Joanne Bennett – Director
Areas of practice: Public Law, Housing, and Community Care
Joanne is Lawstop’s Director. Joanne is an exceptionally experienced lawyer and manager. She has managed her own businesses since 2002, having qualified as a solicitor in 1998.
Joanne specialises in housing, community care and public law. She is uniquely qualified to provide advice and representation to individuals. She has an extensive knowledge of Human Rights Law and a significant amount of experience in the area, including having worked for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. She has advised both institutions and individuals on numerous issues, including Freedom of Information and breaches of the European Convention of Human Rights. She previously won applause from the Chambers Guide for being “dedicated to her clients” and for achieving “the best possible solutions.”
Panel memberships: Member of CCPG and HLPG.
Notable cases: Whilst working at the European Court she assisted the Judge Rapouteur in the landmark Judgment of B and others v Belgium and others (dec) [GC] no. 52207/99 CEDH/ECHR 2001-XII . The case was brought by the victims and the families of the victims of the bombing of the TV station by NATO in Belgrade during the civil war. In that case the Grand Chamber decided that no claim could be made under the ECHR against the member states of NATO because they did not have sufficient territorial control.
R (S) v Preston CC, Chief Constable of Lancashire, Blackburn & Darwen BC, the Department of Constitutional Affairs  EWHC Admin 3300. The circuit judge had acted unlawfully in striking out a claim in respect of the death of the Claimant’s daughter, but the Court had no jurisdiction to quash his decision.
R (K) v Brent LBC  EWCA Civ 1825 The local authority’s refusal to award priority need was procedurally unfair and unlawful because of reliance on NowMedical.
AB v Leicester Council EWCA Civ concerning the Local Authority’s decision not to provide a homeless person who claimed that as a result of her illness she could not reveal anything about herself with housing.
Niema Adbusemed v Lambeth LBC (2016) QBD (Admin) (Ouseley J) 19/02/2016 Via R. v Camden Ex p. Mohammed (1998) and whether new material had come to light that would have an effect on the decision. The psychiatric evidence was new material but the question to be asked of the most recent decision on interim accommodation was whether it was lawful in the light of that new material. The Local Authority’s refusal of interim accommodation acknowledged the psychiatric report but pointed out that the report did not say that Mrs A was street homeless but spending nights in a place where there was a roof over her head. This was far from ideal but was not street homeless. There was no error of law in the decision letter.
Debbie Howard – Solicitor
Area of practice: Housing
Debbie is a solicitor with over ten years’ experience providing housing advice and representation. She has worked in both the private and voluntary sectors and was employed by a national charity as a solicitor providing advice in West Sussex. Debbie has significant experience defending possession, injunction and committal proceedings, representing clients with unlawful eviction, harassment and disrepair claims and counterclaims, and with homeless reviews, county court appeals and judicial reviews. Debbie is committed to providing the best possible service to our clients.
Zaira Ilyas – Solicitor
Area of practice: Housing
Zaira is a solicitor with considerable experience in Housing law. Having worked in a large London law centre, she has vast experience in possession, disrepair and judicial review cases.
Patricia Wilkins – Solicitor and Public Law Supervisor
Areas of practice: Public Law, Community Care, Education & Housing
Pat is a very experienced solicitor. She has extensive knowledge of public, community care, education, and housing law. Pat has managed her own firm and recently worked at Centre 70. She represented Mr Hotak in the seminal UK Supreme Court decision of Hotak and others (Appellants) v London Borough of Southwark and another (Respondents) . This significant homelessness decision affected the vulnerability test and all local authorities in the UK now adhere to this decision.
Hotak and others (Appellants) v London Borough of Southwark and another (Respondents)  UKSC 30. The Hotak case involved three conjoined appeals and concerned the duty of local housing authorities towards homeless people who claim to be “vulnerable” and, as a consequence have a priority need for accommodation. Within its judgement the Supreme Court assessed two key issues, namely: i. when determining whether or not someone is vulnerable, is it necessary to compare the applicant to some other group of people; and if so, to which group? ii. whether it is permissible for a local authority to have regard to the support and assistance that an applicant would receive from his household or family if he were homeless?
In its findings, the Court determined that a comparator was necessary and established that the proper comparator should be “with an ordinary person if made homeless, not with an ordinary actual homeless person.” Furthermore, the Court found that any services and support that would be available to a homeless applicant if they were homeless must be taken into account. The local authority should consider the services and support which would be available to the applicant if he were homeless, provided they are satisfied that the third party will provide the support on a predictable and regular basis.
J v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1163 The social security commissioner was entitled to find that a Polish national who had separated from her child’s father, who was a French national who had come to the UK to pursue a vocational training course, was not entitled to income support.
Westminster CC v IC, KC, NNC  EWHC 3096 Fam The marriage of an incapacitated adult that was considered to be lawful under Muslim and Bangladesh civil law was not recognised in English law because of the groom’s incapacity to marry; the Court had jurisdiction to prevent the groom’s family taking him to live in Bangladesh with his wife, albeit such jurisdiction might not be exercised unless living in Bangladesh would be incompatible with his Convention rights; the Court had jurisdiction to prevent the groom and his wife living together in the UK, despite the marriage being considered to be lawful under Muslim law.
Barnet LBC v land A  EWCA Civ 383 The non-qualified EEA national on income support was eligible for housing.
R (H and others) v Wandsworth LBC and others (2007] EWHC Admin 1082 Local authorities required to accommodate destitute children in need under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and not section 17, regardless of the label applied by the Local Authority to the services provided.
Pv Hertfordshire County Council – CO 3785/2008. Successful judicial review which quashed school closure Notice on grounds that Notice was defective for failure to state how the SEN improvement test was satisfied.
Chiara June – Paralegal
Chiara works as a paralegal in our Brighton offices. She assists and supports clients with proactive legal advice to meet their needs; in particular, in matters concerning housing and community care. She completed her BA in International Development in 2017 whilst also volunteering at a homeless charity, and finished her Masters in International Law in 2018. She joined Lawstop in September 2018 and strives to make our clients feel heard and understood and give a tailored and supportive legal service.
Gemma Thapermall – Paralegal
Gemma works as a paralegal in our London Hammersmith offices. She assists clients and offers legal advice with regard to housing and community care matters. Gemma worked as an advisor at a legal advice clinic at Blackfriars Settlement. She obtained a Graduate Diploma in Law in 2018.
Jacqueline Sethi – Paralegal
Jacqueline has recently completed her LPC, and specialises in community care law and special educational needs. She is a keen advocate for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues and has worked with a charity for adults with learning disabilities, promoting inclusion and preventing isolation. She is keen to promote accessibility, by providing visual and ‘easy read’ material to fully engage with clients. Jacqueline volunteers for Brighton and Hove Mencap which allocates funds to families with children with special needs for days out.
Mary Bennett – Head of HR
Mary has many years of experience in the Human Resources field both in the UK and US. Prior to joining Lawstop, Mary worked within various Human Resource and Administration departments, implementing personnel and marketing strategies and managing the recruitment and selection process, including at Royal Mail. Mary also supported management in reviewing and implementing HR policies and procedures.
Sally Bennett – Head of Administration and Support
Sally was head of the administrative team of a large court centre in Sussex. She has always worked in the legal world and has a wealth of experience. Sally is in charge of the administration and support team. This includes the legal aid billing department.
Shazia Anwar – Legal Assistant
Shazia qualified as Barrister and was called to the Bar in 2001. She is a former Immigration and Human Rights Advocate and has also taught as an English Language Teacher in the UK and in the UAE. Shazia took a career break to raise a family and in the past few years has now re-entered the legal world.As a legal consultant, she has undertaken work: writing content on the area of business immigration and proof-reading course materials for the LPC course. Also, as a Legal Researcher, she has worked with RSG Consulting, research partners to the Financial Times on the area of Business and Human Rights. Shazia is now working as a Legal Assistant to support our team.
Melanie Somaratne – Legal Assistant
Melanie has vast experience, having worked in both the public and private sectors. Melanie offers support to the team and contributes greatly to the smooth running of our Hammersmith office.
Celia is a highly qualified Legal Secretary/PA. She has many years of experience working for senior and managing partners in the U.K.’s largest law firms. Celia assists with management support and recruitment.
Hannah joins us as a Consultant Solicitor. Hannah is a Higher Court Advocate with many years experience in Housing and Community Care Law and is an Accredited Mental Health Panel Member.