Press Releases Archives - Palmers Solicitors
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Palmers Solicitors promotes litigation specialist to Associate Solicitor

Palmers Solicitors promotes litigation specialist to Associate Solicitor

Colin Adamson, dispute resolution and litigation specialist at Essex-based Palmers Solicitors, has achieved the next stage in his career with a promotion to Associate Solicitor.

Qualifying as a solicitor in 2003, Colin soon specialised in civil and commercial litigation, developing particular expertise in property disputes, contractual matters and consumer disputes.

He has also driven the growth of the firm’s unique education offering, providing legal advice and support to parents, students and education providers on admissions, exclusions and SEND provisions.

A dedicated champion of neurodiversity, Colin works to enhance awareness, development and support for neurodiverse staff at Palmers Solicitors, as well as providing legal services to neurodiverse clients.

Speaking on his promotion, Colin said: “I am delighted to continue my career at Palmers with this new role.

“Since coming to the firm in 2023, I have enjoyed the variety of work that I do and the substantial opportunities for growth the team has provided.

“In particular, I’ve been able to embrace being neurodiverse and supporting others both inside the firm and out. This is the most inclusive and accommodating team I’ve ever worked with, so I’m excited to continue that work in a position with more responsibility.”

As part of his Associate role, Colin will also drive the development of Palmers Solicitors’ residential and commercial property disputes teams within the Litigation Department.

Luke Morgan, Supervising Director of Litigation at Palmers Solicitors, said: “Colin’s focus, enthusiasm and in-depth understanding of litigious matters provides an excellent and important arm to our litigation offering here at Palmers.

“I look forward to seeing him succeed in his new role and continue to develop his specific areas of practice in our department.

“He has also taken major steps towards refining our approach to neurodiversity, which we continue to support and appreciate.

“Congratulations to Colin – we’re all excited to see his progress in this new role.”

The legal case for supporting neurodiverse young people through education

The legal case for supporting neurodiverse young people through education

By Colin Adamson, Solicitor, Palmers Solicitors

Neurodiversity Celebration Week has once again brought support for neurodivergent individuals into the spotlight – both in the workplace and the classroom.

With around 15 per cent of the population in the UK having some form of neurodiversity, which might include autism, ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia, it’s important that we shine this light particularly brightly on support in the education system, which goes a long way towards shaping early, formative experiences for young neurodiverse people.

However, this moral and social case has not always been enough to drive meaningful change in schools and colleges, so I’m here to cover the legal case.

It’s important for both education providers and parents or students to understand the rights of neurodivergent young people when it comes to school.

Getting started

In the first instance, under the Children and Families Act 2014, your local authority will be responsible for providing relevant special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support in your area.

When the child moves on to school, the local authority then must make the headteacher at their intended school aware of relevant support services.

Once in a place at a school, a neurodiverse child may require accommodations or support from their school, which is provided directly by school staff, and maybe or may not be agreed with external bodies.

To avoid discrimination, schools must provide “reasonable” adjustments for pupils with SEND requirements, including certain types of neurodiversity.

Understanding reasonable adjustments

This means that schools can provide these adjustments without, for example, disrupting the learning of other pupils or breaking any regulations.

Examples of reasonable adjustments may include:

  • Extra time or breaks during examinations
  • An adjustable desk
  • Lessons scheduled in accessible classrooms
  • Adapted physical education lessons
  • Allowing speech-to-text equipment in the classroom

However, schools are not legally required to provide accommodations that may be seen as unreasonable. These may include:

  • A full-time one-on-one teacher for a child
  • Installing a lift in a listed or structurally unsuitable building
  • Anything that is prohibitively expensive

Many disputes arise here because parents and schools may disagree on what constitutes a reasonable adjustment.

It’s important to understand these disputes from all angles and show a degree of sympathy for all parties.

For example, in the case of expense, schools should understand that parents want the best for their child and are more familiar with the child’s needs than anyone else. Conversely, schools likely also want this, but operate with strict budgetary requirements that may be unable to meet the child’s needs.

All parties should remember, however, that schools cannot expel or suspend a pupil because they have additional needs that the school is unable to meet.

In this situation, it may be in the best interest of the pupil to reach an agreement informally, perhaps for the pupil to be transferred to a specialist school or for increased monitoring.

SENCO

All mainstream schools must have a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), who can help to arrange support for children and young people where necessary.

For younger children, schools can arrange adjustments in the form of, for example, learning plans, extra time or support from a teacher or working in a smaller group or quieter environment.

Older children and young people may be more involved in their support, received from their college or university.

Ultimately, what is important is achieving the right level of support for neurodivergent young people individually and as a whole.

Updating the narrative

This Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we look to recognise the law plays in securing support for neurodivergent children and young people in schools.

I also encourage parents and guardians to familiarise themselves with young people’s rights to SEND support and how to access it.

It’s also important to look beyond the law at the social and moral case for neurodivergent inclusion. While much progress has been made in recent years, we still find that parents are having to fight to have their child supported in the right way.

It’s time to put an end to that, and that starts with schools and colleges and their commitment to abiding by the law and listening to pupils’ needs.

To learn more about the legal requirements in this area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Addressing the spread of deepfake technology – An employment perspective

Addressing the spread of deepfake technology – An employment perspective

There has been a significant increase in the use of artificial intelligence in recent years, expected to grow by 47 times in the next 10 years.

Perhaps the most concerning element of artificial intelligence for businesses is the rise in deepfake technology and the sophisticated scams that go with this.

The technology can mimic the appearance, mannerisms and even voices of individuals to make realistic videos or audio content of those individuals saying or doing things they did not say or do. Consider the following example:

In a recent case, a multinational firm was defrauded of $25 million (£19.8 million) after a finance worker took part in a video call with senior members of his team.

He was instructed to make a number of transfers in the video call totalling $25 million, which he did. However, the police investigation later found, all of those involved in the video call with him were sophisticated deepfakes.

The worker even recognised the voices of those involved, despite it not actually being them. Video conferences have become more and more popular, not just in large multi-national companies but in all companies in light of the rise in home working. This makes all employees more susceptible to this type of scam.

It has been reported that the worker was initially suspicious of the request to join the video call from the Chief Financial Officer, however his concerns were eased when others joined the video call as they looked and sounded like colleagues he recognised.

This is not the first time deepfake scams have been successful, however it appears to be the first widely reported multi- person video call scam.

In a recent press conference, police in Hong Kong (where this worker was based) have found stolen ID cards have been used to make loan applications and open bank accounts with deepfakes used to fool face recognition software.

In fact, deepfakes are all over the news not simply in respect of financial scams. Employers should remember that there is the risk of employees being susceptible to blackmail using deepfake images of them which may be embarrassing or even pornographic (e.g. being forced into revealing confidential information including trade secrets or passwords to computer systems).

Avoiding deepfake-driven activity

It is important to provide thorough training to all employees making them aware of these kinds of scams and the steps that can be taken to avoid falling victim to them.

For example, employers may benefit from requiring a strict process to be followed before transfers can be made and ensuring that any unusual requests are checked separately using the usual means of communication.

Employees should also ask questions to verify the identity of those on a video-call or audio call even if they look and sound like their colleagues.

Any training should reiterate the issues regarding email communication including invites to video conferences.

For example, in the reported case, the employee was suspicious of the initial email. If he had contacted the CFO to ensure the video conference request came from him, he would not have joined the video conference.

In a situation like this, an employee is likely to find themselves in difficulty if they have not followed their training in respect of processes to be followed regarding payments and potential IT risks.

The employer may legitimately argue that they have assisted a financial crime by not following procedure.

However, if staff do not have sufficient training in respect of the processes, it would be far more difficult for a business to suggest the employee has committed any sort of misconduct.

Training will not be the only factor that needs to be considered though. The quality of the deepfake may also be relevant. If the quality was not as good, it would be expected that the employee should suspect a scam.

A dismissible offence?

Applied to employers in the UK, if the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct following the transfers in question, he may seek to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, (providing he had two years’ service).

The employer is likely to argue that in light of the level of loss and the fact that he admitted he was suspicious of the original email (and likely failed to follow his training in respect of that email in light of his suspicions), it was within the range of reasonable responses to dismiss him.

The employee is likely to argue that he was unaware of the use of deepfakes in video conferencing technology (provided he had not received training on this) and therefore he could not have been expected to know that he was a victim of a scam.

Whether the dismissal is ruled unfair or not is likely to fall on the training provided to the employee in respect of potential scams of this kind and the internal policies in place regarding transfers.

If the employee followed his training and all procedures regarding transfers, it is likely that any dismissal may be found unfair – despite the significant loss suffered by the employer.

Lessons to be learned

It is therefore important to regularly review your training to ensure that you provide sufficient training to employees so that they raise any concerns immediately and do not join any calls or video calls where they are suspicious.

If you’re an employer, you should consider putting policies in place to ensure any requests for transfers are checked separately to the initial request.

Not all scams will involve transferring money, some may involve downloading software for example or clicking a link.

Again, it is important that employees know they should not do this without considering the source of the instruction, no matter how realistic the audio or video telling them to do it is.

The Online Safety Act 2023 makes it an offence to share pornographic deepfake images or videos, however it does not provide for other deepfake images, videos or audio. When Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) was the victim of deepfake audio (it was alleged he was recorded making comments in relation to Armistice Day and the Pro-Palestinian March due to take place on the same day), he was told by the Police that no criminal activity had taken place.

These types of attacks, whilst not financial, have the potential to severely damage an individual’s or business’ reputation, particularly due to the speed at which they can be shared on social media.

It is therefore important to consider all the ways deepfake technology can be used to target your business.

If you require assistance in respect of any HR or employment law issue, please contact either Kristie Willis or Lisa Judd from our Employment department.

Palmers Solicitors promotes collaborative working with revamped Basildon Commercial Hub

Palmers Solicitors promotes collaborative working with revamped Basildon Commercial Hub

Clients, business friends and colleagues at Palmers Solicitors are now able to reap the benefits of Palmers’ enhanced Commercial Hub at Phoenix House, Basildon – including the next-level team cohesion it has created.

The initiative comes in an exciting year for Palmers, having celebrated its 40th anniversary. During the last four decades, the firm has grown from a single location to five offices across Essex, with a range of specialisms, including construction law, dispute resolution, employment law and company commercial law.

The award-winning Essex law practice has invested heavily in its team across the region, with a flurry of new hires for growth including into its newest teams – a banking and finance team and a specialist residential property department as well as expanded Litigation, Business and Company Law and Commercial Property teams.

With expanding teams and a widening client base, Palmers relaunched its new Hub in February 2024.  The Hub brings together the firm’s commercial teams at a single location, designed to enhance Palmers’ innovative way of working, promoting collaboration between departments and supporting its cohesive, high-level service to clients with complex requirements. It provides an up-to-the-minute central base for its successful commercial and corporate law practices and is the focal point for team training, gatherings of clients, contacts and colleagues and for ideas generation.

Carey Jacobs, Supervising Director in Palmers Commercial Department and Member of the Executive Board of Basildon Business Leaders, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be working from our new Hub and investing in the quality of our work, in innovation and, of course, in the services we already provide.

“We place a huge amount of value on the comfort and professionalism of our offices, making it integral to our services.

“It’s particularly exciting to have made this investment at the heart of Basildon’s thriving business community, bringing our skills closer to local businesses and clients to whom we can offer tailored support.”

Visit palmerslaw.co.uk to learn more about Palmers Solicitors and its range of personal and commercial legal services.

Shock at Prevalence of Drug Driving

Shock at Prevalence of Drug Driving

By Jeremy Sirrell

In a BBC report, it has been revealed that some police forces actually made more arrests for drug driving than for drink driving during the December 2023 period.

To most people, this will seem quite astonishing. The assumption, of course, is that few people take drugs whereas the majority of the adult population (87.5 per cent) do drink alcohol. Why should there be more people stopped for drug driving than or drink driving?

Let’s explore

The answer is that those who drink alcohol have been made well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving through campaigns that have now run for many decades. Being aware of the issues, the vast majority of us take particular care to halt our alcohol intake if driving.

However, the issue in relation to drug driving has been extremely recent and it might be observed that those who take illicit drugs may be much less likely to take a responsible attitude to this matter – although this is not a universal rule.

There is a third reason as well, and that is, very simply, that alcohol is quickly metabolised out of the system so that after drinking, a driver might be over the limit for a couple of hours, but then dip below the limit as the alcohol metabolised out from the body.

However, the problem with drug driving is twofold. Firstly, that the limits above which one commits a criminal offence are set extremely low so that even very small amounts of drugs can trigger a prosecution.

The second is that the tests conducted by the police detect both the active ingredient of the drug, and also the breakdown product of the drug. Some drugs, especially cannabis, may be detected in the blood, not just for hours after smoking a joint but for days.

Indeed, regular cannabis smokers are almost certainly permanently in excess of the limit for drug driving.

The process

The process for investigating drug driving matters is very similar to that for investigating drink driving matters. Drink driving investigations are somewhat streamlined by the use of a breath testing machine called an intoximeter which enables breath test results to be given there and then.

On the other hand, a prosecution for drug diving requires a blood sample to be taken and for the blood specimen to be sent to a laboratory where it is analysed, thus inducing a delay of some weeks or months. Otherwise, the procedure is the same.

The law in relation to drug driving is exactly the same as the law in relation to drink driving. In fact, it is the same section in the road traffic act which has simply been amended to include drug driving.

There have been calls for harsher penalties for drug driving, but these calls are misconceived. The damage that may be caused by someone drug driving is exactly the same as the damage caused by someone who has been drink driving.

The penalties should surely be exactly the same and in the case of severe consequence, such as a death for example, the penalties themselves are very severe.

What defences might be used?

There are a couple of defences open, specifically for those accused of drug driving, one being that the drugs concerned were legal and were prescribed and taken in accordance with doctors’ advice and the second being the unknown ingestion of drugs, for example, by being in a room where others are smoking cannabis.

This latter is very rare but may be open to someone found in that position.

Ultimately, the law around drink and drug driving is about ensuring all road users are safe and operating a vehicle in a legal way.

For advice on the law around driving under the influence, please contact Jeremy.

Essex family law team boosts leadership team and client service with strategic promotion

Essex family law team boosts leadership team and client service with strategic promotion

Palmers Solicitors, Essex-based specialists providing a full spectrum of legal services, has laid the foundations for future growth with the promotion of Sarah Dowie to Senior Associate Solicitor.

Sarah, who qualified in 2008, has spent over six years with Palmers Solicitors, developing experience in all areas of family law including properties, divorce, pre-nuptial agreements and children’s matters.

She is also adept at working with high net worth clients and understanding their unique needs.

This is her second promotion within her time at the firm.

In Sarah’s words: “I’m excited to take on this new challenge and find new opportunities to support my colleagues.

“We’ve done some incredible work in the Family team – and I can’t wait to extend our specialist services to more clients.

“Internally, I’m looking forward to growing the department and encouraging continued training and development while supporting Karen in supervising the team.”

In her new role, Sarah is responsible for growing the Family Team at the firm’s Rayleigh office – in addition to supporting Head of Family Law, Karen Bishop.

The move comes as part of the firm’s strategy for enhancing growth and creating development opportunities for its dedicated team.

Adam Davis, Supervising Director of the Rayleigh Office at Palmers Solicitors, said: “We’re all incredibly proud of Sarah’s much-deserved promotion.

“I’m delighted to see her career develop and see her take on responsibilities which reflect her diverse skillset. I’m sure she will keep rising to the challenge and take our Family team to new heights.

“Sarah has been instrumental in the growth of this department to date, putting her driven and proactive approach to the test in her practice and in supporting others within the team.

“A huge congratulations to Sarah for her achievement – I’m eager to see where her new role will take her.”

To get in touch with Sarah and the Family Law team, please contact us.