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If you are affected by HS2, you may be due compensation, for more details contact Iain Johnston, Planning Specialist at Beswicks


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A dose of ‘reality’ for the Valuation Office_
15th March 2017
When a commercial property is in the midst of renovation works, the Valuation Office (VO) has in recent times given such a property a business rateable value if it could be occupied by a hypothetical tenant despite the fact that it was in a state of disrepair.
As we are all aware there are many phases to construction works and in the developers’ eyes, once the property has been stripped to a shell (to enable the renovation works to commence) it cannot in reality be occupied and should therefore not attract any business rates value other than a nil rating at that point in time.
For those involved in property development, there is at last some good news concerning the payment of business rates.
The Supreme Court has held (Newbigin v S J & J Monk [2017] UKSC 14) that a commercial premises being renovated was ‘undergoing reconstruction works’ rather than simply being in a state of disrepair making any beneficial occupation impossible. The Supreme Court applied ‘the statutory reality principle’ which meant that the VO must assess objectively whether the property is undergoing reconstruction works and if it is, whether it is therefore incapable of actual occupation. The impact of this decision for the developer in this case meant that the property’s rateable value decreased from £102,000 to £1.00 per annum.
A significant victory for property developers and a welcome dose of reality for the VO.
Please contact Karen Elder at Beswicks Legal if you have a commercial property which is in the process of being redeveloped and you are considering whether you are entitled to a reduction in your business ratings assessment, or if your require assistance with any aspect of construction law on 01782 205000 or


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Beswicks Legal client, Callum Smith, to fight for world title_

It has been announced that Beswicks Legal client, Callum Smith (22-0-0 17 KO), will fight Anthony Dirrell (30-1-1 24 KO) for the WBC Super-Middleweight title.
Purse bids took place in New York on 3 March 2017, with TGC Promotions winning the right to promote the contest. It is anticipated that it will take place in the US in May/June.
Beswicks Legal advises Callum Smith on all legal matters relating to his professional boxing career. Sean O’Toole, who joined the sports law team in January 2017 and has acted for a number of boxers and other athletes, comments:
“We are delighted to be part of Callum’s team alongside Joe Gallagher (trainer/manager) and Matchroom Boxing (promoter). He is one of the UK’s leading boxing prospects and a consummate professional inside and outside the ring.
Anthony Dirrell and Callum are two of the best boxers in the division so this contest promises to be a great one for spectators. Much is being made of the home advantage, but Callum is not at all fazed by having to travel; he knows that if he takes his A-game then he will be favourite to bring the title home. We wish him all the best for the fight.”

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Are you throwing money away?_
20th February 2017
Credit control isn’t considered by many to be important. Most businesses will focus on producing the product or providing the service. Credit control is the life-blood of any business and must be given the importance it deserves.
If you give your customers/clients terms and conditions, then you must have controls in place to ensure that any monies owed are being paid under your terms. If not, you must take immediate action.
Too many businesses are reactive rather than proactive.
Your credit controller must have a good relationship with all your customers/clients. They need to know how solvent your customer/client is. Having that knowledge first before anyone else is “gold dust”.
If your terms are breached, here are some guidelines to follow:
speak to your customer/client and give them a gentle nudge to ask for payment
request that payment is made by a stated period, say 24/48 hours by BACS/CHAPS into your account
if payment is not received within the stated period, the customer/client MUST be placed on STOP.
DO NOT ever feel embarrassed – it’s your money!!
If you need any advice on cash flow, please contact Richard Anderson at Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or email


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Employee dress code – does that include the wearing of heels?_
16th February 2017
This has been big in the news lately.
When I heared about a woman being sent home for refusing to wear heels I thought, good on you! Why should women be forced to wear shoes which do not assist in the performance of their duties and can often pose a heatlth and safety risk?
I remember regularly getting my heels caught in badly laid pavements when working into work and the many times I’ve heard women say “my feet are killing me” after wearing heels all day.
The question is whether the rule is less favourable treatment, as men are not required to wear something in a similar way. The only equilavent I can think of is insisting on wearing of ties. But this doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) cause pain or risk health and safety.
The Women and Equalities Committee which has recently been reviewing this issue has published their view and provided some clear guidance on it. A rule requiring employees to wear heels is unlawful and it is a health and safety risk.
I know of other dress code rules including one which requires men to either be fully clean shaven or to have a full beard. Unless there is a health and safety reason, I find it hard to justify why this should be necessary or how in practice it would be implemented.
Do you have a dress code for your employees?
In light of the current attention on this point, maybe you should review it to be sure that its justifiable, clear and fair.
If you need advice on how best to deal with any of these issues or need advice on any employment related issues contact Beswicks on 01782 205000

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Sad loss of a ‘great defender’_

It is with great sadness that Beswicks announce the passing of former partner Mike Stephenson.
Mike, aged 65, died on February 8 after battling a brain tumour for the past three years and leaves behind his wife Lynn, two step-children and two grandchildren.
Tributes have poured in for the popular criminal defence lawyer who worked for Beswicks from 1982-2015 before his illness.
Gary Mellor, senior partner at Beswicks, who worked with Mike for 30 years, said:
“Mike was one of the last great characters. Someone described him to me as Stoke’s greatest defender, which is funny because he was such a Stoke City fan. Everyone at Beswicks has got a story about him. Probably the most successful defence lawyer the area has witnessed. Mike pulled off memorable results consistently over 30 years for our Criminal, Corporate and Sports clients. Beswicks criminal defence department has an unbelievable reputation and it all started with Mike.”

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The importance of protecting your pension as a cohabitee_
10th February 2017
A recent judgement from the Supreme Court may improve pension rights of co-habiting couples.
Denise Brewster was denied payments from her long term partner’s occupational pension, which she claimed was “serious discrimination”.
Ms Brewster and her partner Lenny McMullan lived together in their jointly owned home for 10 years. Sadly, two days after getting engaged, Mr McMullan died suddenly in 2009, aged 43.
Mr McMullan had worked for the public transport service, Translink, for 15 years and had paid into an occupational pension scheme.
Had the couple been married, Ms Brewster would have automatically received a share of this pension.
For cohabitees the conditions of the scheme made Ms Brewster ineligible to receive a share and only by way of signed nomination would she have been entitled. Ms Brewster had not been nominated and so was denied access to the funds.
In court, Ms Brewster argued that the system was discriminatory against her and a breach of her human rights.
Ms Brewster stated: “I had to make a stand for this as this was about our love and what we were for each other. Lenny and I both paid into that pension scheme for years and neither I nor anyone belonging to Lenny’s family is going to be able to avail from the pension pot that we had paid into.”
The case was initially taken to the High Court in Northern Ireland, where Ms Brewster won the case. Then, when brought to Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal, the judgement was overturned.
Finally, the matter was taken to the UK’s Supreme Court, where it was ruled that Ms Brewster was entitled to the pension scheme payments.
The decision of the Supreme Court could have an impact on public sector workers who are co-habiting and other schemes may feel an impact from the result. This could lead to survivors’ allowances being automatically passed to long term partners. However, this will still be dependent of ‘financial interdependency’ and that the couple had lived together for a minimum time period.
The wills and estate planning team at Beswicks Legal can guide you through the current rules and regulations and advise you on how best to protect your estate for your loved one, whether or not you have chosen to be married.
If you are would like to discuss this further or any issue relating to wills and estate planning please contact Kate Sutherland on 01782 205000 or

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The wording of settlement agreements is critical_
6th February 2017
It is well known that the wording of an agreement is vital. It must say everything you want it to say because no one else should have to guess what you meant it to say. The same applies in COT3 agreements (a settlement agreement that is reached with the help of an ACAS conciliator).
In a new decision from the EAT, (Employment Appeal Tribunal), it was determined that the tribunal could hear a claim despite there being a previous COT3 to settle matters between the parties.
The wording of the previous agreement settled any claim arising from the facts of the proceedings up to and including the date of the COT3. This appears clear enough.
However, as the wording did not say “all claims arising within the period up to the date of the COT3”, but instead limited it to claims “arising from the proceedings up to the date of the COT3”, the tribunal ruled that the agreement did not prevent a new claim under new circumstances, unrelated to the “proceedings”.
This is a very strict interpretation of the COT3 and makes it even more vital to ensure the wording used, covers everything that is to be settled.
It means anyone drafting such an agreement needs to check and double-check that the COT3 really is fit for purpose.
If you need advice on how best to deal with any disciplinary matters or employment related issues contact Laura Franklin at Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or

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Speeding fines set to increase_
3rd February 2017
A recent review into the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines has resulted in a 50% increase in the punishable fine for speeding.
This means that from 24 April 2017 anyone caught driving over the speed limit could face a fine of up to 150% of their weekly income in addition to penalty points or disqualification.
The Sentencing Council said that the change intends to provide a “clear increase in penalty” as the gravity of offending intensifies.
Such changes are not designed to alter existing sentencing practices but instead isolate specific offences and provide consistency across the country. The Sentencing Guidelines must be adhered to by the Magistrates unless it is considered that it is not in the interests of justice to do so or if the case is exceptional and an alternative sentence is prudent.
At present the speeding fine limit is equal to 100% of the specific drivers’ weekly wage. The current and unchanging maximum fine can be as much as £2500 if the driver is caught speeding on a motorway.
The new guidelines will apply regardless of the means by which you were caught, whether by a speed camera or a police officer.
In 2015 alone over 166,215 drivers in England and Wales received a fine for speeding offences. The average fine then was £188, however the possible penalties ranged from a fine to imprisonment.
The alterations are as a result of recent consultations held by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales with Magistrates and criminal justice professionals. The response from these consultations was that the existing guidelines did not “take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases”.
The consultations also advise Magistrates to incorporate additional aggravating factors into their consideration; these factors include but are not limited to; the drivers’ previous convictions, potential harm caused by the driving and weather conditions at the time of the offence.
The fine limits will particularly impact upon younger drivers, who have less experience and are more likely to earn lower wages. They will also be limited by the reduced amount of penalty points a new driver can get before they are banned. If you accrue 6 or more penalty points within two years of passing your test your driving licence will be revoked.
Remember, if you have been driving for over 2 years and you obtain 12 or more penalty points within a three year period you will be disqualified from driving. As with any endorsement upon your licence, be it speeding or other offences, remember that your insurance will be effected.
When in doubt, seek expert professional guidance, for more information contact the crime team at Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or


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How should businesses ‘Brexit-proof’ contracts?_
1st February 2017
Following the prime minister’s Lancaster House speech on 17 January 2017 in relation to Brexit, we now have a better understanding of the government’s priorities and objectives, and that all important question as to whether parliament must vote before Article 50 is triggered, has now been answered.
There has been a lot of coverage recently about the impact that Brexit may have on contractual relationships in the UK. Such coverage has highlighted areas including:
financial hardship resulting from increased costs and further fluctuations in exchange rates;
the possibility that tariffs and duties will, in the future, apply to trade with the remaining EU member states;
contractual uncertainty where contracts were negotiated and drafted on the basis that the UK was an EU member state. For example, where the territorial scope of an ongoing agreement is the EU, does that mean that the UK falls outside the contract’s scope after Brexit?
In light of the uncertainty and potential negative effects that Brexit may have, it is almost certain that disagreements will arise regarding how these issues are dealt with and which party should bear any additional costs and/or risks but perhaps more importantly, whether the contract actually remains viable.
Businesses continue to consider what can be done to “Brexit-proof” existing and future contracts. It is certainly possible to build into contracts provisions to mitigate the risks associated with Brexit where those risks can be identified; however, the real challenge will be dealing with those risks yet to be identified.
Some examples of clauses which you may seek to include in future contracts include:
when Brexit occurs, a clause which gives you a specific right to terminate;
if, following Brexit, a contract becomes uneconomic, renewable rather than fixed term provisions to be included, which give you the scope to walk away;
adopting more sophisticated pricing mechanisms which expressly allow adjustments on the occurrence of one or more pre-defined events;
force majeure provisions that either specifically include or exclude Brexit related events;
material adverse change provisions which deal with the possibility that Brexit may result in a contract becoming unprofitable or unduly risky;
if a contract is to include a definition of “Territory” as the EU, wording that clarifies how the term is to be interpreted post Brexit (i.e. will it include or exclude the UK?).
If, on reviewing, you consider you have the commercial leverage or contractual right to re-negotiate existing contracts to include some of the clauses mentioned above, it would be worth considering.
As you will no doubt appreciate, different contracts will be affected in different ways and to different extents by Brexit. In this article, we have only looked at some of the general issues that may arise.
If you have any queries relating to the content of this blog and would like to discuss the issues dealt with in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact Steven Brunt on 01782 205000 or email

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