Dealing with Domestic Abuse in an LGBT Relationship

belfast prideLife Law NI would like to wish all their LGBT followers a happy and safe Pride 2015 this week.

To play our part in festivities, here’s an informative article entitled ‘When Love Hurts… Dealing with Domestic Abuse in Your Relationship’

It’s written by our very own Claire Edgar for GNI magazine and it provides useful information on how to deal with domestic violence within your relationship as a member of the LGBT community.

 

‘When Love Hurts…Dealing with Domestic Abuse in Your Relationship’ 

love shouldn't hurtDespite what many people think, abuse from a partner is not limited to physical harm – a whole range of controlling and abusive behaviour can constitute domestic violence including threatening behaviour and psychological, sexual, financial and emotional control.

Whilst research shows that domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men, it is by no means selective – anyone can be affected by domestic abuse in a relationship, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity

Indeed, within the LGBT community, domestic abuse is a serious issue and can often go unreported due to fears the victim may have of exposing the abuse or revealing the nature of their relationship with the perpetrator.
If you are suffering domestic abuse in your relationship, you are not alone. The good news is that there is protection available from the Courts which can go some way to help you break free from your abusive relationship.

The Courts have the power to grant a ‘Non-Molestation Order’ against your partner prohibiting your partner from molesting, harassing, pestering or threatening you in any way. It is a criminal offence to breach these Orders. The police treat domestic violence very seriously and have dedicated domestic abuse teams to deal with these matters.

The Orders can be made by the Court on an emergency basis to provide you with instant protection. Your partner will be given the opportunity to attend at Court on a later date to defend themselves if they wish to do so.

It is therefore important to have a skilled and specialised lawyer working with you to ensure that you get protection as quickly as possible and also to represent you if the proceedings become contested.

For further information please contact Claire on cedgar@fhanna.co.uk

LIFE BITE: Lord Behaving Badly : Gross Misconduct in the Workplace?

apple-150579_1280This week, there has been public outrage at media revelations surrounding House of Lords peer Lord Sewel allegedly taking drugs with prostitutes.

Lord Sewel had been urged to resign from the House of Lords after video footage was published in The Sun newspaper of him snorting cocaine.

The  House of Lords (Suspension and Expulsion) Act 2015 allows peers to be barred from Parliament if they breach the code of conduct.  The code states that members must “always act on their personal honour”.

Most of us in our jobs will be required to adhere to an appropriate code of conduct which is set out by our employers. This code of conduct may apply to both our behaviour in and out of the workplace.

Whilst your employer must normally follow certain procedures in order to dismiss you from your job, if your behaviour in or outside of the workplace amounts to gross misconduct they may be able to automatically dismiss you without going through the normal disciplinary procedures.

For more information on this area, please read our blog on Unfair Dismissal or alternatively contact us directly.

Personal Injury Trusts

What is a Personal Injury Trust?

PItrustsA Personal Injury Trust is a trust fund which is set up with the compensation monies that you receive as a result of a personal injury claim, such as for example a road traffic accident, an accident at work or a medical negligence claim

Who do I appoint as Trustees?

You can create a Trust by asking other individuals or a company to hold assets on your behalf – these people will be known as your ‘Trustees’ You can choose whoever you wish to be the Trustee of your Personal Injury Trust however they must be over 18 years old. It is preferable that you appoint people you trust and this can conclude family, friend or legal representatives. After all, your Trustees will hold and have control over your compensation money, although they cannot use it for their own benefit.

What are the benefits of a Personal Injury Trust?

If you are in receipt of means-tested benefits and you receive an award of compensation, the capital value of any award you receive will be taken into account when calculating your entitlement to those benefits. However, if you set up a Personal Injury Trust with your compensation award, that capital is disregarded and will not affect your entitlement to means-tested benefits. Even if you do not currently receive means-tested benefits, setting up a Personal Injury Trust when you receive your award can prevent loss of any future benefits you may claim if your circumstances change. A Personal Injury Trust can also be used to protect your award from being taken into account for the cost of current or future long-term care. Placing your compensation award into a Trust will enable the capital to be disregarded when your contribution to care costs are considered.

When should I set a Personal Injury Trust up?

In order to avoid any loss of benefits, a Personal Injury Trust should be set up before you receive your award of compensation. However, a Personal Injury Trust can be set up at any time using your compensation award. There is a period of 52 weeks, from the date you receive your award, in which your compensation will be treated as disregarded capital but this period is subject to special rules and therefore it is not recommended that you rely on it.

What if my circumstances change and I no longer need a Personal Injury Trust?

You can at any time instruct your Trustees in writing, to transfer the money over to you. Once they have done this, the Personal Injury Trust will then cease to exist. It is important to remember that you may lose your entitlement to any means-tested benefits once the Personal Injury Trust ceases to exist.

Francis Hanna & Co has a department specialising in Personal Injury Trusts.
If you think that you would benefit from a Personal Injury Trust, please contact Linda Johnston for further information on lj@fhanna.co.uk

Social Services & Your Children

social services2Many parents may feel anxious at the prospect of having Social Services involved with their family– perhaps because of experiences they may have heard from others, read in the media or just simply because they are frightened that Social Workers will try to remove their children from their care. 

These fears are completely natural and certainly in my experience, not many parents appreciate a stranger, no matter how professional and qualified they may be, “coming into my home and telling me how to raise my kids”.

That being said, Social Services do play an important role in our society when it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of children within our communities.

Who are Social Services?

Community Care and Social Service in Northern Ireland is provided by a number of Health & Social Care organisations, known as ‘Trusts’. There are a total of 6 Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts in Northern Ireland.

Each HSC Trust provides an array of social services, from children’s services, disability services, older people services, mental health services and services for vulnerable adults to name a few.

What is the role of Social Services when dealing with children?

Social Services have an obligation by law to safeguard the welfare of children who they believe may have suffered, or are at risk of suffering harm.

How can Social Services become involved with my family?

A Social Worker can become involved with your family in many ways:-

  • You may directly request support from Social Services in times of stress or for help regarding a particular child or family problem you have.
  • Teachers, Health Visitors, GPs or other professionals working with your family or children may make a referral to Social Services if they have any concerns about a child.
  • Any person, whether known to you or anonymous, who is concerned about the treatment of your child can make a referral to Social Services seeking that they investigate matters.
  • It is also common for the Police to refer matters to Social Services, for example in instances where domestic violence between adults could potentially result in harm to the children.

Can Social Services remove my children from me?

If Social Services believe that your child is at risk of suffering significant harm if they remain with you, they can (if certain criteria are satisfied) apply to the Court and request an Order for the removal of your child from your care. These proceedings are known as care proceedings.

However, issues that Social Services have with your care of your children can be resolved without the need for care proceedings

How can I avoid care proceedings?

If a Social Worker becomes concerned about the welfare of your child, in most cases they will firstly arrange a meeting with both parents to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect your child from harm, so that Court proceedings can be avoided.

This meeting is known as a pre-proceedings meeting.

The Social Worker is required to send both parents a letter inviting them to attend at this meeting.  This letter will also set out in detail and in plain language exactly what the concerns are and exactly what Social Services suggest should be done to deal with these concerns and avoid Court proceedings. It is very important for parents to attend at a pre-proceedings meeting with Social Services.

Am I entitled to legal representation at a pre-proceedings meeting?

Yes, each parent is entitled to bring a legal representative with them to a pre-proceedings meeting and they will be entitled to Legal Aid to cover any legal costs, regardless of their income.

What if I do not attend at the pre-proceedings meeting?

If there is a failure to engage in this process for whatever reason, this may result in Social Services issuing care proceedings in respect of your child.

If you receive a letter from Social Services inviting you to a pre-proceedings meeting you should seek legal advice immediately.

Experienced and professional legal advice at this stage of Social Services involvement with your family will go a long way in helping to address any issues or concerns that Social Services may have whilst potentially avoiding the need for lengthy and stressful Court proceedings.

We will be posting more information on care proceedings in the coming weeks however if you need any further information on the pre-proceedings stage, or have any general comments on your experiences with Social Services, we would love to hear your comments below.
Or alternatively, please contact Karen (kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk) or Claire (cegdar@fhanna.co.uk)

Holiday Insurance When Travelling Abroad

summerhols

It’s the holiday season and we are all no doubt eager to escape the grey skies of Northern Ireland and head abroad for a week or two of tropical sunshine and relaxation.

While giving careful thought to what factor of sun lotion to bring, you may also want to ensure you have good holiday insurance in place.

It is important to make sure that you are aware of local laws and customs when you travel, to avoid invalidating any insurance policy you have.

Jonathan Wheeler, Vice-President of The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’)* has said:-

“Just because you have insurance cover does not mean you don’t have to be responsible for your own behaviour. In fact you could unwittingly invalidate your insurance if you break the law or are disorderly,”

“Many travel insurance policies carry exemptions if you do something illegal. Jaywalking for example, isn’t illegal in the UK but it is in some overseas countries,”

“If you cross the road when the light is on red, you face a fine – which you could do without on holiday.”

“But in the worst case scenario, you could be knocked down by a car and find that your insurer is not obliged to cover you for medical bills, or to get you home, or to pursue a case for compensation if someone else is negligent and injures you”.

Jaywalking is an offence in most US states, and destinations popular with hen and stag parties such as the Czech Republic and Poland.

The sun-seekers out there should be aware that Greece also has some strict laws relating to taste and decency, which can carry hefty fines. Even some fancy dress costumes may be regarded as offensive and violate the law.

In Mallorca and Barcelona, sunbathers who leave the beach still stripped to their swimwear could be fined as much as £500. And driving penalties in Spain can be much tougher than in the UK – just 1km per hour above the speed limit can result in a fine of around £400 for a tourist.

“If you’ve had a run-in with the law while you’re overseas, however small, it might be held against you if you need to make a claim for something,” adds Jonathan.

“It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when on holiday but it’s worth knowing the local laws and customs before you set off.

Be responsible for yourself and show respect for your foreign hosts”.

Happy Holidays!

MHannaBy Martin Hanna

Partner

Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors

For more information on this area, please feel free to  contact Martin by email at mhanna@fhanna.co.uk or alternatively please leave us your comments below
*APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) is a not-for-profit organisation whose members are dedicated to campaigning for improvements in the law to help people who are injured or become ill through no fault of their own.