An audience with Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls

Manchester Civil Justice Centre courts low resLast Friday the Manchester legal community had the honour of a visit from Lord Dyson, the second most senior judge in the country and the Head of Civil Justice, who had requested to meet with local practitioners.

Having recently given judgment in the Mitchell v MGN case on relief from sanction he was a man everyone wanted to meet and the courtroom in our state of the art Civil Justice Centre (described by Lord Dyson as second to none) was packed.

After a brief introduction Lord Dyson opened the floor to questions which, unsurprisingly, centred around the decision in Mitchell and the Jackson reforms.  On the question of Mitchell Lord Dyson was unrepentant about the consequences of the decision when asked whether the refusal to grant relief was proportionate to the failure to comply with the rules.  He said he was at pains not to send out the wrong message about failure to comply whilst stressing the exemptions of triviality and good reason.  He likened the requirement to comply to that of Landlord and Tenant section 25 notices.

When it was suggested in one question that some practitioners may not have read Mitchell in full he was – quite rightly I thought – taken aback and his response was that he thought it part of a solicitors professional duty to have read it!

Questions were asked about the ability of the courts to cope with a likely deluge of applications for extensions of time and relief.  Lord Dyson confirmed – following a newspaper leak earlier in the week – that the Civil Justice Committee were looking at whether to provide for the parties to agree between them one extension of time.

It was refreshing to hear Lord Dyson’s direct and honest approach and get an insight into the thinking behind Mitchell and other recent reforms.

Emma Emery H&S small - use this versionEmma Emery

Senior Associate

If you have any queries regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact me at emma.emery@freethcartwright.co.uk

 

Make marketing mileage out of new domains

IP&T Screens“My colleague Simon Barker is a whizz at all
things to do with intellectual property so I am delighted to share this blog
with you.”

So what’s happening?

ICANN, who manage these things, are releasing more than 1,500 new domain name extensions that anybody can apply for. So where as you may have secured your .co.uk or your .com domain name now there will be such things as .shop .clothing .property .food and so on. There’s even a .sexy!!! If you’d like to see a list of the domains to released so far please click here .

Why is this a risk to me?

What you want to avoid is your competitors registering the same word or letters that you currently use in your website address between the www. and one of the new domain endings. They might do this and then use it or register it just to block you from using it. This is a risk for you mainly because Google and other search engines will be using these domain names when returning searches so if you don’t register the new domain names that relate to your sector or block them you will almost certainly lose out!

Can I protect my company?

Yes you can. The secret is to register your name as a trade mark. Using your trade mark you can then register with a special clearing house which has recently been created to help right owners protect their domains. Once registered you can make use of what is called a “sunrise period” where only those people who own the trade mark will be able to reserve the associated name for one of the new domain name extensions. The “sunrise periods” will usually last only around 30 days so if you want to protect your domain names you must act very quickly. Alternatively, some registrars such as Donut are offering a blocking service against third party registration of domains that conflict with trade mark rights.

What should I do next?

You have two ways that you can protect yourself and limit the risk: –

  • Contact us and we can discuss what practical steps you can take – we can’t emphasize enough how important this is.
  • Complete our simple Domain Name questionnaire and we will provide you with a report on the risks and what to do next.

Simon BarkerSimon Barker

Head of Intellectual Property

If you have any queries regarding this post, please do not hesitate to contact Simon at simon.barker@freethcartwright.co.uk

 

Meet our new Employment Partner

The Freeth Cartwright office in Manchester welcomed new Employment Partner, Alan Lewis in January. Here is a quick Q&A with Alan to get to know a little more about him.

Where did you study law?

At Manchester University.

Where were you before joining Freeth Cartwright?

Brabners, based at the Manchester office.

What sort of employment law do you carry out?

I act mainly for employers, being several SMEs and some much larger companies with thousands of employees.

Have you always worked in employment law?

No.  Although I have practiced exclusively employment law for the last 17 years or so, before that I also advised on corporate and commercial law.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been?

A professional trumpet player.  I won a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study trumpet playing. Had it not been for the fact that you can’t get an orchestral seat until the incumbent is good and ready to retire, I’d most likely have pursued that career.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Helping clients to surpass their expectations by assisting them to make changes or minimise risk in their businesses at a cost lower than they thought possible.

What’s the most exciting case/deal you have worked on?

Acting for bakers, Warburtons in the sale of 5 bakery companies/businesses to Lyndale Foods Ltd backed by HSBC Private Equity.  This was back in 1996 and was a major deal in the North of England. I recall long hours working on this matter and a banquet to beat all banquets as part of the post deal celebration with all members of the selling team at the Yang Sing restaurant in Manchester.

What is one of your favourite success quotes?

“An inch of action is worth more than a mile of good intentions.”

Which book have you recently read that you would recommend to others?

“David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell.

How can we contact you?

Alan Lewis smallPlease feel free to contact me at alan.lewis@freethcartwright.co.uk

See Alan’s website profile here:

http://www.freethcartwright.co.uk/person/alan-lewis

What the Frack is that all about

iStock_000027533617Small

There is currently a media storm arising out of coal shale infraction “fracking” which calls for more legislation to control the perceived risks.  What are the real risks and is the process currently uncontrolled or are there sufficient safeguards currently in place?

Who can frack?

The first point to understand is that the Petroleum Act 1988 establishes that all natural gas is vested in the Crown.  In order to extract gas it is necessary to obtain a licence from the Department of Energy and Client Change (“DECC”).  A licence will only be granted if an operator meets the requirements of DECC which requires that an operator is sufficiently experienced, and has sufficient financial resources to meet its obligations in carrying out oil and gas exploration.  The type of licence and length of licence are governed by the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations which prescribe a set of model clauses to be used.

Fracking liberty

A second point to appreciate is that although DECC grants licences to prospect for and ultimately exploit the shale gas obtained by fracking it is still necessary for an operator to control a necessary surface interest upon which to place the wellhead.  Any landowner would want to be sure that the operator was a fit and proper person to operate the well the agreement would contain sufficient safe guards to ensure the landowner’s freehold interest was not adversely affected by contaminated.  As with other mineral operations, the fracking operation would be subject to controls issued by the Minerals Planning Authority on the grant of planning permission, the Environment Agency who would ensure that in particular there was no potential contamination of the ground water and the Health and Safety Executive who would ensure minimal potential hazard arising out of the operation.

Various interest groups and the media have made use of images from America which show sites where contamination has taken place and/or there has been pollution of the ground water.  A particularly striking image is the image of gas being ignited from domestic taps.  However, it has to be remembered that in the United States, there is a very different legislative regime, which does not impose the same controls as in English Law and contamination of the watercourse/flaring of gas is in many cases as a result of naturally occurring substances and would have occurred in any event.

Fracking damage

The next point which usually concerns landowners is whether the fracking process will cause damage to surface structures.  A few years ago there was a series of earthquakes in the Fylde area which were said to be as a result of the fracking process.  However a report prepared by eminent geophysicists showed that the tremors felt in that area were as a result of a natural phenomenon and were not as a result of the fracking process.  The government has accepted those findings and has granted licences to explore in those areas.  The experts’ opinions are that surface damage is far less likely to occur from fracking than from other more traditional means of mining.

Fracking marvel?

On the face of it, fracking seems to provide a solution to the country’s short and medium term energy requirements without any additional environmental risks.  Although the generation of energy from the gas obtained by fracking will result in some carbon creation, it is less than more traditional methods of producing energy and in the medium term, the country has no option but to pursue fracking as a means of producing energy if communities wish to enjoy their current standard of living and energy usage.  In the long term there may be other solutions but for the next 25 to 40 years gas produced by fracking would appear to provide one solution for the requirement for new forms of energy.

Paul Calladine H&S smallPaul Calladine

Real Estate Group

If you have any queries regarding this post, please do not hesitate to contact Paul at paul.calladine@freethcartwright.co.uk

Vote for Freeth Cartwright

Downtown in Business has announced its shortlist for The City of Manchester Business Awards 2014. National law firm Freeth Cartwright is delighted to be shortlisted in the Best Legal Firm category but we need your help if we are in with a chance of winning!

Online voting is now open.  Simply go to the Downtown Manchester in Business COMBA voting page, which you can find here.

Voting closes on Friday 21st February at 5pm and the winners will be announced on Thursday 20th March at Manchester Cathedral.

Vote now!

Listed Buildings- The hard reality

There are currently slightly in excess of 374,000 listed buildings in England and Wales.  The great bulk of these (approximately 95%) are Grade II listed which is the lowest category.  They range in size from a small cottage to some of the largest buildings in the country.  All buildings constructed before 1700 containing a substantial proportion of their original fabric are listed whilst most of such buildings constructed between 1700 and 1840 with those requirements are also listed.  After 1840 listing is based on more selective criteria usually involving aesthetic merit.  A number of listed buildings are less than 30 years old.  Newer listed buildings include for example the tower of the Lancaster Service Station on the M6.  As the intention of the legislation is protection and preservation it comes as little surprise that the law concerning listed building is rigorous and restrictive.  Any work, other than repair, to a listed building requires listed buildings consent.  There is therefore in practice parallel legislation for listed buildings running alongside normal planning requirements.

A common misunderstanding in relation to listed buildings is that internal works do not require any particular consent.  This is absolutely not the case as when a building is listed whether or not there is reference to any internal features the whole building is protected and any alterations internal or external require listed building consent.  Anyone carrying out unauthorised work, such as a contractor, or allowing to happen, such as an owner, can be prosecuted.  There is also no time limit for enforcement action.  A well known anecdote circulates concerning the owner of a listed building who asked the listing officer informally whether an additional en suite bathroom could be constructed only to be told that he would not be granted consent and that he now had to reinstate all the existing six en suite bathrooms (installed by his predecessor) to their original condition.  There is also no immunity period for the issue of a listed building enforcement notice.

Given the enormous level of protection and restriction concerning listed buildings do they enjoy any fiscal or statutory advantages?  Previously VAT was zero rated upon approved alterations (not repairs) to a listed building.  This relief will now only continue until the 30 September 2015 provided application for such consent was applied for prior to the 21 March 2012.  Grants are available from English Heritage (the supervising body) for repair and conservation of the most significant historic buildings – mainly for urgent repairs or work to prevent loss or damage to important features.  Initial applications are dealt with locally and in reality a large number of successful applications are granted in connection with the preservation of Churches or similar historic buildings.

There is, however, one significant advantage in the ownership of a listed building for a property investor because 100% business rates relief is still available when listed commercial premises fall vacant.  In city centres this has proved in recent years an unlikely free bonus to the owners involved.

Alaisdhair Macphie smallAlaisdhair MacPhie

Real Estate Partner

If you have any queries in relation to this article, please do not hesitate to contact Alaisdhair at alaisdhair.macphie@freethcartwright.co.uk

Employment Update

EmploymentBack in November we held the Manchester office’s Employment Law Update Seminar. This was the first seminar we have done since various Employment Law changes came in over the summer, so there was a quite lot to discuss! Amongst other things, we talked about Protected Conversations, Zero Hour Contracts and the impact of Tribunal Fees – all things that have put Employment Law in the news this year.

We would like to say a big thank you to those who came along, asked some really interesting questions and shared their own experiences. It is always good to hear how all these changes affect people and businesses on a day-to-day basis.

The Government is planning to bring in even more changes to Employment legislation over the coming months, so we will be arranging another update session for Spring 2014. We look forward to seeing as many people there as possible…watch this space.

For any queries on this post please do not hesitate to contact me at matt.fraser@freethcartwright.co.uk