About this blog

Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Friday 29 July 2016


May I return to the retirement cake (see my Retirement posting)? I duly took the matter up with Waitrose who supplied it. They have promptly dealt with my complaint. My email exchange with them is here for you to feast on. We had a midway exchange involving a request for some identifying information which I gave them but I have sliced this out. I regard my complaint as reasonably dealt with and will not pursuing heavy damages for injury to my reputation! 

From: STEPHEN GOLD Sent: 24/07/2016 
Subject: Cake
The picture you see is of a cake supplied to me by Waitrose. Do you observe anything odd about it? I thought you would. The inscribed word Goodbye which was intended be me to be its main feature has been split. The cake was for a farewell lunch for colleagues and staff at my place of work after 21 years’ service and although intense shyness prevented me from personal attendance at the lunch, I wanted to be remembered as someone who knew how to spell. A contrary impression would have been given.
The cake was one of a  number of items which were collected on my behalf from your Kingston-upon-Thames store on 11 July 2016 and for which in total I had prepaid circa £130.  When I personally placed the order approximately a fortnight earlier, the lady at the customer desk who dealt with me struggled with the word in question. I spelt it out for her and did so without stoppage or any form of hesitation, deviation or repetition between the Good and the bye. Therefore, there can be no reasonable excuse for what has happened.
I am told that the cake was delicious although I am perceived to be stupid, thanks to Waitrose. I would invite your comments. If there are any spelling errors in this message then I apologise but at least they have not been iced onto the email.
Cheer io
Stephen Gold

Waitrose Customer Service Sent: 28/07/2016
Waitrose Customer Feedback (Case No. 02272059)
Thanks for your return email Stephen. 

I'm sorry you've had a poor experience with your recent Waitrose entertaining order - I've discussed this with the branch and arranged for them to refund the amount paid for the cake onto your payment card. You'll receive an email confirmation when this has happened.

I hope my response has been helpful today and if you’d like to provide feedback we have a link to a short survey. It’ll only take a few minutes and as a thank you for your time you’ll be entered into our prize draw where you could win £500 in gift cards. 

Kind regards 
Waitrose Customer Service

Thursday 28 July 2016


Before anyone starts civil proceedings in court they should follow one of a series of pre-action protocols which is suitable for the type of case. That's unless there is very good reason not to do so (for example, time is running out for suing and its too late to do what the protocol says).  They are meant to write to the other side and explain what their claim is about and give them the opportunity ro respond and provide copies of relevant documents on which they would rely if the case went to court.

Failure to comply with the appropriate protocol could lead to the court halting the case for a while or denying the defaulting party their costs even if they win. That's what has just happened in the county court at Bolton in a claim which was brought against Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The claimant did what was required according to the protocol she had to follow and the hospital trust responded by denying liability but going on to say they didn't have any documents to show the claimant. In fact, they did have relevant documents and the claimant did not get to see them until after she had started her case. Had she seen them earlier she would probably not have sued. When she did see them, she abandoned the case.

Abandoning a case usually means that you pay the other side's costs. However, because the hospital trust had failed to show the claimant the documents which the protocol required them to do, it was ordered to pay the claimant's costs and bear their own.

You will find the protocols a www.justice.gov.uk. protocol In the pipeline is a new protocol for claims for debt by a business against an individual (including a sole trader).

Wednesday 27 July 2016


The arbitration scheme for disputes over the welfare of children is run by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and - later today or perhaps tomorrow or probably before you buy the weekend shopping- you can gets loads of information about it at ifla.org.uk

Of the arbitrators currently dealing with financial cases, 20 will be covering children cases also. There will be a further 20 covering children cases exclusively and another 20 are awaiting accreditation for children cases only.

How much? Thought you would ask. No standard fee and the actual fee will vary from arbitrator to arbitrator although a fixed fee will be accepted by most. There is no sign that the fee will be cheaper for children cases than for financial cases and I give you a taster of what the fee in those cases is likely to be in my book Breaking Law.

Tuesday 26 July 2016


Here's another source of free legal advice and possible representation in court for family cases to be added to those you will find in my book Breaking Law. It's the Temple Legal Centre which is run out of the barristers' chambers at 10 King Bench Walk by London's Strand and was founded by experienced barrister Leanne Target-Parker. It is intended for anyone residing in Greater London who is involved in a family case whether relating to children or finance - other than child support disputes - who will not qualify for legal aid (and few do) and cannot afford to pay lawyer's fees. The centre is flexible when considering whether you  financially qualify for help. You will probably not qualify if your gross income is over a yearly £30,000 or you turn up in a Ferrari - with a driver.

Clinics are held every other Monday at 10 King Bench Walk between 6pm and 9pm. You get an initial half an hour of advice and, if necessary, a further session will be arranged. If representation in court is needed, the centre will do its best to find you an advocate. Should this turn out to be impossible then you will get full guidance about the hearing and help with the paperwork which you may need to come up with for the hearing.  

Baroness Butler-Sloss is the centre's legal patron and it's non-legal patron is actress and writer Gillian (The X-Files) Anderson. Registration as a charity has been applied for. The centre could do with a bob or two. If you have just been awarded a couple of million against your spouse on a financial remedies application, perhaps you would remember them before blowing it at the Chiltern Firehouse.

For contact, email enquiries@templelegalcentre.org , go to www.facebook.com/templelegalcentre or telephone 07887 776099.


Having a 'punch up' with a government department or other public body? Their wrong could be put right by courtesy of judicial review proceedings in the Administrative Court. A new guide to that court's work and practice is announced today and has been written with a view to it being digestible to litigants in person as well as lawyers who dream about this sort of stuff at night. You can feast on the guide at www.gov.uk/government/publications/administrative-court/judicial-review-guide Let us know when you have woken up.

Monday 25 July 2016


There was a time when you were given one or two weeks' advance notice of increases in court or tribunal fees. Then you could rush out to start your case and save a few bob. Not now. The legislation bringing in the latest raft of changes was made last Friday and operates from....today!!!

Most of the increases are above the rate of inflation. In the High Court and county court it will cost the same to start a case. There's just one exception to this which relates to the minority of cases where a specific fee is not otherwise set. It's swingingly called fee 1.5 and is up in the High Court by £48 to £528 and in the county court by £28 to £308. 

Those of you who have obtained a judgment in your favour and are enforcing it in the county court are the principal litigants to be hit. Putting in the bailiff to seize the debtor's  goods will cost £77 instead of £70 in county court business centre and money claim online case and £110 instead of £100 in other cases. Putting in the bailiff to carry out an eviction from premises sees a hike of £11 to £121 (I would have preferred £120 and then I could have remembered the new fee). There's an extra tenner to be paid bringing the fee up to £110 for enforcement by charging order, attachment of earnings or third party debt order. Getting your debtor before the court to answer questions about their finances will set you back by an extra fiver at £55.  There are similar increases in the High Court for enforcement steps and the fee on sealing a High Court writ of control, possession or delivery rises by £6 to £66.

There are other increases for judicial review cases and on enforcement of an award or other decisions by a tribunal and various bodies and on assessment of costs. Certain magistrates'  courts and tribunal fees are also increased but some fees in the first-tier property chamber in England are reduced. Surely some mistake.

Sunday 24 July 2016


Being sued in the High Court or county court for a civil claim is not a pleasurable experience. Of course, if the claim is groundless, it will be thrown out (perhaps soon after it was started) and the claimant who brought it will almost certainly be condemned to pay your costs. But those costs cannot reflect any damage to your reputation and health and some financial losses such as loss of earnings may not be covered.

Lament not. The Supreme Court ruled last week (by a majority of 5 to 4 of the appeal judges so close but a majority is good enough) that compensation can be sought where loss has been suffered by one individual because of a groundless claim against them by another individual. The victim's claim would be for malicious prosecution which was widely felt to be limited to groundless criminal cases only. 

It won't be a walkover. You will have to prove that the claimant had no "reasonable or probable cause" and acted maliciously in suing.  You won and the claimant lost? Not sufficient in itself. The claimant thought he would or might lose? Not sufficient in itself. However, if the claimant brought the proceedings knowing they were without foundation, you could well win. And so too if you can show that the claimant was indifferent whether the allegations they were making were supportable and brought the case in bad faith  to secure some extraneous benefit to which they had no right (for example, to see you suffer as they had some grievance against you).

You might care when on the wrong side of a groundless claim to add this paragraph to your armoury when communicating with the claimant -
"You claim is groundless and I believe that it is not a bona fide use of the court's process. In these circumstances, I give you notice that unless proceedings against me are abandoned, I reserve my right to bring my own proceedings against you in due course for damages for injury to my reputation and/or health and for such other losses as I may suffer as result of the proceedings in the tort of malicious prosecution. I draw your attention to the judgments of the Supreme Court in Willers v Joyce and another [2016] EWHC 1315."

Saturday 23 July 2016


I'm not recommending that you lie to your insurers when making a claim. What I am doing is saying that if you do lie but is wasn't a whopper, the insurers may no longer be able to use it to escape paying you out.

The Supreme Court has given its blessing to a change in approach where the insurer has been told a collateral lie - something which is irrelevant because the claim was justified whether that something was true or false. Say you are making a claim after your house burnt down in an accidental fire and you lie to your insurers that you dropped the match in the living room when, in fact, you dropped it in the dining room. Probably irrelevant and collateral

However, be in no doubt that your insurers can send you packing if your claim is fraudulent or you have exaggerated it. And probably also where one part of the claim is genuine but the other part is fraudulent.

In the case before the Supreme Court on 20 July 2016,  the collateral lie to the insurers of a ship whose engine room was flooded was not fatal. The claim by the owners was for over 3,000,000 euros. 


Financial disputes can be decided out of court by an arbitrator although this is not everyone's cup of tea (or arsenic). I discuss this alternative to court proceedings in Breaking Law at pages 479-481 inc. This week the financial scheme has been extended to cover private law disputes (so not those between local authorities and carers) concerning the welfare of children. 

The disputes will usually be between parents over which of them is to be the principal carer, what arrangements for contact there should be and whether the principal carer should be allowed to relocate with the children to somewhere else in England and Wales away from the home of the parent who has contact.

Arbitration should be quicker than court but you will have to pay out for it. I'll be back with how much the bill is likely to be.

Friday 22 July 2016


Maurice Joseph Micklewhite has changed his name. Big deal? Yes, because he has changed it to Michael Caine which is how the actor has been known for years. He is reported to have made the change "legally'. It was probably by deed poll.

Deed poll is the best way although, strictly, no document is needed. A snap of the fingers and a word in the ears of your friends is legally sufficient to effect a change. But, in practice, you will run into trouble with banks, building societies and the rest who will demand to see written evidence of the change before they will alter their records.

Be careful. Use of a name for any fraudulent purpose is outlawed. However, anyone cursed with an unspent criminal conviction or a bad debt black mark will not be breaking the law by a name change so long as they do not tell any porkies about their past, if asked. 

I rather fancy Lord Gold for myself. I'm just off to book a table at the Ritz - if I can get in! Before I do, be careful about changing the name of a child who is under 18 on their behalf. The Family Court may become involved if there is a dispute between parents about how a child is to be known in future. The Court of Appeal recently gave the thumbs down to a twin girl being called Cyanide. Wonder why? 


A friendly judge points out to me that I was lucky the cake was not iced with 'Good Buy' or the guests at my wake might have thought I had been scrimping!

Thursday 21 July 2016


Can you be thrown out of court for any part of the civil claim you are bringing or defending?

Certainly, if you disrupt the hearing by unruly behaviour or may be by bringing out a copy of Breaking Law. Otherwise, you have a fundamental right to see and hear all the evidence which is seen and heard by the judge. The Court of Appeal ruled on 14 July 2016 that one of two claimants should not have been excluded from court while the other was giving evidence. Exclusion meant that they did not have a clue what the the other had said when they returned to give their own evidence.

The two were after compensation for a road accident but the insurers on the other side were alleging that the claim was fraudulent.

Despite the trial judge's wrong call, the Cout of Appeal ruled that, taken as a whole, the proceedings had not been unfair. Incidentally, both claimants lost although the trial judge's finding of fraud was set aside.


  • After being let off court or tribunal fees?  Remission they call it. You can now apply on line. Go to GOVERNMENT.UK. Alternatively apply on form EX160 to the court or tribunal office concerned.
  •  Applying for bankruptcy or the winding up of a company has become more expensive for applications made on or after 21 July 2016. That's because of a rise in the deposit which has to be paid for the work of the official receiver. On a bankruptcy application by a debtor, the deposit is up from £525 to £550. Where a creditor is after making their debtor bankrupt, the deposit rises from £825 to £990. But on a creditor's winding up petition against a company the deposit will increase from £1,350 to £1,600.

The Great Escape

The main reason I kept judging for 21 years was my invincible fear of having to listen to valedictories and replying to them on my exit.

Eventually, I devised a cunning plan.

On 11 July 2016 I sneaked out of the back door of my court building for the last time with my colleagues deceived into the belief that I had another three days to go hearing a complicated family case.

In fact, I had secretly arranged to take those three days as holiday. A week later colleagues and staff had a buffet lunch on me. I was elsewhere. One of the cakes was iced 'GOOD BYE' . No prizes for guessing it should have been 'GOODBYE' . Waitrose got it wrong! Not a small claim, I hope.