Family judge for Cheshire and Merseyside hosts first LAC public debate event


Her Honour Judge Margaret de Haas QC hosted the first public debate held by LJMU’s Legal Advice Centre, which focused on the legal rights of grandparents.

HHJ Margaret de Haas QC, designated Family Judge for Cheshire & Merseyside, chaired the event which was held in collaboration with the University of Liverpool’s Law Clinic, with the aim of bringing together legal professionals, academics, students and members of the public.

HHJ de Haas opened the event by outlining the current legal process for grandparents to apply for contact with grandchildren, and the motion was formally proposed by Mary Mullin, family solicitor and Assistant CEO of the National Youth Advocacy Service, and opposed by Mike Devlin, retired partner in family law at Stephenson’s practice.

Haley Farrell, Director and Head of Family Law at Jackson Lees, took the podium as an expert witness in support of Mary’s proposal of the motion, while Mike’s expert witness was Nicola Harris, partner at MSB Solicitors.

Event organiser, LJMU Senior Lecturer, Rachel Stalker, commented: “All of the speakers presented their arguments with great enthusiasm, expertise and with full recognition of the emotive nature of the subject matter. Our speakers also spent a large part of the evening answering questions from the audience – ranging from issues of public policy to the complex nature of “modern” families. Speakers were even asked whether the issue of grandparents having a role in the lives of their grandchildren should be the subject of a public referendum.”

A final vote on the issue confirmed that the motion was defeated, with the audience siding with Mike and Nicola’s arguments that the existing system was sufficient enough to protect the rights of grandparents.

Rachel added: “Feedback from our audience has since been overwhelmingly positive and we now plan to host regular debates on family law issues, in order to bring together practitioners and the public, as well as drill down on the legal issues that have the most impact on everyday life.

“The LAC exists not only to empower our students with valuable and practical legal skills, but to also improve access to legal advice for the local community. Our law students often provide free legal advice to citizens, supervised by volunteer solicitors from leading Liverpool law firms. The centre advises on cases involving family law, civil litigation, employment law, and wills and administration. The service is open to students, staff and the general public and will relaunch in September 2019.”

The event marked a year of success year for the LAC with participating students recently winning the national Law School Challenge, raising £5,000 for LawWorks. The LAC was also shortlisted for the national Access to Justice Foundation award.


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