Recently at Emmersons Solicitors, we have had a number of cases where distant relatives contact us having been informed by the authorities that their cousin, great aunt, etc has died. It is clear to me that huge numbers of people now live alone. Many of our clients, who instruct us to make a will, have no relatives that they see on a regular basis. This may be for a number of reasons; our client is an only child, never married and did not have children. Clients who are gay and whose families ostracised them because of this. Another common occurrence is men who have worked in the merchant navy all of their lives, they have never really settled in one place.
The one thing that all of these people have in common, when they visit us to make a will, is that they wish to be quite specific as to who will inherit their estate. For some that will be the person they live with, even if they are not married to that person. For the gay client who has been treated badly by their own family this is very important.
It could be friends who regularly support our client, the person who has them over for Christmas lunch when ev-eryone else is too busy. The friend that is there to help take them to hospital, or visit them in hospital.
I had a very dear friend and was storing documents at our office on their behalf. I rang them to point out that we didn’t seem to be storing a will. “No” they said, “I haven’t made one. My only sister has dementia, as you know I don’t have any other close relatives. I have a distant cousin but can’t stand him and I do not like the family that my sister has married into. If I leave my estate to my sister it is highly likely that upon her death her husband will inherit and thereafter his family. Instead I’d like to leave my estate to those people who come to my home every week and help me. They are very kind”.
Well, unexpectedly my friend died one week after this conversation. As he had predicted, his estate went to his sister because that was his next of kin. She died a few months later and everything passed to her husband. He died eighteen months after that and of course the much despised family members who my friend could not abide, inherited all of my friend’s money!
Or what about the case of a gay client who lived with his partner for a number of years. One night the partner was killed in a car crash. Our client was devastated. Before long his boyfriend’s family turned up from Scotland and said that he had to get out of the house. Of course the house was in his boyfriends sole name, the deceased had never told his family he was gay and the family refused to believe our client, they accused him of being a thief.
These might seem like shocking or unusual tales to you. However, these are the sort of cases that we deal with every day at Emmersons Solicitors.
How can you ensure that your estate ends up in the right hands?
Making a will is an obvious answer. You might wish to leave small amounts of money to a kindly neighbour, you may wish to benefit your local church if it has offered you sup-port, you may wish to leave it all to charity, you may wish to leave it to your partner whether or not you live together. The question is, do you want your estate to go to your next of kin? That could be a person you have never even met. It could be someone who lives nearby but who has not kept in touch.
If you don’t actually have any relatives still living then ultimately the government benefits from your life’s work and your life’s savings. Imagine your hard earned cash being used to build a roundabout!
If you would like a FREE REVIEW OF YOUR EXISTING WILL or simply wish to consider your options then contact us on 0191 2846989
From 27 June 2016 our Gosforth office is lo-cated at 137A Back High Street NE3 4ET-call in and see us at any time. We have wheelchair ac-cess, you can be dropped off at our front door and there is free parking on adjoining streets.

How the mitie have fallen

I read in the Financial Times this morning, whilst sitting in Willi’s cafe in Jesmond, that Mitie had issued a profits warning. This is no surprise. I know Mitie only because I visit Courts and I see their staff cleaning the buildings. The article explained that the company employed a large number of minimum wage earners, it’s CEO was a peer and that shareholders would be worried.

I asked myself: why is a company paying so many people at NMW rates? How come the person in charge is a Tory peer? Why are shareholders benefitting out of Government contracts?

If people are paid more than the NMW will that not mean that money filters up through the economy? Won’t the State be subsidising what it is already paying for through working family tax credits? Wouldn’t the profits paid to shareholders be better spent on workers’ wages and on improving the service offered?

But it’s not just Court cleaning that is outsourced. Prisons are outsourced. HMP Northumberland is in a mess. A complete mess. It’s run by a French company and its in a mess with prisoners locked up 23 hours and the smoking of spice and other drugs rife amongst the inmates. The Lord Chancellor Liz Truss talks about prison reform but this Government and the coalition before it starved the Justice system of cash and resources by making so many people redundant.

There aren’t enough Probation Officers, Police officers or support staff, court and tribunal staff, court sitting days, crown prosecutors and support staff. Trials are still delayed or cracked far too often causing delay and a justice deficit which can’t be justified.

No-one of influence will speak out and instead talk about more efficiencies through information technology and the better use of resources. It’s a huge Emperor’s Parade with all sorts of people falling over each other to tell the Ministry of Justice how marvellous everything is. Well, if anyone could be bothered to visit a Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court and talk to the people who work there-as opposed to the people who mange the people who work there-then they’d find out the truth.

The system is in a mess. Who cares?


Mobile phones-fine and points set to rise

Regulation 110 of the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 makes it an offence to:

  • use a hand-held mobile telephone or a hand-held device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data
  • cause or permit an other to drive a motor vehicle whilst the other person is using a hand-held mobile phone or a hand-held device as described above
  • supervise a provisional driver whilst as supervisor using a hand-held mobile phone or a hand-held device as described above


  • using the device to call 999 or 112;
  • genuine emergency
  • unsafe or impracticable to stop driving in order to make the call

A mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function.

Therefore if you hold the phone to make a call whilst driving and then put on speaker phone and place the phone on the central console or on your lap whilst you talk then  an offence has happened. Like wise if you answer the phone by pressing a button or interacting with the screen and then place the phone on the console or your lap.

Currently the normal fixed penalty is £100 and 3 penalty point. It seems that is to be increased to £200 and 6 penalty points.

The only queries I have about all of this is:

  1. What are the implications for employers of people using their vehicle as a mobile office or as part of their work duties?
  2. How come the police and others can use hand-held devices whilst driving and apparently do so safely?

RoSPA provides the answer to question 1:


The law includes an offence of “causing or permitting” a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. This can apply to employers who will be guilty of an offence if they require or permit their staff who drive for work, to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

Employers would be unwise to respond by supplying their staff with hands-free kits. Even if the use of these while driving does not contravene the specific ban on hand-held phones, employers could fall foul of health and safety laws if an investigation determined the use of the phone contributed to an accident.

The “Driving at Work” Guide from the Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that employers have a duty under health and safety law to manage the risks faced by their employees on the road. And one of the biggest risks they face is when using mobile phones while at the wheel. Research clearly shows that using a hands-free phone while driving is just as dangerous as using a hand-held phone – there is little point in having both hands connected to the steering wheel, if the brain is not connected to the hands.

There are good reasons for providing mobile phones to staff who drive for work, especially for lone workers and staff who will be travelling through areas where access to a public phone is difficult. If a member of staff breaks down, for example, they need to be able to summon help. Some employers provide mobile phones for certain staff and others reimburse the cost of work related calls made on private mobile phones.

But, this should not mean that staff use the phone while driving. As part of the management of work related road safety, employers should provide employees with clear guidance on the use of mobile phones. The use of hand-held or hands-free phones while driving should be prohibited, particularly as there is a simple alternative – let the phone take messages and return calls when stopped in a safe place.

RoSPA has produced a free guide, “Driving for Work: Mobile Phones” to help employers and line managers ensure that their staff do not use mobile phones while driving.


As to question 2, I would imagine that the response from fire police and ambulance-and others-is that staff are given training so they can drive safely whilst communicating and that it is an essential part of their job-as emergency personnel-to be able to communicate whilst driving. Then why can’t other people access this training, become certified in the safe use of hand-held mobile devices if, for whatever reason, that is necessary for them?

Summer Madness

IMG_5351Working in the height of Summer brings its own joys. First, there’s less traffic on the road so you can get to work-but better still home from work-much quicker. The warm weather means that tempers can be frayed but its also a great excuse for a few cold wet ones before home time.

In good weather clients seem less rushed, less demanding and even more grateful.

On the down side you are at work when other people you know are on holiday and when you are on holiday-and you are the boss-people still feel willing to email you to ask the most ridiculous questions.

This year we have had the vote on Brexit and we now have the Olympic Games. What a great source of entertainment the Brexit process was but how absolutely fabulous the Olympics is for Great Britain.

 Union Flag

Interest rates are low but here in the North East people are still buying houses and businesses are growing. “Never mind the economy. Let’s get on with life!!”  There appears to be confidence in the economy despite Brexit, the worst fears of the media and the political comedy show that is Labour. Who ever thought politics and politicians could be so funny-if only they had a real job and had to work for a living!!

I’m not Conservative by nature but I do like some of the things Theresa May is doing and saying.

If only Ms Truss, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice would start reforming prisons properly (instead of talking about it) and start resourcing the Justice systems properly then a lot of the mess created by Grayling (aka the worst Lord Chancellor ever) could be undone. In Court, every day, the Crown is ill-prepared, cases have been poorly investigated, probation don’t have the staff to do their job properly and court sittings have been reduced so that cases take a long time to get to trial. The Justice systems are in a mess-and no-one gives a damn. Those who could complain-Judges, the Police, Prison Governors etc say nothing and try to make the system work. The only way to get the Justice system properly resourced is for all of those in it to embarrass the Government. Then we shall get a Justice system we all deserve.

“Despite all that Tories and Labour and LibDems have said about fighting crime, they have all dismantled the Justice systems to the extent that they are barely functioning.” If you don’t believe me, visit your local Magistrates’ Courts-if you still have one-and look at the chaos.

If you want an effective Justice system then Government will have to invest more money

Very few people cry over the plight of prisoners. The fact that there are prisoners in custody serving Indeterminate sentences for Public Protection (even though such sentences have been repealed for new offences) raises little concern. Such prison sentences cost a lot of money and fail to deliver the very basic requirements of the sentence which is that a prisoner has to show that the risk he/she poses to the public has reduced. This is shown by attending courses and demonstrating a new way of thinking. The courses can’t be run in sufficient numbers to ensure that prisoners serve a realistic sentence that equates to what they would now get or which is less than the statutory maximum for the offence if the prisoner had been sentenced for the offence in accordance with normal sentencing guidelines, as opposed to the IPP system. So prisoners languish in jail without their offending being addressed. It wastes time and money.


In May the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme raised the issue and you can hear that by clicking this link

Today I read that when Police phone the CPS to get a charging decision they have to wait, on average, 37 minutes. That’s a lot of wasted time-and expense. If the money wasted on unproductive activity was spent on more staff then waiting times would reduce, thus saving time.

But the most shocking thing today was a report about assaults on prison staff, suicide in custody and how many prisoners are wasting time, on drugs, in prison. There’s been a lot of talk about making the Justice systems more efficient. Usually its people who really want to say “we are going to spend a lot less on Justice but we expect the same service, but even if the service is worse it doesn’t matter as we will be spending less on it”. The value of the service, the worth of the service is not considered. It is all to do with £££. Unfortunately this then causes increased costs elsewhere through absenteeism, sickness, claims arising out of injury or delayed release.

What’s also worrying is that the cuts to Justice has resulted in the wrong people being released from prison; ineffective trials; increased assaults on Prison Officers; acquittal when there should not be one; innocent people trying to represent themselves in Court; a lack of experience and timely consideration of evidence; the failure to process cases effectively; in short, money and time wasted and people expected to do a lot of work in too short a period of time.

The response to this from the Legal Aid Agency has not been to query the cuts or the determination by the Ministry of Justice to introduce a more “efficient” system

“How embarrassing!!”

by cutting resources but to introduce a new clause for the 2017 Crime Contract by which the LAA can end a contract if the provider embarrasses the LAA and brings the LAA into disrepute. What a joke!? Instead of worrying about Justice and access to Justice and the administration of Justice the LAA is concerned about its own reputation. If the LAA was a human being, such thinking would make one conclude it was sociopathic.