Healthcare lawyer takes part in first trial by Skype

A Birmingham healthcare lawyer has acted in a trial which took place entirely over Skype due to coronavirus, the first-ever Court of Protection case conducted remotely. Katrina McCrory, principal

associate and healthcare specialist at Mills & Reeve, acted on behalf of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in the three-day trial. Five sets of legal representatives

and 11 witnesses all contributed from homes and offices across the UK, using Skype for Business. The case, involving the decision

Unique case: Katrina McCrory (left) and Jill Mason

on whether or not to withdraw medical treatment from a patient in their 70s, was considered too time sensitive to be put on hold.

‘The overall success of the case proved that a more flexible way of working is possible’

To protect the health of participants because of

the coronavirus pandemic, judge Mr Justice Mostyn resolved for the trial to go ahead through online video. This was a first for the court, which makes decisions on financial and welfare matters for people who can’t make them themselves. Originally due to be held at Nottingham Civil

Justice Centre, the trial went ahead successfully, and afterwards the Judge suggested that trials conducted entirely via video could become a norm in courts in the future. The Press Association was also able to attend

remotely, to meet requirements that the case must be heard publically. Ms McCrory said: “In the face of unprecedented

circumstances, it was heartening to see all involved parties work relentlessly to ensure that the trial went

ahead. The decision to conduct proceedings via Skype was made after due consideration of all participants’ personal circumstances and health concerns – with the court ready to be agile. “With the decision to conduct the case over Skype

being just 24 hours before the trial began, the inevitable technical challenges were resolved to meet the tight deadline – meaning that, in the circumstances, the process worked incredibly well and allowed a decision to be made. “Although due procedure would have to be

formalised and witness care accounted for, the overall success of the case proved that a more flexible way of working is possible – with real team spirit involved on all sides.” Jill Mason, head of health and care at Mills &

Reeve, said: “The judge was keen to stress that though one of the first trials conducted entirely remotely, this certainly wouldn’t be the last – with the chance that, as Covid-19 restrictions continue, what’s ahead of the curve now may well become second nature in the coming weeks and months. “With considerations such as the environmental

cost of travel and hotels coming into play, the success of the technology paves the way for more remote hearings in the longer term.”

Sector Focus

Joanna Deffley: New role

Shake-up for law firm’s management

Shakespeare Martineau has announced a major shake-up of its senior leadership team and organisation. It has introduced business unit managing directors and regional heads into its management structure. The firm’s new head for its West Midlands region will be Joanna Deffley, who will be supported by Richard Wrigley, Neil Gosling and Andrew Smith, who will be taking on the roles of office heads in Birmingham, Solihull and Stratford. Ms Deffley said: “Shakespeare Martineau has faced a number of external challenges in 2020, but we are strengthening our business resilience from the inside out and I am confident our new structure will help us to succeed in our strategy for growth. Our aim is to always exceed expectations and uniting our teams under this new structure enables us to do that.” Shakespeare Martineau is the

only UK law firm in the top 55 to have a non-lawyer female CEO in Sarah Walker-Smith and its new organisational structure has resulted in the firm’s board being made up of an even split of both genders and both law and non-law professional backgrounds.

Relaxed immigration rules will ease uncertainty

Immigration rules for employers who sponsor non-EU nationals have been relaxed in response to the coronavirus crisis. As a result of the coronavirus

crisis, sponsored employees or students will not be penalised for not being able to attend their studies or their place of employment. According to an immigration specialist at law firm Clarke Willmott, this means employees and students can follow Government guidelines on self- isolation without the fear of having their visa removed. Mandie Sewa, a specialist

immigration lawyer at the firm, says the decision would take some pressure off both employers and employees.

She said: “The Covid-19 crisis has

brought uncertainty and disruption to businesses across the country. Employers with foreign employees or students are facing unprecedented times, and a rapidly changing situation. “Many employers wish to stand

by their staff and assist them in any way they can. These new rules will help them to do so. “The most important thing at the

moment is to follow Government guidelines on staying home, everyone should be able to do that without the threat of losing their job or removal from the UK, looming over them." In addition, sponsors will not

need to withdraw sponsorship when an employee is absent from work without pay for four weeks or

more or when a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days. Ms Sewa said: “Decisions on

whether to terminate employment or withdraw individuals from their studies are for sponsors themselves to make. “This is good news for sponsors

and their employees or students. The Home Office recognises the current situation is exceptional and won’t take compliance action against students or employees who can’t attend work, college or university due to the coronavirus outbreak.” As well as helping businesses

navigate immigration issues relating to the pandemic, Ms Sewa is also helping individuals such as Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire.

Mandie Sewa: Immigration rules relaxed


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