As well as setting up a national “domestic abuse commissioner” who will be tasked with improving the response and support for victims, and make the victims automatically eligible for special protections when they are giving evidence in criminal trials.

Giving domestic abuse a definition will make it emphasise that it goes beyond violence, and includes victims who are affected psychologically and economically manipulated and controlled.

The legislation will also clarify the workings of “Clare’s Law” – a measure introduced four years ago to permit police to tell a member of the public of concerns over a partner’s previous violence.

Over the past year there has been increasing awareness of the punishing effects of cuts to legal aid for family cases, which has resulted in many alleged perpetrators of abuse acting as their own lawyers and, as a result, cross-examining victims during court proceedings. It is therefore no surprise that this bill has been eagerly anticipated.

As Head of Domestic Abuse at Watson Woodhouse Solicitors I work with numerous local domestic violence organisations and hear daily accounts of victims whose lives have been ripped apart because of the physical, emotional or financial abuse they have suffered by someone close to them. I feel the draft domestic abuse bill is a positive step in recognising the complex nature of these crimes which cause immense distress and as it stands can often amount to a continuation of abuse.

44 Middlesbrough Fans Launch Crowdfunding Appeal to Fund Legal Action Against Police

Posted: 25th October 2018

Watson Woodhouse Solicitors are representing 44 Middlesbrough football fans who have launched an appeal to raise £100,000 through the crowdfunding site ‘Crowdjustice’ to help them pursue a claim for false imprisonment and breach of  their Human Rights under Article 5, 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The claim comes from an incident on 17th March 2015, when Middlesbrough football fans travelled to a Derby away game. Prior to the game officers from various police forces were involved in issuing a group of approximately 50 football supporters with dispersal notices pursuant to Section 34 and Section 35 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”). This resulted in the fans losing their liberty for over four hours and, of course, missing the game.

Head of Civil Litigation, Sarah Ann Magson said “the police can rely on Public Interest Immunity (PII) which allows documents/evidence to be with-held even if this could impact of the fair administration of justice. We therefore have no way of establishing the full reasons that the police had for dispersing the group from the area. It is suspected that the grounds, if any, were insufficient. Furthermore, the notice issued to each member of the group required dispersal within 30-45 minutes – yet they were ‘detained’ for over 4 hours. The use of dispersal notices in this manner goes on all over the country and it will continue unless there is a review of the use of such powers by the police. There is a requirement to individually assess a person before a dispersal notice is issued – the police should not be allowed to use this power to blanket disperse large groups – without adequate justification as they are hiding behind PII”

While Watson Woodhouse Solicitors are providing their services on a ‘No Win – No Fee’ basis, should the claimants lose in their action, they will have to pay the legal costs for the police which may be in excess of £100,000. However, the fans have pledged that if they win their case, which they are confident of doing so the money pledged will go to a range of very worthy charities and/or to help fight other good causes.

If anyone would like to find out more or indeed pledge a donation to the football fans their crowdfunding page can be found here: www.crowdjustice.com/case/middlesbrough-supporters

Read more

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/boro-fans-suing-police-over-15329680

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We Are Hiring!

Posted: 15th August 2018

Customer Relations and Marketing Degree Apprenticeship

Want to get a degree but don’t want the debt?

Want to start you career in marketing and start earning?

Why not do both with us?

  • Starting salary of £11,500 plus ALL university fees paid.
  • 37.5 hours per week including half a day per week day release for study during term time.
  • Gain BA(Hons) Management Practice from Teesside University without the need for a student loan.
  • As a student of Teesside University, you will have FULL access to the student club and activities, library, study and sports facilities.
  • The role is based at our head office in Middlesbrough.
  • Start your career and degree this September.

For more information please email Richard Prust at rprust@watsonwoodhouse.co.uk

Judgment following a challenge of CICA “Same roof rule” gives hope to victims of abuse who lived with their perpetrator prior to 1979.

Posted: 24th July 2018

The Court of Appeal has handed down Judgment, following a challenge of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) scheme, which currently prevents survivors of domestic abuse who lived under ‘the same roof’ as the abuser prior to 1979 from accessing compensation. The decision comes after a lengthy legal battle on behalf of, JT, a survivor of abuse.

JT has fought tirelessly against the CICA’s refusal to award her compensation, losing her appeals to the First-Tier and Upper-Tier tribunals she progressed her case to the Court of Appeal. Today’s Judgement sets out a declaration to prevent the CICA from defending her application based on the ‘same roof rule’.

The Judgement does not change the scheme and will not immediately affect others, however, this is a huge milestone and a step forward for many survivors of abuse. The decision follows an interim report in April when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommended that the rule be scrapped. The Government need to change the scheme, and this needs to be done now, to stop the injustice and discrimination experienced by JT and many others like her.

Watson Woodhouse Solicitor Alistair Smith who has been working directly with the survivor said “ The basis of the ‘same roof rule’ was to stop people who were assaulting people living in the same house, from benefitting financially if compensation was awarded. It was never envisaged to take into account people like my client who were children at the time and had no choice as to where and with whom they lived”.

JT is delighted at the news and became extremely emotional when the decision was announced, she has stated “I cannot believe the outcome, I am in shock, after so many knock backs in my life I was expecting the worse. I am delighted at the decision, not just for myself but hopefully this will help others like me. I was only 4 years old when I was abused, I had nowhere to go at that age, I have lived with this all my life but finally feel like I have achieved something good out of such an awful situation”.

Kirsty Nelson joins Watson Woodhouse

Posted: 16th July 2018

Experienced Family Law Solicitor Kirsty Nelson has joined Watson Woodhouse and will be based at our Darlington office. Kirsty, who has over 20 years’ experience of working within law started her career working for a city firm within the field of litigation defence. In 2008 she began to specialise in child protection work and became a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel.

Kirsty has worked with parents and other family members in cases with Darlington Borough Council and surrounding authorities for the last 14 years. She has joined Watson Woodhouse to specialise in Child Protection work in Darlington and North Yorkshire.

Kirsty said “ As a committed advocate if you find yourself in difficulties with the local authority in respect of your children I am a local lawyer with local expertise who can help you and guide you through the legal process.”

Kirsty can be contacted through our Darlington Office, 3 Duke Street, Darlington, DL3 7RX or by telephoning 01325 462598.

Watson Woodhouse in the Media

Posted: 9th July 2018

Alistair Smith comments on the legal challenge against Government (CICA) policy ‘same roof rule’ which prevents victims of abuse, between 1964 and 1979, from seeking compensation where the attacker was a member of the same household.

The Mirror. 23 June 2018. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-raped-dad-six-years-12776559

Men's mental health

Posted: 29th March 2018

On 27th March an important and powerful statement was made, 84 life size human statues were erected on top of the ITV Studios shedding light on the shocking statistics surrounding male suicide. It continues to be the biggest killer in men under the age of 45 and ITV partnered with the charity CALM have took a powerful stand in raising awareness and making people stop and look up. As a firm we deal with men and women when they are at their most vulnerable. For men it could be through suffering from domestic violence, facing longer sentences then their female counter parts, fighting for contact with their children or even finding themselves homeless. As a team we do all we can to support the men and women in our community and we commend ITV for this bold contribution to a very important cause!