Covid-19 Update

As we once again face a period of national lockdown we would like to reassure all our clients – existing and potential – that during this time we will continue to undertake all aspects of the work necessary to progress Divorce, Children Act and Financial Remedy applications.

We remain open for business – we continue to work from our office, however in accordance with Government directives we are currently unable to welcome ‘drop in’ visitors. We will be operating our usual opening hours (9am – 5pm) and can be contacted using our office number, or, if the matter is urgent or requires attention out of normal business hours, then the business mobile number can be used (07966 110711)

Appointments

Appointments are available for both existing and new clients and will be undertaken by telephone or video conferencing. If it is considered essential for the appointment to take place in person – this will be fully discussed and decided with you on an individual basis.

Courts

The Courts continue to operate for both ongoing matters and new applications. Hearings have been conducted remotely since March and this will continue – only in exceptional circumstances will attendance in person be required.

If you have been given notice of a hearing date by us, then that hearing will proceed on that date, at that time. The Courts utilise several different platforms of telephone and video conferencing. We will be in touch with you before the date of the hearing to provide information and make the necessary arrangements with you for your individual hearing.

Please rest assured that we are here to support you through what we know is a stressful and anxious time – further exacerbated by the uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it. The work we are completing for you is, and will remain, our paramount consideration.

Covid-19 Checklist

Please be aware that all clients will be contacted and asked to answer the following precautionary questions ahead of any face-to-face meetings or visits to our premises.

Today or in the last 14 days….

Do you have or have you had a fever (37.8 degrees C or above) – Yes | No

Do you have or have you had any of the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea? – Yes | No

Have you tested positive for COVID19? – Yes | No

Have you been contacted by the NHS test and trace service and asked to self- isolate? – Yes | No

Has anyone in your household or your close contacts had, or does anyone currently have: fever, cough, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea? – Yes | No

Has anyone in your household or your close contacts tested positive for COVID19? – Yes | No

Has anyone in your household or your close contacts been contacted by the NHS test and trace service and asked to isolate? – Yes | No

The true value of team work

Team work is always important, but its benefits have been particularly apparent during Covid 19.

Therefore, we would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all clients, court staff, colleagues and contractors (notably Holker IT) for their sterling support and collaboration over the recent difficulties.

That excellent team work has enabled us to continue to offer a seamless service – not just to get up and running but then to stay running!

During the height of the crisis we have been able to adapt quickly and effectively, both to meet the needs of individual clients and also to the virtual court system which has allowed the Court and its work to continue.

It is worth noting that in this period we have supported clients by preparing for and undertaking in excess of 40 hearings – completed by telephone, Zoom, Microsoft Team or Skype.

Personally, I would also like to thank all my staff – Eve, Sarah, Falon, Assunta, Pat and Georgia, who have worked tirelessly to support me and to give you the first class service that we aspire to offer all our clients.

The ‘team’ is now re-united at Ribble Court (during lockdown Assunta and I continued to man the office while others worked remotely), back in the office and starting to see clients in person – if, of course, clients feel comfortable in doing so.

Fortunately, there are some excellent facilities available to us here – including a spacious boardroom – and we have also created, as an alternative, a soundproof and discreet space for appointments and to enable your attendance at court hearings to take place safely. Telephone appointments or appointments by video platform can also be arranged.

Embracing new technology and adapting quickly to change has been critical. It continues to enable us to carry out our work for you in the safest possible circumstances.

So a sincere ‘thank-you’ to everyone involved.

Sarah Bentley

Support for those seeking to beat addiction

East Lancashire-based Sarah Bentley Solicitors has added financial support to a revolutionary fitness-based recovery programme aimed at beating addiction here in Lancashire.

The 180 Project – which operates from CrossFit Clitheroe and Delta Fox Blackburn – is a not-for-profit project where people recovering from addictions use exercise and training to break negative lifecycles and become the best version of themselves. 

Sarah Bentley, owner of Sarah Bentley Solicitors, is an active member of at CrossFit Clitheroe and a trustee/director at The 180 Project. She has seen at first hand the sort of ‘incredible results’ that the project continues to achieve and has now agreed to become a corporate supporter.

“I really believe in the work of and the principles underpinning The 180 Project. It has a vision to create a lasting recovery by breaking the vicious cycle of addiction, crime and prison and, most importantly, has been shown to work in practice,” said Sarah. “The programme combines functional fitness, education, life-coaching and peer support to help people become physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally well and socially connected.

“As a corporate supporter we hope to play a small part in further championing the cause and primarily assisting local people to fulfil their potential. It’s all about making a real change to save and transform lives.”

Caroline Sagar, Chief Executive of The 180 Project, said: “Our recovery programme is one of the first of its kind in the UK. We disrupt negative life cycles so people can live a happy and fulfilling life, and stop the devastating impact that addiction and crime has on individuals, families and communities.”

“But, as a charity, we need on-going financial support and it’s through the kind help of local business people like Sarah Bentley, that we are able to continue our work. We are delighted to welcome Sarah Bentley Solicitors as a corporate supporter.”

* Footnote. Anyone wishing to follow Sarah Bentley Solicitors in becoming a corporate sponsor please contact Rachel.beck@180project.co.uk.

More choice on how to ‘see’ us

During Covid-19 we have endeavoured to provide clients with as ‘normal’ a service as possible.

We have continued to work either at the office or remotely in order to keep all client matters on track and progressing – working in conjunction with the Court to complete Court hearings remotely (either by telephone or video platform).

The plan has worked well in practice and will continue until further notice as there is no clear idea yet as to when face-to-face Court applications will resume.

Additionally, as from this week, all our staff will continue their work here at Ribble Court.

We have put measures in place to see clients on a face-to-face basis in our Boardroom, where there is ample space and social distancing!

Our aim is to offer all appropriate alternatives to ensure that clients feel comfortable at all times.

Please rest assured that we are always here when you need us …. how you choose to ‘see’ us is your personal choice. We remain open for new instructions.

Keeping you posted as our Family Law work continues

Just an update to keep everyone posted as we continue to work both from here at Ribble Court and remotely. We continue to undertake all aspects of the necessary work to progress Divorce, Children Act and Financial Remedy applications.

Courts too continue their work. All hearings are undertaken by telephone or video link. For the foreseeable future, all hearings will be conducted remotely and only in the most exceptional of circumstances will you be required to attend a hearing in person.

We have conducted several telephone and video link hearings during the course of the last three weeks and the technology improves with each one. We hope that we are now up to speed, with the help and support of our IT providers, Holker IT. A huge thank you to them.

We recognise that your matter is important to you and that you need to know where you stand in these uncertain times, what progress has been and can be made.

Please rest assured that your continuing instructions and the work we are completing for you is, and remains, our paramount consideration. We aim to keep all channels of communication with you open. Please continue to contact us by telephone and email. We remain open for new instructions.

Keep well, keep safe – and keep going!

Sarah Bentley

Covid-19 … where matters stand

Our aim, during this difficult time, is to ensure continuity of business and to maintain high standards of service.

We would, therefore, like to update all clients – existing and potential – as to where matters currently stand: –

•        We are designated as Keyworkers – as we undertake Court hearings (which are ongoing), and the stated aim of the Family Justice system is to “keep business going safely”.
•        Our office is open – some support staff are working from home (we are linked by telephone and email) – and we are working to offer a seamless and continuing service to you.
•        Appointments can be made and will be undertaken by telephone.
•        We are operating our usual opening hours (9am to 5pm) so please continue to use the office number or, if the matter is urgent or requires attention out of normal business hours, then utilise the business mobile number (07966 110711).
•        The Courts continue to operate.

To summarise –
•        All Family Hearings – both relating to Children and relating to Financial Matters within Divorce, where they have been listed for a hearing will proceed but will be dealt with remotely.
•        If you have been given notice of a hearing date by us, then that hearing will proceed on that date, at that time but will be conducted not in person but by telephone.
•        Only in exceptional circumstances will you be required to actually attend Court in person.
•        Hearings will be organised through facilities such as BT Legal. The hearing will proceed in a formal way, just as it would do if you were physically present, for example, the telephone hearing will be recorded as your Court hearing would have been should you have attended in normal times.
•        On the day of the hearing, you will be contacted by a BT Conference Co-ordinator on the telephone number we hold on our system for you. If you change your phone number – please update us with your new number straight away, so that we can ensure the contact details we hold for you are correct.
•        The BT Conference Co-ordinator will contact you 5 minutes before the start time of the hearing. You will then be joined into hearing. It is vital that you ensure your phone is on and that you have good phone signal at least 15 minutes before the hearing start time For example, if your hearing is due to take place at 11.00 am – you must ensure your phone is on and that you have good signal by no later than 10.45 am. You would then be called at approximately 10.55 am by the BT Conference Co-ordinator.

Financial Applications –
•        The First Appointment should, if at all possible, be agreed – i.e. directions for how your case progresses should be agreed with the other side and an Agreed Order presented to the District Judge for approval – so, no telephone appointment. It is only if no Order could be agreed, then a telephone appointment would be scheduled as described above.
•        Financial Dispute Resolution Appointments – If you agree terms and a Final Order, then that Order will be sent to the District Judge for approval – you do not then attend a telephone hearing. If matters cannot be agreed, then there will be a telephone hearing.
•        Final Contested Hearings – they may have to be dealt with in person because of the need to hear evidence.

Applications relating to your Children
•        If matters can be agreed at any time, the details will be incorporated in an Agreed Order and sent to the Court for approval – you do not then to attend Court.
•        If there are hearings, because matters cannot be agreed, then unless the Court say it is an exceptional matter, you will not attend Court and the hearing will proceed by telephone.
•        We are aware that parents who are separating may have experienced some confusion about, for example, the requirements of an existing Court Order and how they should comply with it. If this is a matter of concern to you, then please contact us for advice.

Our aim and the aim of the Court Service is to ensure business as usual, but safely. So, our work on your behalf will continue and we will continue to accept new instructions. If you have been notified of a Court hearing, we will prepare for that hearing in the usual way and the hearing will proceed, but by telephone.

As ever, we will be pleased to answer any query, question or enquiry you might have.

Rest assured that we are here for you. Stay safe and keep well.

INCREASING THE ‘FAMILY’ WITH DOUBLE APPOINTMENT

Sarah Bentley Solicitors has further strengthened its fast-expanding team with a double appointment.

Experienced legal secretary Pat Hartley and promising apprentice Georgia Kelly have joined the family law specialist.

Motorbiking enthusiast Pat, of Barrowford, previously worked for 26 years as a personal assistant at another local legal practice, specialising in personal injury.

Georgia, of Burnley, who recently completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, joins the practice on a legal secretary apprenticeship from Burnley College, where she studied public services.

“As we continue to grow, the need for top-level administration is essential,” said owner Sarah Bentley. “Pat’s secretarial record in the legal profession is there for all to see and we are very confident that Georgia will become another key asset for us.”

Picture Caption: Sarah Bentley welcomes Pat Hartley (left) and Georgia Kelly (right).

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR FALON

Local legal talent continues to find opportunity here at Sarah Bentley Solicitors.

Oswaldtwistle-born Falon Whalen, 22, has joined our team as a paralegal … another key advancement for the practice.

Falon recently achieved a Distinction in Family Law (part of the Legal Practice Course Masters), having earlier attained a First Class Law Degree. A former student at Mount Carmel High School, Accrington and Blackburn Sixth Form College, she studied law at Swansea University and Manchester’s University of Law.

“Earlier this summer our very first appointment, Eve Brelsford, qualified as a solicitor and we will now do all we can to help Falon develop her career here,” said Sarah. “Our policy is to give local youngsters a genuine training opportunity in family law – together with first-hand experience – and I see Falon as a perfect fit for us.”

Falon added: “Family Law appeals to me the most, so to get this chance at a firm with such a strong record and reputation in family law is just amazing. I am determined to take it with both hands.”

Picture Caption: Welcome aboard … new recruit Falon Whalen with Sarah Bentley.

RAISING A TOAST TO EVE!

Eve Brelsford was joined by colleagues and business associates at Sarah Bentley Solicitors for a celebration to mark her qualification as a solicitor – just two years after joining as a trainee.

Pictured raising a toast to Eve’s success are…

Front row (left to right): Sarah Hargreaves (Inspired Financial Planning), Eve Brelsford and Sarah Bentley
Second row: Beverley Bellas (Director, Smith Jones Solicitors), Sarah Shaun and Kirsty Astin
Third row: Paul Darlington (Consultant Solicitor, Smith Jones Solicitors), Ivan Hargreaves (Director, Inspired Financial Planning), Mark Sunter (Director, Ainsworths Accountants), Adam Dennis (Financial Advisor, Eccles Greenwood Financial Planning LLP), Lee Eccles (Managing Partner, Eccles Greenwood Financial Planning LLP), Donna Greenhalgh (Centre Manager, Business First) and Paul Smith (Director, Smith Jones Solicitors).