Are you currently going through the compulsory or voluntary redundancy process? If so, you are likely to require legal advice.

Stuart McNeil, Partner and Head of Family and Employment

A settlement agreement is a voluntary, legally binding, way to bring employment to an end on agreed terms. It’s a way of achieving a clean break and for you to receive compensation for any potential claims you may have, in exchange for agreeing to drop the right to bring any future claims against your employer.

We can offer you, specialist, legal advice and guide you through the negotiations with your employer  to reach an outcome that will safeguard your interests.

The costs involved are usually payable by your employer, at least in part, but most often in full.

If you require any advice on a settlement agreement then please contact Stuart McNeil on 01793 532363.

Are you buying a house with a Septic Tank?

Kim Thurston, Conveyancing Executive in our Residential Conveyancing team

So, you have found your “dream” home, set deep in rural countryside.  However, is it a dream or a (potential) nightmare?

As you may, or may not, be aware, the rules governing Septic Tanks and Sewage Packet Treatment Plants change on 1 January 2020.

From 1 January, 2020, all Septic Tanks and Sewage Packet Treatment Plants must be made to comply with the Environment Agency’s General Binding Rules within a reasonable time.  It is suggested that 12 months may be reasonable.  However, if a system is already causing pollution a much shorter time would be appropriate.

Sellers and Buyers need to deal with this issue early to avoid delays in transactions.

Septic tanks are designed to settle the waste matter and to subsequently discharge this into a correctly designed drainage field.  Discharge must not flow to a tunnel or soakaway or in the case of a septic tank directly to surface water.

A drainage field can best be described as an infiltration system made up of a series of rigid pipes with holes or slots, placed in trenches, over drainage stone and arranged in a closed loop design so that the effluent can trickle through the ground to be treated by bacteria in the underlying soil.

The septic tank itself is an underground settlement tank which allows the solids to sink to the bottom, forming a sludge and the floating solids and dead bacteria float to the top thereby forming a crust leaving the resulting septic liquid to flow out to a drainage field.

The new or  upgraded septic tank or sewage packet treatment plant must be of the correct size and installed by a professional. The system must, of course, be of a size suitable to the number of persons residing in the subject property and is not a hit and miss affair.

Of course, it is a sensible idea to regularly  have the tank emptied – usually annually dependent upon its size and the amount of people using it.  There are various “warning signs” that a septic tank is failing and these can include:-

  • Foul smells around the area where the tank is sited.,
  • “Greener” grass growing in the vicinity of the tank.,
  • “Gurgling” noises emanating from the plumbing, to name but a few

Possible causes are the tank “backing up” which will require it to be emptied more frequently, tree/shrub roots growing through the walls of the tank or a “collapsed baffle,” which is, in essence, a very serious issue where could allow solids to flow into the soakaway system which is only designed to deal with liquid waste.  Ultimately, if this happens, then waste and waste water may well back up into the property itself!

A lot of the smaller tanks, i.e. serving just one family home, are granted an Exemption Certificate by the Environment Agency, and you would be wise to enquire as to one does already exist.

If you are considering selling or purchasing a property with such apparatus, then you are strongly advised to obtain specialist advice as to whether the system is working properly and as to suitability of the system to ensure no action be rendered against you by the Environment Agency and to avoid any delays in the transaction.

If you require any advice on the above topic please don’t hesitate to contact Kim Thurston or any member of the team on 01793 848900.

November 2019

How gifts will help Cancer Research

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor – Wills and Probate Team

Bevirs Law is proud to partner with Cancer Research UK in our will writing partnership, enabling supporters of the charity to have a simple will written or updated for free using the Free Will Service. People who use the service often choose to leave a gift in their will to the charity. Cancer Research have shared with us some examples of the impact these gifts make to local cancer research.

It’s sometimes difficult for surgeons to see and remove all cancer cells during surgery. So, some can get left behind. This can lead to the cancer coming back.  In Oxford, Professor Freddie Hamdy is tagging prostate cancer cells with fluorescent dye. Testing whether this will make them easier to see, remove and examine during surgery.  This approach could help surgeons remove all cancer cells to stop the cancer returning. 

This is only one of the projects you could contribute to by leaving a gift in your Will to Cancer Research UK.

Gifts in Wills breathe life into researchers’ work by funding over a third of their life-saving research. Legacies enable long-term research projects that allow scientists to achieve breakthroughs every day. Each breakthrough inspires the next until the day comes when everyone survives cancer.

Cancer Research UK has made a pledge to their supporters. 82p in every £1 they receive goes towards funding vital research like Professor Hamdy, while the other 18p helps raise more funds to support research.

In the past 40 years, survival has doubled in part thanks to Cancer Research UK’s pioneering research, funded by the generosity of their supporters. Cancer Research UK is committed to ensuring 3 in 4 people in the UK who are diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more by 2034. None of this will be possible without the help of their supporters.

You can find out more about leaving a gift in your Will to Cancer Research UK today by visiting

We have specialists in all three offices who deal with this type of work:

Please contact us if you would like to book an appointment.


Why feedback matters..

We want every client to have a great customer service experience. The only way we can find out if this happens, is by asking you.

This is very important to us – so we hope you feel able to share your experience with us.

Hundreds of clients share their feedback with us every year, and it helps shape our staff training, how we answer the telephone, what changes we make, and so on. We really do read each and every single feedback form.

So, as you can see, your experience matters to us.

Today we thought we’d share some positive feedback received from a client about their experience with our Property Team. This transaction was particularly  difficult and, with the clients permission, we would like to thank Kim Thurston, a Residential Conveyancer in our Property Team.

“Thanks for all your hard work with the sale and purchase process over the last few months, your assistance was invaluable. I will be recommending you to friends and family when dealing with any other conveyancing work in the future based on your efficient service and excellent professionalism in some difficult circumstances”. Andrew


Kim Thurston, Residential Conceyancer

Heather Reilly talks about the current piece of legislation known as the Domestic Abuse Bill currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament.

Heather Reilly, Solicitor in our Family Team.

A “landmark” piece of legislation known as the Domestic Abuse Bill is currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament. The Bill is currently on its second reading and has received cross party support.

If passed, the new legislation will introduce the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse, which will not be limited to physical abuse and will include emotional, manipulative, controlling and financial abuse. The importance of a statutory definition cannot be underestimated, it will help everyone, including professionals such as GP’s, solicitors and judges (as well as the victims themselves) understand what constitutes ‘abuse’.  Whilst it is easy to identify physical violence as domestic abuse, emotional abuse and coercive control is often considered a “grey area”. Without the relevant guidelines, professionals can struggle to identify whether a victim has experienced domestic abuse.  

Psychological abuse can be just as damaging and upsetting for victims as physical violence. Examples include intimidating and threatening behaviour, aggressive shouting or constant criticism or undermining, withholding finances or food, controlling all aspects of their partner’s life such as when they go out, what they wear and who they talk to. If your partner’s behaviour has left you feeling frightened, isolated and unable to make your own choices, this Bill has been drafted to protect you.

Although this Bill has not yet been passed, the Courts are increasingly aware of the seriousness of psychological abuse. This is, in part, due to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship being made a criminal offence in 2015.

If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, whether physical or emotional, there are legal remedies available to protect you. We can help you obtain an injunction, known as a Non-Molestation Order, to protect you (and any children) from further harm. Such orders can prohibit an abuser from using physical violence, intimidating or harassing you and can even forbid a perpetrator from contacting you directly or indirectly. Breach of a Non-Molestation Order can result in a fine or custodial sentence.

If you are still living with your abuser or have been forced to flee the family home, we can help you obtain an Occupation Order, which requires the abuser to leave the family home and allow you peaceful and exclusive occupation of the property.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please contact Heather Reilly on 01793 532363, to discuss how we can help protect you from harm. Where appropriate, we are able to offer legal aid to fund your application.

Social Media and Family Law;

Michelle Bowyer, Associate – Family Team

I have lost count of the number of times Facebook is referred to in divorce petitions or social media posts are stored and relied upon during Children Act and financial remedy proceedings.  Over sharing on social media may be your downfall when it comes to family law cases as photographs and posts can be held on to, by your ex, as a permanent reminder of historical misdemeanours.  The courts have previously been presented with copy text messages and emails as evidence of conduct and are now used to seeing a screengrab of an offensive photograph or comment on social media and will accept this as evidence, if pertinent to your case.

Most importantly, it is an offence to identify children who are subject to court proceedings (unless specific authority has been obtained from the court) and therefore, you must not publish details of your case online, no matter how upset or angry you may feel about the process or the outcome.

Consider this:  you emphatically deny to your spouse that you have bought a property or car or been on an expensive holiday, whilst boasting about your spending (plus a photo for good measure with you looking suitably proud) on social media.  Your spouse is bound to rely upon that within negotiations about division of matrimonial assets, at the very least to show that you have been economic with the truth!

Uploading photographs and sharing details of frivolous expenditure will not help you when you pursue an argument concerning lack of resources and will instead assist your aggrieved spouse.

Criticising your ex-partner online creates a permanent record which could later be referred to as evidence of poor parenting, as could photographs or updates about drinking to excess/drunken exploits or recreational drug use. 

Family breakdown is an extremely upsetting and stressful time and an outlet will be needed but be warned that such outlet should be in private.  Consider not only the legal consequences which could be far ranging but also the impact upon your children who may one day see the record of the public fall-out between their parents.

Michelle Bowyer,

Associate Solicitor, Family team.

Grants of Probate: fees and delays

Janet Strong, Associate Solicitor in our Wills and Estate team

When someone dies, it is sometimes necessary to apply for a Grant of Representation to deal with their estate. There are different types of Grant: executors named in a Will can apply for a “Grant of Probate”; if there is a Will but none of the executors can apply, others (usually the main beneficiaries) can apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration With Will Annexed”; and if there is no Will, an application can be made for a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

There have been two significant practical concerns this year relating to these applications. Firstly, a substantial increase in most fees was due to come into force in Spring 2019; and secondly, since Spring, there have been substantial delays in the processing of applications. The two problems are not entirely unrelated: there was a substantial increase in the volume of applications just before the original deadline for the fee change. Other contributing factors to the delay appear to have been a change in the format of the Grants coupled with a new computer system.

Under the government’s proposals, probate fees would have risen from the current fixed fee of £215 – or £155 with a solicitor – to a sliding scale of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate. However, it has been confirmed that the Government Minister has decided allow the probate fees increase to lapse.

As to the delays, it has recently been taking months rather than weeks to receive a Grant. The Law Society recently met with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and were told that a 20% increase in resources has been brought in to deal with the increase of applications and putting paper applications onto the new system, which they were told HMCTS is now up to date with. The challenge now sits at the quality assurance and final issue of grant stage.

HMCTS say they have processed 98,000 grants since April this year and have a backlog of applications from March. These need to be dealt with by people who have the appropriate skill/experience. They say they have brought in an additional legal advisers and believe this should help with getting through the backlogs.

It is therefore to be hoped that an end may at last be in sight to the present delays.

If you would like any help or advice regarding Grants of Representation, our Wills and Estates team would be happy to help.

Michelle Bowyer Promoted to Associate Solicitor

Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor in the family team

Bevirs Law would like to congratulate Michelle Bowyer on her promotion to Associate Solicitor, following her successful track record in advising clients with family law issues including divorce, financial arrangements arising from divorce, and child arrangements for both parents and extended family members.  She also deals with preparation of cohabitation and separation agreements as well as pre-nuptial agreements.

Michelle is an experienced family lawyer, practising since 1996 and has been based in our Swindon office since February 2014.

Michelle said: “I was thrilled to be offered an Associate position this year.   I will continue to support Stuart McNeil and the rest of the fantastic family team I work with.  I practice with a passion for the law and with a drive to help my clients work through some of the most challenging times they face.  To be made an Associate of such a lovely firm is validation of my efforts in both practicing law and in my care of clients and I am grateful to the Partnership for this opportunity”.

Stuart McNeil, Partner and Head of the Family Team, said: “Huge congratulations to Michelle on her well deserved promotion. Michelle is a key member of the family team who has proved time and again to be an extremely valuable asset to the firm as well as being well thought of by her clients”.

The Final Blog – Hugh Ellins

The NSPCC Thames Row – Cotswold to Capital

24th  – 26th  August 2019

The only bad thing about the row is that I did not see England put 8 tries on Ireland nor see the Ben  Stokes innings.

There were three themes that added to the already challenging task of rowing roughly 40 miles a day, almost caused us to fail.  The first is that, for once, the August Bank Holiday was a glorious weekend of blue skies and unremitting sun.  Temperatures rose into the 30s which itself made the effort of rowing difficult.  Added to that, the sun brought out a variety of other users to the Thames:  there were the swimmers, some serious and some just swimming from the riverbank; there were the canoeists and paddlers and, of course, river cruisers of all shapes and sizes and a couple  drifting in the middle of the Thames on a unicorn more interested  in  their bodies than  where  they were on the Thames.  That activity would have slowed us but the volume of cruisers wishing, like us, to go through the locks meant that there was continuing and growing delay.  Finally, the river Thames is not designed for crew changes of row boats and that coupled to the instability of the boat as we clambered in and out of it or entered or left locks meant that such times were fraught and slow .  Despite that the boat was frequently tipping dangerously towards capsizing.  All in all, the estimated time of arrival at the end of each day just kept on being pushed further and further back.

Because of the delays we all spent longer in the boat than was planned.  The killer stints were where  one rowed then coxed and then rowed again.  This meant that one was in the boat continuously for five to six hours.  Not only was that tiring but also painful on the backside.  This lead one member of the team, Sowande, to exclaim as he got into Lyn’s car “ah, just let me sit in your car – the seats are so soft”.

Bear all that in mind as I recount the highlights or  lowlights of  the row.

On Saturday the 24th August the two rowing crews assembled at Lechlade Marina at about 7.00am.  The two teams were the younger members ‘The Young Blades’ and the more, shall we say, mature members ‘The Gentlemen’. First there were the photos, the crew, the crew and Stuart McNeil from Bevirs Law, our sponsors, representatives from The Lions, who made a very generous donation, and the Mayor.  Once that was done, the boat was launched and The Young Blades plus the Cox, me embarked. Cheers of encouragement from the supporters and we were off – straight into the side of the narrow outlet to the Thames. 

The Thames at Lechlade is, for several miles, very pretty but is also narrow and very windy.  Not ideal for a boat which is designed to go in a straight line.  That, coupled with the ineptitude of the Cox, me, and the fact that we occasionally forgot the difference between stroke side and bow side, meant that we formed a close relationship with the overhanging trees and growing reeds.  Progress was slow but we comforted ourselves with the thought that when the Thames widened we would make up time.  Good theory but bad practice because the weather got hotter and filled with other users.

We arrived at our first night stop at Abingdon about an hour and a half late.  We supped at the local Beefeater, where the service was friendly but the food – ‘ho-hum’.  The Young Blades were to take the first stint and, taking into account, the previous day’s experience, intended on an early start.

Most of The Gentlemen were not needed and were given dispensation from leaving home between 4:30am and 5:00am.  We needed as long as possible to recover because the second day was the longest to row.  The Gentlemen gathered at Clifton Lock at about 8 a.m. having walked past moored boats from which the smell of frying bacon gently wafted making the taste buds tingle.  The early start had not quite happened.  The changeover was effected, but as the day got hotter, the locks fuller and the changeovers undertaken with increasing care, we slipped further and further behind the schedule.  The planned mooring was at the Marlow Rowing Club.  As the evening sun began to set, and darkness grew, we were still optimistic that we would reach our destination.  Unfortunately, we had not taken into account the penultimate lock of the day.  Lock keepers work 9 to 6.  By the time we got to the penultimate lock 6 o’clock was well past.  The problem was that no one – not the crew, the Back Up Team or those standing by the lock knew the mysteries of its operation.  We ineffectively pushed buttons and pulled levers but still the lock did not change.   Eventually, a man appeared who took control, pushed the buttons and pulled the levers in the right sequence and in and out we went.  Not only that, the man donated £50 to our cause.  This was one of several donations we collected on the journey.

By now darkness had descended and the Cox, me, could not easily distinguish the water from the bank, nor was I able to see that the boat that I thought we were trying to overtake was actually coming straight towards us.  The decision to abandon our efforts to reach Marlow, was made as we approached Hurley Lock.  I suddenly realised that our approach was not the lock but the adjoining weir.   The cry of ‘Back row! Back row!’ stopped the impending disaster and to Hurley Lock we went. 

On the lock side, and high above us, there were shadowy figures making helpful suggestions as to what we should do.  None of those suggestions gained consensus.  Suddenly, there was a man saying ‘It’s OK, you can use my boathouse’.  Some of the Back Up Team and non-rowers, whilst searching for access to Hurley Lock, stumbled into this man’s garden.  He was having an al fresco dinner with friends.  Without hesitation, he left his meal, came to the lock, made his suggestion, returned to his house to find a torch and then, like a Cornish Wrecker, waved his light.  We secured the boat in a mood of despondency, occasioned by tiredness, if not exhaustion, and the failure to reach our objective.  That was not the end of the man’s generosity as he then offered us sleeping accommodation in his house.  The man was a star and lifted our spirits.  Having had our spirits lifted, they were then sent descending as we discovered that the restaurant at which we were intending to eat was now shut.  Not surprising, as we were some 2.5 hours late.  Did this mean that our only source of food in Marlow was the kebab van?   Among the Gentlemen was Peter Mapson, who is known for enjoying good food and wine.  His gastronomic nose found the Marlow Bar and Grill.  Not only did its kitchen stay open for us, it served some seriously good food.  If in Marlow do visit, I recommend. 

We spent the night in the Travelodge and in the morning returned to Hurley Lock.  The Gentlemen took the first stint to the Marlow Rowing Club.  We rowed as quickly as we could to make up the time.  Despite that, and because the boat needed attention, the day proper again started late. 

If we thought the river had been busy and hot on the previous two days, it became busier and hotter on day three.  We were now slipping seriously further and further against the schedule.  An hour, an hour and a half, two hours.  This led to discussions as to whether we could achieve our goal, or only achieve it if we could return and row on Tuesday, or whether we had to admit defeat and accept that the heat and the activity on the river would beat us.  Whilst no one wanted that, the prospect was looming large. 

Then a piece of luck.  One lock keeper pointed out that at the next lock there was a portage point.   We rowed towards it among shouts from various boats who had been queuing for a considerable time of “there’s a queue you know!”  and manhandled the boat to the other side.  That gained us half an hour.  We now believed we could, not would, achieve our objective. 

The decision was then made that the greatest chance of success lay with The Young Blades doing most of the remaining rowing, and with The Gentlemen joining in when a Young Blade admitted he needed a break.  That was usually confessed through gritted teeth.  Whilst I, and I think, the other Gentlemen felt that this meant we were not pulling our full weight, it was the right call. 

With the number of miles remaining reducing steadily, we found another portage point and again hauled the boat out and into the water.  That, again, made up some lost time.   From the final changeover point, The Young Blades were rowing together with Alan as Cox.  They rowed the last five miles at a cracking pace, at some point reaching 12 miles per hour, and, eventually, finished at the Lensbury Hotel at about 8:30pm.  Without The Young Blades we would have failed, so well done guys and thanks.

On the question of thanks, there are three people who have only been obliquely mentioned as ‘the Back-up Team’.  That consisted of Lin, Pauline and Lyn.  I know that they had assistance from others but they bore the brunt:  getting up early, making sure that we rowers had water, food, transport, tender loving care, and hauling increasingly tired bodies in and out of the boat.   One measure of their efforts is that, between them, they walked some180,000 steps during the three days.  Remember, that was done in the intense heat and whilst carrying heavy loads of water and food.  Without those three we would have undoubtedly failed – so a big THANK YOU.

Thanks also to the Reading Rowing Club who lent us the boat and, particularly, to Des who taught us the rudiments of rowing and repaired the boat when we had a collision.

Thanks to all those who have made donations.  I am uncertain as to the final amount, but it is heading to  £12,000.00.  Thank you.

Finally, would I do the same again with The Young Blades and the other Gentlemen?  Despite tiredness, heat and a sore backside “bet your sweet bippy I would”.

Hugh Ellins

The Final Practice Row

Last Sunday was the final practice. Reading Rowing Club is closed on Thursday because of the Reading Festival. Sad that some people attending a music festival thing it is an occasion to practice  their vandalism skills. Where are the days of the hippies?

Hugh Ellins

The last row passed without collision but not without incident.  Regretfully one of the seats broke so that instead of sliding back and forth in conjunction with the rower’s stroke poor Warren was left with his knees in close proximity to his ears. That necessitated the bow pair to gently row us back to base.  After much head scratching and with the assistance of a knowledgeable member of the rowing club we got a replacement seat and away we merrily went on our way.

Our way consisted of several trips over the same couple of miles of the Thames. A stretch, by now well known to us. Whether loved I leave open.  Our efforts over the last few weeks have resulted in us now resembling a crew of rowers. The blades going into the water and coming out at the same time.  In Out In Out. The sound of John Snagg resonates in my ears. That was true until the young Turks decided that they wanted to see  if they could row the boat  at  10 miles an hour.  On that  occasion I was the cox. “On the Stroke” I call.  “3,2,1 Row “ I shout in a fair imitation of the Great  British Bake Off.  Away we went the boat almost shuddering with the strain. Looked impressive for about five strokes and then the timing went a little awry. As the timing went awry  so the water  was splashed. The rowers and cox got  wet and the Thames placid surface became distinctly ruffled. The  Old Man of the Thames  was obviously  unhappy so  we  went to our  more accustomed rhythm and peace descended.

After the session we undid all the good done by retiring to the nearby bar to partake of liquid   refreshment and to do some bonding.

Now to the main event next  Saturday. There is still plenty of time to give if you haven’t and would like to. The address is The NSPCC needs the  money which is what this is all about.

Hugh Ellins

20.08 2019