Court of Appeal Finds That The Stay On Possession Proceedings Due To Covid-19 Is Lawful

On 11 May 2020, the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the appeal of Arkin v Marshall [2020] EWCA Civ 620, which was concerned with whether or not the stay on possession proceedings due to last until 25 June 2020 is lawful.

The Court of Appeal held that Practice Direction 51Z is a pilot, is lawful and is compatible with article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court of Appeal also considered whether a court has the power to lift the stay and said that “although as a matter of strict jurisdiction a judge retains a theoretical power to lift any stay, it would almost always be wrong in principle to use it. We do not, however, rule out that there might be the most exceptional circumstances in which a stay could be lifted, in particular if it operated to defeat the expressed purposes of PD 51Z itself.”

The Court of Appeal also provided some helpful clarification on the effect of the stay on directions in possession claims. It explained that the provision in the Practice Direction that disapplies the stay for “an application for case management directions which are agreed by all the parties” (paragraph 2A(c)) is for the purpose of applying to the court to have agreed directions embodied in a court order “and nothing more”. This will allow parties to agree dates that post date the end of the stay thereby ensuring that the case is not delayed for a directions hearing or for directions to be agreed after the stay expires. The parties may also agree to take certain steps, such as voluntary disclosure during the stay, but the court cannot require them to do so. Furthermore, a party cannot apply to enforce compliance with agreed directions during the stay, but will be able to rely on any failure to do what was agreed once the stay is lifted and the court is looking at making any revised directions.

Private FDR – Frequently Asked Questions – Covid 19 and beyond

Given the understandable delays in the Court system brought on by the Covid-19 crisis we have seen an unprecedented number of enquiries about our Private FDR service.  Even more so following the encouragement of the judiciary both locally Financial Remedy Work During Lockdown  and nationally Presidents Guidance Covid 19 for parties to consider Private FDRs as a means to resolve their cases.

To assist those who are considering a Private FDR we list below some of the questions our clerks are being asked most frequently:

  1. How much does it cost?

At Magdalen Chambers we pride ourselves in making the legal process accessible.  We offer a range of options tailored to the level of complexity of each case.

In most cases an experienced Private FDR Judge can be provided for between £1,000 and £2,000 for the day.  This cost is shared between the parties unless otherwise agreed

  1. How quickly can the Private FDR take place?

Subject to availability a hearing can normally be arranged within two weeks – complex cases will, as a rule, require longer to prepare.  However where there is an urgent need for matters to be resolved quickly every attempt will be made to assist the parties to do so.

  1. Can the hearing be conducted remotely?

All our Private FDR Judges and Barristers are able to work remotely.  We find that the most effective way to conduct an FDR is by one of the available video platforms.  The parties will generally just require access to a computer and broadband.  Our clerks will speak to both parties to identify the best platform to work on.

  1. What if one party is unable to use video-conferencing technology?

We have video-conferencing facilities in Chambers available upon request to parties taking part in a Private FDR organised by Magdalen Chambers.  Use of the facilities will be subject to strict safety criteria which will be discussed with the party upon request.

  1. How long will the Private FDR last?

Like the ideal court based FDR a Private FDR will normally be scheduled to start early in the day.  Unlike a court based FDR the Private FDR Judge will then be available exclusively to the parties for the whole day.  To maximise the chances of settlement the parties should also make themselves available all day.  On occasions where a second day of input would be of benefit this can be arranged.

  1. What if one of the parties has to work Monday to Friday?

We understand that during the national Covid-19 crisis those who are currently able to work may find it difficult to take time off.  Therefore whilst the current situation persists our Judges and Barristers are available to work outside of the traditional Monday to Friday working week where necessary.

  1. Is every case suitable for a Private FDR?

The aim of an FDR is to find a way to settle proceedings by consent.  In the current economic climate the future may simply be too uncertain for the parties to reach an agreement.  This can be discussed with the Private FDR Judge before a booking is made.  Alternatively parties may wish to have the input of a Private FDR Judge to settle some of the issues in a case whilst leaving other issues to be resolved after the crisis has abated.

Have you had your court hearing about your children adjourned or cancelled because of Covid-19? Do you need a decision now about your child?

There is an alternative which is quicker and more economical than the court, and is legally binding. It is called the Children’s Arbitration Scheme. Specially qualified children specialists are able to make legally binding decisions under this scheme which have the same effect as a court order. The difference is, this can be done with one or two hearings at a fraction of the cost of court proceedings. Both parties have to agree to this process and it has to be approved by the Arbitrator as suitable for arbitration.

Our Children’s Arbitrator is Sarah Evans, who also sits as a Deputy District Judge. If you need legal representation we can also offer specialist direct access barristers within Magdalen Chambers who are all totally independent and can assist you at the arbitration hearings and behind the scenes.

We can operate remotely during this time and have an in-house video conferencing suite for this purpose.

Contact us to check if your case would come within the scope of the scheme by emailing

For more information visit:

Eviction, Unlawful Eviction & Covid-19

Recent media reports and social media excerpts suggest there has been an increase in attempts by landlords during the current Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis to evict their tenants including one national report of a landlord attempting to evict a paramedic by text. This article answers in brief some of the questions that tenants and landlords may have in an already worrying time.

What process should a landlord follow if they wish to evict lawfully?

Most tenants with a private landlord have an assured shorthold tenancy (there are exceptions, for example, if the landlord lives in the same property with the tenant). If a tenant has such a tenancy, the landlord can usually only evict the tenant lawfully if it serves a notice under either section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (a no fault eviction process) or section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (where the landlord says the tenant is at fault such as because of rent arrears) and obtains a court order and gets the bailiff to enforce any possession order.

Are there any measures currently in place to prevent a landlord evicting during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis?

The government and judiciary have taken steps to prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant during the current pandemic.

The government has changed the law so that the notice that a landlord needs to serve on the tenant as a prerequisite to any possession claim (regardless of type of tenancy) is now 3 months (section 81 and schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020). This change in the law, at the time of writing, will continue until 30 September 2020.

The judiciary has introduced a new Practice Direction to the Civil Procedure Rules (Practice Direction 51Z) to stay (put on hold) all possession proceedings and action to enforce any possession order for 90 days from 27 March 2020.

What can a tenant do if a landlord seeks to unlawfully evict?

Unlawful eviction is a criminal offence so a tenant can contact the police for assistance. If it is suggested that this is a civil matter only, the tenant should refer the police to section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Unlawful eviction also gives rise to a civil cause of action. A tenant who is unlawfully evicted can seek an injunction from the court ordering the landlord to reinstate the tenant to the property and can claim damages (compensation) for the unlawful eviction. A solicitor, Shelter or a Law Centre will be able to assist with such a claim and legal aid is available if the tenant qualifies in terms of means (income).

What are the consequences for a landlord who unlawfully evicts?

A landlord who unlawfully evicts his or her tenant is guilty of a criminal offence unless he or she proves that he or she had reasonable cause to believe that the tenant had ceased to occupy the premises. This offence is punishable by a sentence of up to 2 years in prison.

A landlord who unlawfully evicts could also face proceedings in the civil court. The first and most immediate remedy that will be sought by the tenant is an urgent injunction to reinstate the tenant and notwithstanding the Coronavirus crisis the courts are likely to deal with such injunction applications urgently. In addition, a tenant can make a claim for damages (compensation). A recent Court of Appeal decision acknowledged that awards for damages for unlawful eviction are generally between £100 and £300 per day. This author suggests that in the current climate awards are likely to be towards the upper end of that range. In addition, an unlawfully evicted tenant can seek exemplary and aggravated damages, which altogether can be in the thousands of pounds.

What can a landlord do about a tenant who is acting in an anti-social manner or committing a nuisance in these unprecedented times?

Injunctions remain available and are not subject to the stay that has been imposed on possession proceedings. Social Landlords and Local Authorities can seek an injunction under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. A private landlord can seek an injunction to enforce the terms of the tenancy agreement so, as long as the landlord has a good and comprehensive tenancy agreement, he or she can take action in the event of a breach to enforce the terms.

Does Coronavirus affect the tenant’s obligation to pay rent?

Coronavirus is likely to have a significant impact on the incomes of both landlords and tenants, but the contractual obligation on the tenant to pay the rent remains the same. Those landlords and tenants that are struggling financially should communicate with one another (by phone, email or letter in the current climate of restrictions) as this is far more likely to promote understanding and a good landlord and tenant relationship.

For landlords, during this uncertain period the government has stated that it “will ensure that support is available where it is needed for landlords” and there is a 3 month mortgage payment holiday available where landlords have a buy to let mortgage.

For tenants, the government has introduced various support measures depending on whether you are employed or self-employed and more information on these can be found on the government website or through citizens advice.

Magdalen Chambers has specialist Housing and Property Litigation Teams that remain fully functional during these difficult times and are able to advise tenants and landlords alike on any issues they are facing. In the event that you need assistance in any such matters we can be contacted on our usual telephone number 01392 285200

Parental consent and the deprivation of liberty of 16 and 17 year old children

On 26 September the Supreme Court gave judgement In the matter of D (A Child) [2019] UKSC 42. The case considers the scope of parental responsibility to consent to the living arrangements for children which would otherwise amount to a deprivation of liberty.

By way of background, D was born in 1999. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and Tourette’s syndrome, and has a mild learning disability. When he was 14 he was admitted to a hospital providing mental health services, for assessment and treatment. He lived in the hospital grounds and attended a school which was integral to the unit. The external door was locked and D was accompanied whenever he left the site. The hospital trust applied to the High Court for a declaration that it was lawful for the trust to deprive D of his liberty in this way. The judge, Mr Justice Keehan, held that D was so deprived but that it was a proper exercise of parental responsibility to consent to his constant supervision and control while he was under 16.

By then, with his parents’ agreement, and with Birmingham City Council (‘the Council’) accommodating him under s 20 Children Act 1989, D had been discharged from hospital to a residential placement, where he was similarly under constant supervision and not allowed to leave the premises except for a planned activity. On his 16th birthday proceedings were issued in the Court of Protection for a declaration that the consent of D’s parents meant that he was not deprived of his liberty at the placement. Keehan J held that his parents could no longer consent to what would otherwise be a deprivation of liberty once D had reached 16, and that the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘MCA’) now applied. He authorised the placement, and a subsequent transfer to another similar placement, as being in D’s best interests. When D reached the age of 18 his deprivation of liberty could be authorised under the deprivation of liberty safeguards in the MCA.

The Council appeal to the Court of Appeal on the ground that parents could consent to what would otherwise be a deprivation of liberty of a 16 or 17-year-old child who lacked the capacity to decide for himself, and the MCA had no bearing on this. The Official Solicitor on behalf of D then appealed that decision. The Supreme Court by a majority of 3 to 2 allowed the appeal.

Lady Hale who gave the lead judgement set out that the issue turns on the inter-relationship between the concept of parental responsibility and the obligation of the State to protect the human rights of children under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Parental responsibility being defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property” (section 3(1)). “By law” obviously refers to the common law, but also includes those statutory provisions which give rights etc to parents, such as the Marriage Act 1949, which gives them the right to withhold consent to the marriage of a 16 or 17-year-old child (section 3).

She sets out that historically, parental rights under domestic common law were never absolute and became increasingly subject to the overriding consideration of the child’s own welfare. Quoting Lord Denning MR, In re Agar-Ellis (No 2) (1883) 24 Ch D 317, at 326:

“… the legal right of a parent to the custody of a child … is a dwindling right which the courts will hesitate to enforce against the wishes of the child, and the more so the older he is. It starts with a right of control and ends with little more than advice.”

She then considered the issue of ‘Gillick competence’ (Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986] 1 AC 112).  A case about whether it was lawful to give contraceptive advice and treatment to a child under 16 without her parent’s consent if she herself was capable of giving that consent. In that case the House of Lords concluded the earlier “age of discretion” cases had established the principle that children could achieve the capacity to make their own decisions before the age of majority. It was no longer, if it ever had been, correct to fix that at any particular age, rather than by reference to the capacity of the child in question.

Lady Hale commented that the MCA does not override other common law and statutory provisions relating to 16 and 17-year-old children, but it does indicate an appreciation of the different needs of this age group. She preferred to express her view on this issue by reference to the ECHR commenting; Article 5 ECHR protects children who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves from being arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. Clearly the degree of supervision to which D was subject at the placements was not normal for a child of 16 or 17. D’s living arrangements had to be compared with those of children of the same age without disabilities, and the fact that they were made in his best interests did not mean he was not deprived of his liberty. Parental consent could not substitute for the subjective requirement under article 5 for valid consent to the deprivation.

She considered that the crux of the matter was whether the restrictions fall within normal parental control for a child of this age or do they not? If they do, they will not fall within the scope of article 5; but if they go beyond the normal parental control, article 5 will apply.

She concluded that Human rights are about the relationship between private persons and the state, and D’s deprivation of liberty in the placements was attributable to the state. There is no scope for the operation of parental responsibility to authorise what would otherwise be a violation of a fundamental human right of a child.

In her judgement, Lady Black considered that the Gillick case is not directly relevant to the issue before the court. It had to do with medical treatment and not with deprivation of liberty. It was concerned with whether a child might acquire the capacity, and the right, to make such decisions for herself before she reached the common law age of discretion, not with whether parental authority endured beyond that age if the child lacked the capacity to decide for herself. She was however careful to add “I do not intend in any way to water down the important changes brought about by Gillick or to alter the way in which it has been applied in many spheres of family law.”

Lady Black held however that as a matter of common law, parental responsibility for a child of 16 or 17 does not extend to authorising a confinement of the child in circumstances amounting to a deprivation of liberty.


William Hillier

Magdalen Chambers

October 2019

Recent Amendments to Practice Direction 28A and the Costs Consequences of Open Offers to Settle in Financial Remedy Proceedings.

Recent amendments to Family Procedure Rules 2010 Practice Direction 28A (PD28A) have helped clarify the Court’s approach to costs in financial remedy proceedings where one party has failed to engage reasonably in negotiations.

The relevant parts of Rule 28.3 have not changed, it is still the case that:
• The general rule in financial remedy proceedings is that the Court will not make an order for one party to pay the costs of another party (r28.3(5))
• The Court may make a costs order where it considers it appropriate to do so because of the conduct of a party in relation to the proceedings (r28.3(6))
• In deciding what order (if any) to make in respect of costs the court must have regard to the list of criteria in r28.3(7) including any open offers to settle.

Previously PD28A did not offer any further assistance to the Judge to decide what weight to give to the fact that open offers had or had not been made when assessing the ‘conduct’ of a party for the purposes of r28.3(6).

The Practice Direction has been amended as of 27th May 2019 to give greater guidance. It now states at para 4.4 that when considering a party’s litigation conduct:
“The Court will take a broad view of conduct for the purposes of this rule and will generally conclude that to refuse openly to negotiate reasonably and responsibly will amount to conduct in respect of which the Court will consider making an order for costs. This includes in a ‘needs’ case where the applicant litigates unreasonably resulting in the costs incurred by each party becoming disproportionate to the award made by the Court. Where an order for costs is made at an interim stage the Court will not usually allow any resulting liability to be reckoned as a debt in the computation of the assets.”

This amendment stops a long way short of the civil procedure style costs consequences where a failure to ‘beat’ an offer made by the other party will frequently mean paying a proportion of the other party’s costs. However it does emphasise that where a party fails to make reasonable open offers to settle they will be at risk of a costs order against them. There is specific encouragement to ensure that ‘needs’ cases are conducted reasonably and proportionately. The steer from the Practice Direction is clear, where limited resources are available to house the parties etc these resources should not be eaten up in legal costs caused by the unreasonable litigation stance of one party and unreasonable litigants even in ‘needs’ cases are at risk of costs orders.

It remains to be seen how the Court will approach such matters but this amendment makes it much clearer to parties that a failure to negotiate reasonably opens them up to adverse costs consequences.

The Family Procedure Rule Committee has also opened up consultation on the question of the treatment of Calderbank (without prejudice save as to costs) offers when determining issues relating to costs. The consultation ends on 31st October 2019 and can be found at:

Lord Chancellor Announces New Discount Rate for Personal Injury Claims

On 15 July 2019 the Lord Chancellor announced a new discount rate of -0.25 for personal injury claims.

After many years of the discount rate remaining at 2.5, in 2017 the rate was changed to -0.75. This resulted in some considerable debate followed by a call for evidence from the public as to what the new rate should be.

The new rate of -0.25 will apply from 5 August 2019 and will be of essential importance to anyone preparing a schedule of loss in a personal injury claim.

Lord Chancellor announces new discount rate for personal injury claims

Consent Orders: Triumph or Disaster? Working towards best practice in reaching consent orders

Carol Mashembo has written an article for the Family Law week website in conjunction with Dr David Pitcher, CAFCASS titled ‘Consent Orders: Triumph or Disaster? The article follows a hugely successful multi-disciplinary seminar which gathered professionals involved in all aspects of family proceedings to share ideas and experiences of the issue of consent in private law proceedings and to inform future best practice.

The article can be downloaded from

The Rise of Private Financial Dispute Resolution Hearings

Paul Waterworth

Retired District Judge, Associate at Magdalen Chambers, Exeter and Member of their Financial Resolution Consultancy

In his final announcement, the recently retired President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, referred to a development which is playing an increasingly significant role in financial disputes in family cases. This is the increase in the use and effectiveness of the process known either as early neutral evaluation or private financial dispute resolution hearings (private FDR’s). For the purposes of this piece, the latter description is used.

What is a private FDR?

Sir James said:

‘A private FDR is a simple concept. The parties pay for a financial remedy specialist to act as a private FDR judge. That person may be a solicitor, barrister or retired judge. The private FDR takes place at a time convenient to the parties, usually in solicitors’ offices or barristers’ chambers, and a full day is normally set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement. It usually replaces the in-court FDR.’

The timing of a private FDR

The President continued his remarks by mentioning the inter-relationship between the formal court process and a private FDR:

‘Usually, where the parties have agreed to a private FDR, the order made at the first appointment will record such an agreement in the recital, and will provide for a short directions hearing shortly after the date of the private FDR. The directions hearing can be vacated if agreed minutes are submitted following a successful FDR. If it has been unsuccessful then directions for the final hearing can be given. An alternative is for the case to be adjourned generally while the private FDR takes place.’

As a rider to the comments by Sir James, it should be noted that a private FDR can take place at any time during the court process or even, if the parties agree, before an application is issued. There will usually be little difficulty obtaining from the court, an (often temporary) adjournment of the court process to enable the private FDR to be held.

It is, however, important that the parties have made full, or at least adequate, disclosure of their respective financial positions before the private FDR is held, to avoid any later arguments about the financial information upon which a settlement was achieved.

Who will conduct a private FDR and where?

Private FDR’s are invariably conducted by practising or retired legal practitioners or retired judges, using the knowledge and expertise gained in this discrete area of family law.

There are groups of retired judges and practising and retired legal professionals (both barristers and solicitors) who have established polished systems and facilities for dealing with private FDR’s.

The advantages of a private FDR

The advantages of the private FDR system, now formally endorsed by the President of the Family Division, as indicated above, as an alternative to at least part of the exclusively court based process, are seen to be many.

Busy family practitioners are more aware than most of the problems associated with the court FDR lists which include:

. Delays in cases reaching court are inimical to the maintenance of the momentum of

  negotiations between the parties.

. Even when a date has been obtained, cases are regularly over listed so that is

  frequently the case that there is insufficient time for the judge both to prepare

  adequately for all the FDR’s in the list or to give each case the time that is needed to

  explore in depth the possibilities of a settlement.

. Cases often overrun and parties cannot guarantee that their case will start on time

  with the result that there are unacceptable waiting times

. Facilities in courts are far too often found to be unsatisfactory, insufficient and not

  conducive to calm and effective negotiations.

. Cases are sometimes listed before judges with insufficient experience or the

  expertise required for a particular case.

In contrast, if parties elect to hold a private FDR:

. Whilst the structure of the private FDR bears a resemblance to a hearing in court,

   the atmosphere is less formal and intimidating for the parties.

.  There are no other cases or parties and the surroundings are quiet and conducive to

   calm discussion and negotiation.

.  With the help of their lawyers, the parties can select the identity of the private FDR

   judge thought to be suitable for the case from amongst those professionals offering

   this service.

.  There is less, often much less, delay in fixing an appointment for a private FDR than

   waiting for a court date so that continued uncertainty for parties is reduced.

.  The judge conducting the private FDR will have time to read the papers and prepare

   for the hearing.

.  The judge will have no other cases to hear on the day fixed for the private FDR and

   can give sole attention to the private FDR.

.  There will be adequate time for privater discussion by the parties with their lawyers

    and negotiations with the other party

.  The parties can continue to have the support of their legal advisors who can

   accompany them to the private FDR.

.  Whilst the judge at the private FDR cannot make a formal court order, the parties

   can sign an agreement setting out the terms of any agreement reached which can

   later be converted into a court order approved by the court usually without the need

   for the parties to attend court.

. The parties have the advantage of hearing the views of an independent professional

   experienced in cases of this sort and will be given reasonable time to consider

   whether or not an agreement can be achieved.

.  The private FDR will be conducted on the basis that what is said is confidential to

   that meeting, so that if agreement is not achieved, neither party can take advantage

   of anything said at the private FDR. This means that the parties can speak freely

   and openly without fear of prejudicing their legal position.

.  Research has shown that cases which are resolved by agreement between parties

   rather than being imposed upon them by the court, have a far higher prospect of

   being observed.

.  If the private FDR does not result in an agreement to settle the case, the parties are

   still able to continue the proceedings in court.  


There are some who say that the system of private FDR’s is a “privatisation” of the justice system, akin, for example, to private medicine or education. The reality is that the engagement of an independent expert to express a view on a case is no more than many parties seek already, for example, in attending mediation or taking a (sometimes second) professional opinion on the whole or part of their case.

Others refer to the cost as being a disincentive to attempts to settle in this way. Again, in cases which are conducted before the courts, more often than not, when parties are legally represented, there will be regularly be discussions and negotiations between the lawyers who seek to achieve a fair settlement. Such actions by the lawyers will not take place without cost  to the clients. If a case is referred to a private FDR and a settlement is achieved, then the continuing costs of the court case is avoided.

The Financial Resolution Consultancy, which is part of Magdalen Chambers, offers a full and confidential private FDR service by retired judges and practitioners who have judicial experience.

For further information and a confidential preliminary discussion please contact chambers.

01392 208484