But the habit is too hard to break so, with no great confidence, here goes. Continued working from home and remote meetings and hearings are likely to be the order of the day for some time to come. It would be nice to think that we could find the silver lining in the cloud and learn what works well remotely, which we could keep even in a post-Covid world, and which elements really need to revert to the old-fashioned face to face way of doing things.
If something good is to come out of this experience, it could be finding ways to use time and technology more efficiently without compromising on standards. Work practices - While on the Covid theme, office culture seems likely to change for good. Working from home at least part time is hard for employers to resist when employees have been obliged to do so full time for so long.
Flexible working, so long a promised virtue of technology, may become a reality. However, we have also understood how irreplaceable real life face to face contact is, so finding the right balance will be the new challenge for the workplace. Hand gel is likely to remain ever-present. And maybe we can continue to escape the generally dire experience of office Christmas parties!
Covid restrictions will likely continue to raise legal questions too in the field of employment law, human rights law and criminal law. There could be more challenges to restrictions and to penalties imposed for breaches, given media publicity of apparent double standards among our political leaders. Gender identity issues — away from the Covid theme, this blog has highlighted some of the questions raised in recent cases concerning gender identity. The cases so far are just the tip of the iceberg and courts will continue to have to grapple with and society adapt to more thorny issues in the next year.
The slow-burning crisis in the legal system including long court waiting lists, low morale among judges, lack of access to justice, ever-increasing numbers of litigants in person, ever greater reliance on pro bono services and so on will continue unabated and unaddressed, except for a push towards alternative remedies to avoid the problem rather than address it. Maybe a restoration of family Legal Aid would be nice?
Not only would that allow access to legal advice and justice to everyone regardless of means, but it would also go a long way towards reducing court queues and increasing the efficiency of the family courts. If there has to be a review of the Human Rights Act, please could it be undertaken from the starting point that human rights are important and that individuals should be entitled to enforce them even to the frustration and inconvenience of governments?
Media who respect the importance of an independent judiciary would be lovely too, even respecting judiciary who make decisions contrary to the political stance of the media outlet concerned. And can I also ask for an end to the media presumption that all lawyers are fat cats only out for themselves, please! Could Santa please also have a word with social media companies to make them take responsibility and introduce measures to prevent the misuse and corruption of their services?
Money is always a very welcome Christmas gift, so some resources devoted to problems underlying so many domestic violence and child protection cases would be the best gift ever. Alcohol, drug and mental health problems lie at the root of so many cases and so much misery, and we all know that resources are quite simply inadequate. It would be a real investment in the future. It can bring all sorts of problems to a head, often aided by excess alcohol and the sharp contrast between our real lives and the idealised Christmases we see all around us.
Domestic disputes and violence, child neglect and abuse, mental health crises are unfortunately all too common at this time of year. Or even if child protection lawyers one day had to be re-deployed for lack of work. This blog has recently considered the case involving the Tavistock clinic and the issue of gender re-assignment.
Issues of gender, identity, sexuality and the terminology associated with them seem to be ever more complicated, especially for those of us of a certain age for whom much of this is new. We can find ourselves treading on eggshells and walking into a minefield, if such mixed metaphors can be permitted. Perhaps it could be useful to consider what the terminology we hear refers to. Life at least superficially used to be simple.
The child was thereafter dressed and educated as one or the other, behaved according to the accepted stereotypes, married someone of the opposite gender. Things have moved on a long way since then, and recently it seems that we need to get to grips with more and more complex ideas.
A boy without a winkle! Everyone was really disappointed. As well as genitals, there are the internal sex organs. In addition, sex is based on chromosomes. Every cell in our bodies has 23 pairs of chromosomes. So just one chromosome out of 46 is usually different and — at least until recently — determined our whole lives. Most intersex people are allocated one sex or the other at birth and identify as either men or women.
Now we need to get out our Latin and Greek dictionaries. But there are more than two categories of sexual attraction. So bisexual means attracted to people of both traditional sexes. Pansexual people are attracted to others of any gender. This means that these people consider that they are without sexual feelings or desires. We often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably in normal language. However, there is a difference.
The World Health Organisation no less defines sex as being biologically defined whereas gender is a social construct including five important elements: relational, hierarchical, historical, contextual and institutional.
This term is used to refer to how we think about ourselves, which may not be the same as our assigned biological sex or socially assigned gender. Some people identify as women or men, while some reject the concept of a binary distinction.
They may be physically and biologically of one identifiable sex but do not identify with traditional gender distinctions. This leads to linguistic challenges. Language evolves over time and perhaps in due course we will develop a suitably gender neutral pronoun which will work for everyone, but we are not there yet. Other more practical problems relate to toilets and activities usually divided between men and women.
Gender expression is related to but not the same as gender identity. Again, where would we be without the classics? So transgender refers to a person whose gender is different from that which was assigned at birth. Transgender people generally have a gender identity or expression which is either male or female, but not the same as the one assigned to them, for example a person identified as female at birth who has a male sense of self.
A trans woman is a person who was assigned male at birth but whose gender identity is female; a trans man is a person who was assigned female at birth but whose gender identity is male. Transsexual generally refers to transgender people who use medical intervention to transition from one sex to the other by the prescription of hormones and surgical intervention. The number of letters in this abbreviation seems to get longer by the day.
The LGB community lesbian, gay and bisexual added a T for transgender and then a Q for queer or questioning. The plus came along to include various other groups including intersex, asexual and pansexual people. Maybe there are other categories yet unheard of to be added later…. My best effort at understanding the major definitions in the shifting sands of categorising people, with apologies to anyone omitted or offended. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up! Everyone agrees that the courts are overloaded and that backlogs and waiting times are excessive.
What is to be done about it? Dominic Raab, the new Justice Secretary, told his party conference that too many civil cases are going to court and alternative dispute resolution should be used more often. The Sunday Times has reported that plans are being drawn up for mediation to be the standard default setting for family cases except in cases of domestic abuse and to discourage people from using court there will apparently be the possibility for the court to order those deemed to be abusing the system to pay substantial costs.
There is no doubt that mediation can be very constructive and useful in appropriate cases. Skilful mediators can help resolve disputes in a non-adversarial way, enabling people to move forward, reducing animosity and encouraging practical and realistic solutions. Here at DSD our own Michael Clarke is a specialist and accredited family mediator as well as a qualified solicitor, so we are well aware of the value of mediation as an approach in family cases.
It is a valuable part of the system. However, mediation is not appropriate in some cases and not only those involving domestic violence. Furthermore, for mediation to work, people need to understand their legal rights and available options. Part of the story leading to the current difficulties is the removal of Legal Aid from many family cases back in Far from reducing cases and saving money, it has only exacerbated the problem. We echo the comments of a Law Society spokesperson who said: 'There seems to be a belief among many people that lawyers necessarily mean courts, when in fact the opposite is the case.
The evidence of the past decade is that taking lawyers out of the equation led to fewer cases going to mediation, and more cases going to court. With parents acting without advice and representation, they often bring misconceived arguments and irrelevant issues to court. The best way to keep more cases out of court and to reduce the number of inappropriate applications is not to introduce financial penalties, but to ensure that all separating couples can get legal advice and representation to guide them through the process.
Whereas many cases used to be settled by agreements out of court unrepresented litigants are naturally far more likely to want the judge to decide. Lawyers can advise clients on the law and their rights but also the rights of the others involved and the likely approach of a court, often leading to a more realistic understanding of the position. They can also advise on the availability of other options such as mediation for resolving disputes and guide clients to the most appropriate solution.
And sometimes it is indeed appropriate to go to court. Lawyers should be seen as part of the solution to the current difficulties instead of part of the problem. The other matter of fundamental concern is the drive to stop citizens using the courts. Access to justice is a fundamental cornerstone in a democratic society. Courts should be seen as a public service available to all citizens as a matter of principle.
It is entirely perverse to characterise people who want to seek redress as a nuisance clogging up the system. Threatening to deter people from pursuing their rights by punitive costs measures is a dangerous precedent. There is indeed a problem in the family courts. But limiting access to justice is not the solution. Society is constantly changing and, in consequence, so is the law.
Nothing is ever set in stone and lawyers must be constantly aware of new developments not only in legislation but also in ongoing jurisprudence. This includes case law which may set binding precedents or at least give authoritative guidance on how to interpret and apply the law. Judgments from the Supreme Court constitute a binding precedents which determine the interpretation of the law thereafter. Court of Appeal judgments also bind lower courts, but of course can be trumped by the Supreme Court.
Lower courts such as the High Court do not give judgments which are binding on anyone other than the parties in the case in question but can give helpful and authoritative indications on how to understand the law. Developments in society leave the law struggling to understand and regulate novel ideas and phenomena which may not truly be new but may have been hidden or unacknowledged until relatively recently.
The speed of change can be bewildering for a legal system which traditionally developed over centuries at glacial speed. Bearing in mind that sex between two consenting men over the age of 21 in private was only de-criminalised in England in , it is no wonder the law can struggle to respond to the vast and rapid changes we have seen in society since then.
It provides treatment for gender dysphoria, in which a person has a strong desire to be and to be treated as a person of the opposite sex from the sex allocated at birth. By definition, the issue becomes acute at puberty. The Tavistock offer as assessment service following which, if deemed appropriate, referral can be made to hospital endocrinologists for so-called puberty blockers to be prescribed to stop the onset of puberty. Patients may and often do later proceed to gender reassignment treatment including cross-sex hormones and surgery.
In the High Court, a case was brought by Keira Bell, a woman who was treated as a teenager by the clinic using puberty blockers and then began transitioning from female to male but has since de-transitioned. The second applicant is the mother of a teenager with autism waiting for such treatment.
At the heart of the case was the issue of who could give consent for such profoundly important medical intervention. The applicants essentially argued that it was beyond the capacity of a teenager to understand the issues and to give consent. We must remember that once a person turns 18, the law presumes capacity to consent to medical treatment unless the individual concerned has a disability or impairment such that the Court of Protection needs to step in.
For those between 16 and 18 there is also a specific statutory right to consent to their own medical treatment. It is not a question simply of age and it is not a blanket concept — the same young person could have sufficient capacity to consent to one type of treatment but not another more complex intervention. At the same time parents retain their parental responsibility and can consent to treatment on behalf of their offspring — raising questions of what happens when there is a disagreement or indeed, as in the Gillick issue, the teenager does not want to involve the parents in the decision at all.
The suggestion was that the court would effectively double-check clinical judgment. The Tavistock clinic appealed and recently the Court of Appeal gave its judgment, overturning the High Court decision. The judges took the opportunity to issue a reminder of the role of the courts in medical matters. The Court of Appeal went back to Gillick and the principle that it is for doctors to determine capacity in individual cases and that is not the job of the court. So the Court of Appeal went back to established principles.
Gillick principles apply and it is for clinicians to exercise their professional judgment and to ensure that each individual patient gives valid consent in each individual case to the particular treatment concerned. This was not a matter for judicial review. However, a cautionary note was sounded to remind everyone that this does not mean that courts are abdicating any role in this or any other medical case involving issues of consent.
In any individual case, a question may be raised of whether valid consent has been properly sought and given and such issues may indeed be matters for court decision. Legal clarity has been restored, at least for now as the applicants have vowed to take their fight on to the Supreme Court and it is quite possible to imagine an onward journey to Strasbourg unless the UK withdraws from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights before then.
Few of us will be directly involved in gender dysphoria issues but, just as the Gillick case has been applied far beyond the question directly involved in the case itself contraceptives for under year-olds , the principles elucidated in this judgment apply to all medical treatment of young people, including other more everyday but nonetheless controversial issues such as vaccination.
Canterbury: Gillingham: More on wills: Can I leave my estate to whoever I want? So, the moral of the story is: - Make a will, make your wishes and your reasons for anything unexpected absolutely clear; - Keep your will up to date; - If you feel unfairly excluded from an estate, take legal advice on a potential claim; - Always take expert legal advice to make sure that you understand your rights and responsibilities.
The Gay cake — a final slice. Child abuse scandals. Once circumstances are fully investigated we may find that there were indeed failings in these cases, but perhaps before rushing to judgment we should consider the following: i social workers and other professionals involved did not kill these children.
Gender and passports. Human Rights reform. How to be a dream client. Dear Santa. What would I like for Christmas? Apart from the obvious Covid-related issues, what would I like for Christmas? Is it too much to ask for a Justice Secretary who actually believes in social justice? May we all have a peaceful Christmas and a happier, healthier New Year. The complicated world of sex and gender. The terms generally used to describe biological sex are male, female or intersex.
Sexual orientation This refers to attraction to others, most particularly in physical and sexual terms. Gender We often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably in normal language. It might be helpful to think as sex as male or female and gender as masculine or feminine. Gender identity This term is used to refer to how we think about ourselves, which may not be the same as our assigned biological sex or socially assigned gender.
Trans and cis Again, where would we be without the classics? The future of family justice. Emotions can run high; disputes over an estate can erupt within the closest of families. It is vital that property contained in your Will is processed appropriately, to avoid future problems arising.
Some disappointed beneficiaries may seek further action to challenge what you have chosen to do within your Will. There are many reasons why someone would choose to leave their estate to charity, rather than children or dependants. A charity may be significantly important as a result of the care and support it has offered you during your life time. Or, your dependants and children are already comfortably well-off and not in need; a charity would benefit greatly from the proceedings.
If you are estranged from your family and are no longer in contact, leaving your estate to charity is a common scenario. We do advise conciliatory discussions, to resolve family disputes. However, we are equally aware that irretrievable situations occur.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is possible to isolate family from being a beneficiary of your estate, but in Scotland you must leave a reserved quota to certain relatives. A court may award a percentage of an estate to a relative if they are close family, or someone that relies on you financially.
It is possible that a family member, who reasonably expects to be a beneficiary of an estate, would challenge a Will in court. If you are certain you wish to leave your estate to charity, it is crucial that you advise your family on doing so- to avoid future legal costs and delays. Family disputes are problematic, but going through the correct channels of communication will aid complications after your death.
You need to demonstrate that you have done enough to prevent this by way of reasoned explanation. In order to safeguard your intentions and ensure your estate goes to a charity, you need to make the following arrangements:. Consider including a second or third charity as options if the above happens. Also, consider setting up a charitable trust. At any stage, should you wish to discuss your actions with a specialist, call our Wills and Probate department at Ison Harrison Solicitors. We will advise you on your options, and whether your actions are likely to go unchallenged and your wishes accepted.
Call today on or alternatively dominic. Home Blog I want to leave my estate to charity instead of my children. Can this be done? I want to leave my estate to charity instead of my children. Challenging an estate A court may award a percentage of an estate to a relative if they are close family, or someone that relies on you financially. You should: Prepare a sworn affidavit, demonstrating your intentions and how they should not be challenged. Explain you decision in writing to leave with your will, giving reasons why the charity should be the beneficiary.
In order to prevent the decision being contested on grounds of mental incapacity, include a certificate from a medical professional proving you were of sound mind when making the decision. Discuss your intentions with a professional Will advisor, explaining your reasons.
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A will must be signed and witnessed. When you die, your possessions are called your 'estate'. A 'testator' is a person who writes a will. If you. This document looks at what you need to consider before buying a property and the processes involved. If your mother dies without a will, her descendants will inherit her estate. As you are her only surviving child, her estate would go to you.