CRIME AND DEFENCE SPECIALISTS
We provide advice and representation at the Police Station and Magistrates Court throughout the North East. We do not currently offer legal aid services but we are happy to undertake work as agents for local and national legal aid firms.
If you are in trouble with the police or facing a charge at court, call us and we will be happy to guide you through the process. We offer a fixed fee service for defendants who are unable to obtain legal aid. Our fixed fees are affordable and competitive because we know that defence costs are an additional burden at a very difficult time for you. Our work includes but not limited to road traffic offences, health and safety violations, private prosecutions, environment agency prosecutions and school attendance prosecution.
An appeal may be made to the Crown Court, Court of Appeal or Criminal Cases Review Commission. The appeal will be either an appeal against the sentence that has been imposed or an appeal against the conviction. We have considerable experience in both appeals against sentence and appeals against conviction. We fully understand that each case is unique and we treat it as such. We are prepared to undertake investigations to uncover fresh evidence and to systematically review all original case papers to assess the prospects of success in an appeal. If we identify grounds for an appeal we will then guide you through the entire appeals process.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE POLICE
If you have been unfairly treated by the police, you are entitled to make a complaint against the police. Complaints may be made to your local police station or the Police Professional Standards Unit. In serious cases, a complaint may be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. We will guide you through the complaints process and the investigation undertaken as a result of your complaint. We will also offer advice on how to appeal the decision if you do not accept the result of the investigation.
A prison sentence affects the entire family. It can often leave the prisoner and their family feeling vulnerable and isolated. If your loved one is in prison and needs legal help, we can help. Call us is you need advice on any of the following matters:
- Sentence planning
- Home Detention Curfew
- Categorisation reviews including Cat A
- Accessing Offending Behaviour work
The Government has reduced legal aid to prisoners in many areas of prison law. If a prisoner is not eligible for legal aid, we will keep our fees to a minimum.
Making a will allows you to provide for your loved ones after you have gone. It is the only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out. It eases the burden on those left behind who must handle your affairs when you are gone.
If you die without making a Will, the law takes over and says how your assets will be divided. Without a will, your personal wishes may not even be considered. For example who will look after your children if they are under 18 or what will happen to your partner that you live with but whom you are not married to? A Will allows you to have peace of mind.
There are also tax issues to be considered. Making a will could reduce the amount of tax to be paid by your estate.
There is no requirement to use a solicitor when making a will. However, disputes that arise over unclear or poorly drafted wills are complicated and costly. Using a solicitor will provide peace of mind. Using a solicitor will protect against any pressure from family members and will ensure that your wishes are made clear. This should reduce the risk of disputes arising between family members later on.
Making a will does not need to cost a lot of money. For example a standard will could cost as little as £120 plus VAT. We are also happy to offer a reduced rate for couples who wish to have wills that mirror one another. Our standard costs for two ‘mirror wills’ would be £180 plus VAT. We offer home visits to clients living in the County Durham area and these visits are included in our fixed fee costs.
Our fees may be greater for high value estates, or complicated provisions, but we will always provide you with clear information about our fees up front so there are no nasty surprises.
It is important to realise that your circumstances change and so does the law, so always keep your Will reviewed. We would be happy to take a look at your current Will and make sure it is right for you now.
After a loved on dies, their estate will need to be administered. This means that any debts and tax due will need to be paid and the estate will need to be distributed. If there is a will, the will should state who has the legal right to administer the estate as ‘Executor’. If there is no will, the next of kin may apply for this right.
There is a lot to consider at a time when loved ones are grieving. We understand what a difficult time this is and we can navigate through probate to ease some of the stress and pressure. We offer advice to Executors and Administrators of the estate to ensure that they have fulfilled their obligations.
LASTING POWER OF ATTORNEY
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you appoint people (known as ‘attorneys’) to make decisions on your behalf. It could be used if you became unable to make your own decisions. There are 2 types of lasting power of attorney:
- Health and Welfare
- Property and Financial affairs
A Health and Welfare LPA allows decisions to be made on your behalf on such things as your daily routine, medical treatment and future care. It can only be used when you’re unable to make your own decisions.
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows decisions to be made on your behalf on such things as paying bills, collecting benefits and selling your home. This type of lasting power of attorney can be used as soon as it’s registered, with your permission.
You must be 18 or over and have the ability to make your own decisions when you make your Lasting Power of Attorney. The document must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it takes effect.
On 1 October 2007, Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) were replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). Do not worry if you had completed an EPA before 1 October 2007 this is still valid. However, we suggest that you regularly review your personal circumstances so it would be a worthwhile time to have someone review your current circumstances and is a service which NE Law can provide.
Mental Capacity is also something which is very difficult subject to talk about. Please contact us so that we guide you through what this means for you and your family. Whatever position you are in, we are able to help you.
COMPLAINTS, APPEALS AND CHALLENGES TO GOVERNMENT OR PUBLIC BODIES
NE Law provides advice, guidance and representation for individuals who wish to challenge the actions or decisions by local government, national Government or public bodies.
There are many Government Departments and Public Bodies that have a direct effect on peoples’ lives. It is important that the decisions made are fair and that procedures are followed correctly.
There are many areas in life where the decisions taken by the government or public bodies have a direct and damaging effect upon an individual’s life. Decisions on health, education, welfare benefits, planning regulations, data protection, police complaints, are just some of the decisions that you could be affected by.
If you have suffered unfairly because of such a decision, we will advise you of your options to challenge the decision and guide you through each step of the process.
There is often a system of appeal against the decision or action. This may be a paper review or could be appearance before an appeal tribunal where you are allowed to be legally represented.
If you believe that you have been treated unfairly you may wish to submit a formal complaint against the individual. A complaint is primarily about the way you have been treated rather than an appeal against the decision. A complaint may be made in addition to an appeal application.
Each Public Body or Government Department has an internal complaints system. If this is not satisfactory, you may be able to complain to an Ombudsman. An Ombudsman is an independent service that will investigate your complaint and try to resolve the problem. If you have been treated unfairly, the Ombudsman may uphold your complaint and recommend specific action for the organisation to take. However, the Ombudsman’s is unable to force the organisation to follow the recommendations.
Judicial Review is an action against the Government or a Public Body to challenge the lawfulness of an action or a decision. It can also be used to challenge the failure to make a decision.
An application is made to the Administrative Court for permission to pursue Judicial Review.
The three grounds available for lodging such an application are as follows.
- That the decision was unreasonable or irrational
- That the decision was procedurally incorrect
- That the decision was unlawful.
If the decision maker has failed to follow the correct procedure or the decision causes unjustified discrimination, the decision may be unlawful. If no reasonable-minded person could have come to that decision, it may be ‘wholly unreasonable.
There are strict time limits in place to issue a Judicial Review claim and there are a number of procedures that must be followed before a claim may be issued. It is therefore crucial that if you wish to challenge a decision or action of a Government Department or Public Body, you should contact us as soon as possible so that we may ensure your claim has the best possible chance of success.
All partners at NE Law LLP have extensive experience in Judicial Review actions and are able to give clear and comprehensive advice in this specialised area of law.
There are some decisions that directly affect an individual’s human rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. An application to the European Court of Human Rights may only be made if all domestic remedies have been exhausted. This means that you must have first tried to resolve matters in the Courts in England and Wales before you may make an application to the ECHR.
All partners at NE Law LLP are experienced in ECHR cases and will be able to recognise and advise on a potential breach of your rights.
There are three groups of people at NE Law that we can assist:
- Head Teachers
More and more parents’ feel that decisions made by schools and local authorities about their children are unfair or unworkable. We offer advice, assistance and representation at any or all levels of the appeal and complaint procedures. Our services include:
- Appeals against allocation decisions
- SEN decisions and tribunals
- Exclusion decisions
- Mediation between parents and the school, local authority and service providers
We offer services on a fixed fee basis and we will work with schools and local authorities wherever possible to achieve the best outcome for the child.
We appreciate that there may be disagreements between the School, Local Authority and the Governors. Governors are entitled to seek independent legal advice if they have concerns over the way the school is managed or specific decisions taken by the School or the Local Authority.
We are also aware of situations where Head Teachers may wish to obtain independent legal advice regarding their decisions to ensure that they are both lawful and reasonable.
We are able to offer Mediation services to try to resolve the disagreement in a non-confrontational manner.
We also offer advice and guidance to schools to navigate through the process of becoming an Academy or a Free School.
We offer advice and representation for any problem arising between employer and employee. We will seek to resolve any problem quickly and amicably so that the employment relationship is not damaged. However, this is not always possible. If the employment relationship has irretrievably broken down and you feel that you have been treated unfairly, we will provide clear reliable advice on your options.
It is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected.
TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT
Some common problems include:
- Your employer refuses to provide you with a written contract
- You feel that the terms of your contract are unfair
- Restrictions on your activities after you have left employment (restraint of trade clauses and confidentiality clauses)
- Your employer has changed the terms of your contract without providing adequate notice or consultation
- A new owner takes over the business and you are worried that your contract terms will change
TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT
Employment may end for a number of reasons, some of which may be fair and others that are unfair.
- Conduct and capability
- Constructive Dismissal
- Unfair Dismissal
- Compromise Agreements
We offer advice and representation in all areas where a termination of employment is pending or has taken place.
An employer must not discriminate on grounds of race, sex, disability or religion. If you have been disadvantaged because of your race, sex, disability or religion, we can advise you on your options. You may simply wish to resolve current problems in your place of work and we can negotiate with your employer to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made. If matters have progressed further than this, you may have a claim for discrimination against your current or former employer.
WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that aims to resolve a dispute in a non-confrontational manner. It is a cost effective alternative to litigation where a trained mediator helps the parties to communicate in a positive and productive way. The parties are encouraged and supported to explore all possible solutions to the problem. If everyone is willing to try to resolve the problem, there is a great chance of a successful outcome. Mediation is about empowering the individuals to develop their own solutions and establish a method of resolving current conflict and preventing future conflict.
Michelle Coulson and Janet Potts are accredited Mediators able to assist in a wide variety of disputes including the following.
TYPES OF DISPUTE THAT MAY BENEFIT FROM MEDIATION
- Couples going through separation or divorce
- The effects of prison on family members, especially the child/parent relationship
- Step families
- Managing offending behaviour of children/young people
- Disputes between landlord and tenant
- Anti-social behaviour
- Cultural differences
- Disputes between employer and employee
- Problems between employees
- Managing stress and sickness
- Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) disagreements
- Disagreements between Schools and parents
- Disagreements between School staff and Governors
NE Law is a preferred supplier of Mediation services in SEND disputes for a range of Local Authorities in the North East.
If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan that you feel is unsuitable, you have the right to request Mediation. You have the right to choose a Mediator that you feel will understand your problem, be entirely impartial and be sensitive to the needs of you and your child.
You can challenge your local authority about:
- their decision to not carry out an assessment
- their decision to not create an EHC plan
- the special educational support in the EHC plan
- the school named in the EHC plan
If you can’t resolve the problem with your local authority through mediation, you can appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A MEDIATION SESSION?
The Mediator begins by meeting with each person individually to gain an understanding of the problems and feelings involved. This meeting helps to identify the core issues and allows the Mediator to explain the mediation process.
The Mediator will arrange for the parties to attend a joint meeting. Each party has an opportunity to express their concerns and feelings in a safe and supportive environment. The Mediator will guide the discussion to allow the core concerns to be explored without blame or hostility. The number of joint meetings that are needed to reach resolution will depend upon the complexity of issues and the number of parties involved.
We are happy to discuss your needs and devise a Mediation plan that works for you.
We understand the need for compassionate legal advice during times of family difficulty. We will provide clear advice on your options and wherever possible seek to resolve matters in a non-contentious and sensitive manner. Should court proceedings become necessary, we will represent your interests fully at Court. We are members of Resolution and we believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.
We follow Resolution’s Code of Practice and this is the cornerstone of our work. We promote an approach to family law that is sensitive, constructive, cost-effective and most likely to result in an agreement. Our fees are transparent and we hope affordable. We can offer a variety of ways to pay including agreed fees or hourly rates. We also offer a free thirty minute consultation. The code requires solicitors to deal with each other in a civilised way and to encourage their clients to put their differences aside and reach fair agreements.
Based in Framwellgate Moor, Durham we represent clients living in the outlying villages such as Sacriston, Bearpark, Langley Moor, Brandon. However we are not limited to just clients from Durham and are happy to visit clients in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Darlington, Sunderland and Newcastle. We are North East Law after all.
The three usual areas of law which we deal with are divorce and separation, financial settlements and child arrangement orders.
DIVORCE AND SEPARATION
You can get a divorce if you have been married for at least a year and your relationship has irretrievably broken down. You must have a marriage that is legally recognised in the UK, and have a permanent home in England or Wales.
There are 3 main steps to getting divorced:
- File a divorce petition – you have to apply to the court for permission to divorce, and show reasons why you want the marriage to end.
- Apply for a decree nisi- if your spouse agrees to the petition, you’ll get a document saying there is no reason why you cannot divorce.
- Apply for a decree absolute – this legally ends your marriage – you need to wait 6 weeks and a day after you get the decree nisi before you can apply.
You can of course arrange your own divorce without involving solicitors especially if you agree on the reasons for a divorce, how you’ll look after any children, how you’ll split up money, property and possessions. If you agree on these things beforehand, you will not have to go to a court hearing, and the divorce paperwork should be fairly straightforward.
If you would like to instruct NE Law to assist with just the divorce or separation we can do so on the basis of an agreed fee. This will not include court fees or any other disbursements. We will fill in all of the necessary forms for you, correspond with your estranged partner and court. Divorce and separation is extremely stressful and frankly horrid therefore at NE Law we believe that we can take some of this stress away from you.
However if you do wish to conduct your own divorce you will need to fill in a divorce petition to start a divorce. This can be obtained here.
It will be necessary for you to include your full name and address, your husband or wife’s full name and address and the marriage certificate. It must be the original certificate or a copy from a register office. Include the names and dates of birth of any children (no matter how old they are).
There are 5 ways in which you can show that the marriage has irretrievable broken down. These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation of 2 years with agreement, abandonment and separation of 5 years. If you divorce on the basis of adultery and you name the person your husband or wife was unfaithful with, they will get copies of the paperwork. You do not have to name this person and often it is easier and more straight forward not to.
Once you have drafted the divorce petition you will need to send it to court and you will have to pay a £550 court fee to start a divorce. You may not have to pay this fee if you’re on benefits or receive a low income. If so it will be necessary for you to complete form EX160 and provide evidence of your income. The maximum monthly income is £1085 although this is increased if you are looking after children. If you instruct NE Law it is likely that we will start the divorce proceedings at the Family Court at Durham.
If your husband or wife has started divorce proceedings against you, the court will send you a ‘divorce petition’ and will also get a notice of proceedings form and an acknowledgment of service form. It is important that you keep the notice of proceedings form, which tells you the case number and what you should do next. You need to respond by filling in the acknowledgment of service form. If you don’t respond within 21 days, your husband or wife can continue with the divorce as if you’ve agreed. If you agree with the divorce petition, fill in and return the acknowledgment of service form to the court within 8 days, and the divorce will go ahead. However if you disagree with the divorce petition fill in the acknowledgment of service form and return it within 8 days and fill in the part that says you’re defending the divorce. The court will send copies to your husband or wife. After you return the form, you have up to 21 days to say why you are defending the divorce. This is called ‘giving an answer’. To do this, you must fill in the answer to a divorce petition and you will have to pay a £245 court fee.
When a divorce is defended or both sides file divorce petitions, the court will usually hold a hearing to discuss the case. You and your husband or wife will usually have to attend to try to come to an agreement over the divorce. Get legal advice if there’s going to be a court hearing or if you intend to defend the divorce petition.
You can apply for a decree nisi if your husband or wife does not defend the divorce petition. A decree nisi is a document that says that the court doesn’t see any reason why you cannot divorce. If your husband or wife does not agree to the divorce, you can still apply for a decree nisi. However, you’ll have to go to a hearing at the court to discuss the case, where a judge will decide whether to grant you a decree nisi.
To get a decree nisi, fill in the application for a decree nisi. If your husband or wife is defending the case, fill in section B of the form, saying you want a ‘case management hearing’ before the judge. You must also fill in a statement confirming that what you said in your divorce petition is true.
There are 5 statement forms and you must use the one that covers the grounds you have given for your divorce ie adultery statement, unreasonable behaviour statement, 2 years’ separation statement, desertion statement or 5 years’ separation statement. Attach a copy of your husband or wife’s response to the divorce petition.
If the judge agrees, the court will send you and your husband or wife a certificate of entitlement to a decree and a decree nisi.
After 6 weeks and a day you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’ to end the marriage.
You may be sent a ‘notice of refusal of judge’s certificate’ form, saying why you can’t divorce. The form will tell you what to do next. The judge may want more information in writing, or you may have to go to a court hearing. Again get legal advice if there is going to be a court hearing.
The decree absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage. As stated you need to wait at least 6 weeks after the date of the decree nisi before you can apply for a decree absolute. The delay gives you a chance to discuss finances and other issues with your husband or wife before the marriage comes to an end. You will need to apply within 12 months of getting the decree nisi because if you do not you will have to explain the delay to the court.
To apply for a decree absolute, fill in the notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute form. A decree absolute should not cost you anything but if you have started your divorce before the 1st July 2013 there is a cost of £50.
If your husband or wife started the divorce, but they haven’t applied for a decree absolute, you can apply. You’ll have to wait an extra 3 months, on top of the standard 6-week delay, before you can do this. To apply, fill in an application notice form and you will have to pay a court fee and go to a court hearing with your husband or wife.
Once you have applied for the decree absolute the court will check that time limits have been met and there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce. The court will then send you both a decree absolute. Once you get the decree absolute, you are divorced, no longer married and free to marry again if you wish. You must keep the decree absolute safe because you will need to show it if you remarry or have to prove your marital status.
In respect to court costs the government is constantly changing them therefore all costs quoted were correct as of 4th August 2016. Therefore we strongly recommend that you check here before applying to court for the most up to date court fees.
In most cases a financial settlement can be reached without the need for court. Where money is involved there is often disagreements and this is where NE Law can hopefully resolve these matters as amicably as possible.
Generally speaking if you instruct NE Law to assist with a financial settlement we will request from you and your estranged partner:
- 3 months’ payslips
- 12 months bank/building society statements
- 12 months credit card/store card statements
- Mortgage Statement and valuation of the house if you have one
- CETV of your pensions
- Valuations of any shares/investments/savings etc
- List of any personal belongings worth more than £500
Once these have been provided we can then consider what is fair and reasonable for both sides and also establish what that needs of the parties are. If agreement is reached NE Law can then draft a consent order and apply to court. There are a variety of settlements which can be reached including maintenance payments, lump sum agreements or pension sharing orders. Generally a clean break order is the best outcome but this sometimes cannot be achieved.
If agreement cannot be reached both parties will need to attend mediation. NE Law can make a referral to a mediator on your behalf. Hopefully mediation can resolve any issues which still arise and we can then draft the consent order.
Of course there are some cases where there is no other alternative but to attend court. If this occurs NE Law will represent you at court and will endeavour to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible.
Again at NE Law we try to offer an agreed fee for assistance with regard to financial settlements. However if the case is particularly complicated or contentious then we will charge our hourly rate. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a quotation as to costs and arrange a free thirty minute consultation.
CHILD ARRANGEMENT ORDERS
As with financial settlements, child arrangement orders can be extremely stressful and may have nothing to do with a divorce. If you are having difficulty having contact with child or you would like your child to live with you then NE Law can assist. As a member of Resolution we will try to achieve an agreement without the need for court action although this sometimes just cannot be achieved.
If an agreement cannot be reached then both parties will have to attend mediation before applying to court. In certain circumstances it will not be necessary to attend mediation but if this is the case the mediator will inform you.
Applying to court is a relatively straight forward process assuming that you have parental responsibility. If you do not have parental responsibility there are ways in which you can apply to the court (please contact us to discuss this in more detail).
As with most court action there is a court fee if you are applying for a child arrangement order but again you may not have to pay this if you earn less than £1085 a month or are on benefits.
Once the court has received your application and fee they will inform you as to when you will have a first hearing, usually within 6 weeks. In the interim you will be contacted by CAFCASS who will establish what the issues are within the parties. This means that when you attend court, they will be aware as to what is agreed or disagreed. Generally speaking at the first hearing agreement between the parties is reached. If the court requires further information then a further hearing will be listed and possibly a final hearing will take place.
Due to the complex nature of child arrangement orders it is very difficult to offer an agreed fee although if possible NE Law will offer one. However generally speaking NE Law will charge their hourly rate when dealing with child arrangement orders. We do offer a free thirty minute consultation so please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can discuss your case and provide you with an indication as to how much your case may cost.
MISCELLANEOUS FAMILY MATTERS
Although we have highlighted the three main family law matters above this is not an exhaustive list. There are other areas of family which we can assist you with. For example if you are suffering from harassment, intimidation or are being pestered by a former partner we can apply to court for a non-molestation order. This will then mean that they will no longer be able to threaten you or indeed have any contact with you.
Also if your ex-partner is abusive but will not leave the family home we can apply to court for an occupation order. This means that they will have to leave the property and you can remain in it without the fear of them returning.
We can also provide advice and assistance with regard to adoption, pre-nuptial agreement, post-nuptial agreement, separation agreement, prohibitive step order and specific issue order. Remember that NE Law will happily provide a free thirty minute consultation so if there is an issue which we have not mentioned please just contact us and we will endeavour to assist.
LANDLORD AND TENANT
We offer advice to landlords, tenants and letting agents. Whether it is a commercial tenancy or residential tenancy, we will be able to help.
We work with landlords and letting agents to ensure there is a solid framework of protection in place. We advise on specific problems that may arise and we offer mediation services to seek a mutually acceptable resolution. If court action is unavoidable, we will represent you at an affordable rate.
We offer advice in all areas including:
- Assured Shorthold Tenancies
- Student Tenancies
- Eviction proceedings and Section 21 notices
- Tenancy deposit protection
- Commercial leases and licences
- Lease renewal and surrender
- Assignment of tenancy
Our advice will always be straight forward and reliable. Our service will be personal and professional. Contact us to discuss the terms of your tenancy agreement or to help with a problem that has arisen with the tenancy.