Blog - The Verdict
MSB Solicitors Liverpool
MSB Blog - The Verdict
Non-Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs, have featured regularly in the news in recent times. It is, however, not always obvious what they are, what they entail, and how legally binding they can be.

The recently reported cases involving Sir Phillip Green’s company, The Arcadia Group, and their reported use of NDAs with former employees has caused significant debate about their use.

These cases alongside the US cases involving Harvey Weinstein’s company, Miramax, and the now infamous #MeToo movement, have brought the use of NDAs firmly under the spotlight.

Key to being a progressive business is recognising that the people who help drive your organisation forward are imperfect human beings who all face their own struggles and challenges.

Supporting your employees through their own worst times will enable them to continue to make a substantive contribution to the growth of your business. Managing partner at MSB, Emma Carey, says that employee wellbeing is not only a moral responsibility for employers, but it makes good business sense too.

Mental health in the workplace in an issue that is finally gaining traction and this month offers an opportunity to give it a particular focus. The ‘Movember’ campaign seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues in men particularly.
The words Love Island have been hot on the lips of millions of viewers since the 2018 season launched on June 4. The fourth series of the popular reality show attracted record figures, with 3.6 million tuning in to watch the final this month.

And, this year, there has been no shortage of provocative headlines to further boost the show’s ratings.

From ex-partners entering the villa, to a double dumping for Scottish Laura Anderson and on-again off-again antics between Alex and Alexandra.

The Government wants to cut Legal Aid by up to 30% in the most substantial criminal cases where there are thousands of pages of evidence to be considered.

This is the latest in a long line of cuts. The last time legal aid rates were increased for criminal cases was in 1992. Twenty five years ago. Neil Kinnock was the Labour leader and only political nerds had heard of Tony Blair. Lisa Stansfield had the Christmas number one single.

I can hear some of you cheering already. Grasping lawyers lining their pockets by getting lowlife off serious offences. But behind that stereotype lies a very different truth, as was revealed in the case of Liam Allen earlier this month.

Liam, a 22-year-old criminology student, faced up to 10 years in jail after being accused of raping a fellow student in 2017. His trial was halted at Croydon Crown Court last week and the judge, Peter Gower, called for a review of disclosure of evidence by the Metropolitan Police, as well as an inquiry at the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is understood that some 40,000 texts sent by the complainant, that left no doubt of Mr Allan’s innocence, were not disclosed by police working on the case. Now, Scotland Yard is said to be carrying out an "urgent assessment" after the prosecution collapsed due to the late disclosure of evidence which ultimately undermined the case.

My firm, MSB Solicitors in Liverpool, employ 80 local people despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Justice.
We have an excellent Family Law department and we also do a lot of work for small businesses.

The latest wheeze from the Ministry of Justice (proprietor Chris Grayling MP, Lord Chancellor) is to increase court fees for bringing money claims over the value of £10,000.

As mothers across the UK and Ireland celebrated with their loved ones on Sunday, one very famous mum was left bereft after admitting defeat on a custody battle to return her son to their New York home.

Pop icon Madonna has been locked in a battle with her ex-husband Guy Ritchie since December, when their son Rocco failed to return to New York following a trip to London to visit his film director father.

It is reported that Madonna made an application under Hague Convention to enforce the return of her son, arguing that she agreed Rocco could visit London but expected him to be returned. She did not, she says, consent to him staying there long term. Since then, a bitter and public battle has ensued between the estranged couple with regards to the wellbeing of their fifteen year old son.

Judges in both the US and the UK have slammed the pair for not being able to reach some resolution, both suggesting that an amicable decision on the teenager’s residence is in his best interests. This has been supported by a court-appointed solicitor for Rocco who indicated that the youngster was experiencing emotional upset and was finding the situation ‘very difficult’ to deal with.
We all know or can imagine that going through a divorce is a difficult process for anybody, but without having gone through it, it is hard to know exactly what you need to do in order to protect yourself, your finances, your assets and your future. 
Family partner at MSB Solicitors, Emma Carey, shares some advice.

I’d like to begin with a word to the wise for unmarried couples - there is no such thing as cohabitee rights. 
When you marry, you enter into a partnership that is legally binding. That legal partnership can only be brought to an end by death or by an Order of the Court, commonly known as a divorce.

Married couples are protected by a set of laws put in place to ensure that the Court can distribute assets, if the parties can not agree distribution between themselves. 
There are no such laws in place for cohabitees. A cohabitee would need to look to representatives in particular areas of the law to help protect their assets - for example, if the asset in dispute is the house, then the cohabitee would need to seek advice in property law. 
Zero hour contracts normally refer to contracts of employment, which do not guarantee the employee a minimum amount of work.   They are used by employers because they minimise overheads, i.e. during quieter periods the employee can be offered little or no work and vice versa.
Zero hour contracts have been condemned by unions and caused political controversy due to the perceived imbalance they create between employee and employer.  They were a significant issue at the 2015 General Election and politicians have been pledging to address them since at least 1997.

The common perception of these contracts is that the employee is effectively at the employer’s beck and call, forced to work when it suits the employer’s commercial interests without having the stability of a fixed salary.
This perception, at least in terms of the party’s legal obligations, is not entirely accurate as employees are not usually required to accept any work offered. 

On 26th May 2015, new regulations came into force (The Exclusivity Terms In Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015).  These regulations prohibit exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts, namely clauses that prevent an employee working for other employers.
The regulations state that it will automatically be unfair, if an employee is dismissed for breaching an exclusivity clause.   There will be no qualifying period of continuous employment in order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal in such circumstances.
Additionally the regulations make it unlawful to subject an employee to detriment for breaching such a clause, for instance reducing the usual hours that they are offered.

In light of these recent regulations, it is unlikely that the UK will go the way of New Zealand and abolish zero hour contracts altogether, any time soon.

Unfortunately it may be impossible for the aims of the regulations to be achieved.   For instance some employers may not use exclusivity clauses in contracts but will develop a practice of discriminating against employees who work for other employers.  Similarly proving detriment will be difficult as it will involve a detailed analysis of the employer’s business practices.

Most zero hour contract employees are low paid workers and legal costs are not normally recoverable in the Employment Tribunal.  Therefore it is unlikely that solicitors will be prepared to accept instructions for breaches of the new regulations.
Sean Sexton, partner in our crime team has welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to correct the interpretation of so called “joint enterprise” law.
He said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that a large number of people have been unjustly convicted of serious offences including murder over the last thirty years because of the misinterpretation of the mental element required for somebody to be convicted on a joint enterprise basis.”
Sean cautioned, nevertheless, that it will be a long, hard struggle for those who seek to overturn convictions in joint enterprise cases. He continued:
“Every case will have to be considered on its own facts. The Court of Appeal will be very reluctant to open the floodgates to thousands of potential appeals.
 “The Supreme Court itself made clear that their putting the law right does not render invalid all convictions which were arrived at over many years by courts faithfully applying the law as then laid down.
 “Existing convictions can be set aside only by seeking exceptional leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal out of time.
 “The Court of Appeal will not grant leave to appeal simply because the law then applied has now been declared to have been mistaken.
 “Whilst the Supreme Court decision today gives hope to many, it is only the start of a long process with an uncertain outcome.”
If you had a “Together” mortgage/loan from Northern Rock between 1999 and March 2008, you may be entitled to be repaid or re-credited the interest which you paid.
Northern Rock themselves estimate that 41,000 of their customers may be entitled to compensation at a likely cost of £258 million if their appeal against a High Court judgment fails.
Northern Rock has already paid out about £270m in refunded interest payments to customers who borrowed less than £25,000 in personal loans in this way before April 2008, after it was found that the loan documents did not comply with the Consumer Credit Act.
“Together” mortgages enabled borrowers to combine a mortgage with a personal loan of up to £30,000 that in total could be worth more than the property itself.
The High Court handed down judgment in NRAM plc v McAdam and Hartley[2014] EWHC 4174 in December.The proceedings were brought by Northern Rock itself to determine the status of its “Together” mortgage agreements.  The agreements in question were made between 1999 and March 2008.
Mark Forman is commercial partner at MSB Solicitors in Liverpool and deals with commercial law; commercial litigation and employment matters.

As any entrepreneur will tell you, getting a business idea off the ground isn’t easy - there are challenges along every step of the way. Who are my audience and how can I best communicate with them? How can I anticipate, and importantly achieve growth? And of course, how can I finance my business through the early stages?

In 2009, a new concept grew from the US and gave entrepreneurs and business owners across the globe an alternative option for raising investment. Crowdfunding affords enterprising individuals a platform to access millions of would-be investors, and enables individuals to group together to invest into a business opportunity that they would not otherwise have been able to.

Statistics indicate that around 95% of business plans are thrown out when they reach the investment phase, with creative, artistic and charitable sectors being among the most affected. The crowdfunding model then, was much welcomed by many.
Landlords in England are being warned that changes set to come into play from Monday (6th April) must be incorporated into all existing and future tenancy notices and agreements to ensure they are properly protected in respect of rights to possession, according to Section 8.

This means that from this date, any notice must be served using Form 3 of the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations (SI 620/2015).  A copy of the regulations can be found here
On the first Friday of every month, a member of our dispute resolution team attends a drop in service at our local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Liverpool city centre.
At the drop in service, we provide free advice to consumers in relation to an array of legal issues.
We recently met with Mrs M who had a dispute with Harveys The Furniture Store (Harveys) in relation to a defective sofa.
We recently received last minute instructions to defend a claim brought by Lowell Portfolio 1 Ltd (Lowell’s).
The claim was based on an alleged agreement between our Client and HFC Bank Limited which was regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (CCA 1974).  The agreement was subsequently assigned to Lowell’s.
Prior to the assignment of the alleged agreement, our Client submitted a request for information pursuant to section 77 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.  The request was accompanied by a signed cheque for the sum of £1 representing the requisite statutory fee.

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