Regulatory & Litigation

Sarah Frow heads Woods Whur regulatory and litigation department which covers all aspects of litigation and regulatory investigations and prosecutions for all sectors including licensed premises.

Sarah and the team are specialists in handling regulatory investigations and prosecutions and represents commercial clients that require representation for investigations, prosecutions, inquests. Sarah has experience in dealing with proceedings against both individuals and organisations, from road traffic prosecutions to health and safety prosecutions. The team have dealt with matters arising from investigations carried out by the Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency, Local Authorities, the police and many other niche investigatory agencies.

The team assist clients in all sectors on disputes between organisations and assist in dispute resolution matters such as settlements, mediation, and litigation. With a commercial understanding and a drive for getting the best results for our clients, we strive to advise our clients on the best course of action dependant on the circumstances.

Licensed premises frequently encounter issues surrounding health and safety, food safety, food labelling and other regulatory requirements such as weights and measures. The team supporting Sarah at Woods Whur have between them built up significant expertise in advising on these areas and also in defending prosecutions under the health and safety and food safety legislation.

Organisations need to be aware of their obligations to carry out due diligence to ensure that they fulfil the requirements of the health and safety legislation in relation not only to their employees but also to their customers and other members of the public. In the event of an incident occurring, the company and individual directors and managers may face prosecution by the Health and Safety Inspectorate or the Police.

We are well-versed in reviewing and advising on policies and procedures to establish due diligence and in helping operators who are facing improvement or prohibition notices to put them in the best possible position to comply, or to appeal in appropriate cases. We also have experience of representing operators facing an interview under caution and of defending prosecutions in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the business.

Examples of the work completed by the team can be described under the following headings:

Health and Safety

The team were asked to assist a construction client over issues regarding gas safety surrounding the installation of gas appliances. This involved working with regulators nationally and locally together with other third parties to identify issues and rectify them. Satisfying the regulators of the appropriateness of the measures taken to maintain safety. The team was able to resolve the issue with the client without any enforcement action being taken.

We worked with a financial services client who identified issues regarding the management of asbestos in its premises and the implications of exposure. The team was able to advise the client on its duties under the law and how to devise a plan which allowed the asbestos to be removed or contained. In so doing satisfied the regulators as well as the client’s employees and trade union representatives as to the effectiveness of its arrangements.

We acted for an individual who was present when a colleague drowned whilst undertaking works on open water. The client faced scrutiny both by the police, HSE and the Coroner for their involvement. We were pleased to guide the client through all these issues and they were exonerated of any involvement in the death.

 Environmental

The team represented a client who was subject to prosecution on a number of matters regarding the disposal of food waste on land. From an initial prosecution of over 100 offences, the proceedings eventually were reduced to 1 offence. The successful dialogue between the team and the prosecutors ensured that a proportionate outcome based on the evidence was achieved and the client was content to plead guilty on the more accurate and proportionate basis than originally set out by us to the prosecution.

We acted for a national retailer who was subject to prosecution for waste management offences relating to the depositing of waste without necessary permit. Through successful challenge by the team, we were able to demonstrate that the waste was not attributable to our client and no offences had been committed. The local authority prosecutions surrounding this were withdrawn in a timely fashion without the need for protracted hearings and associated costs.

 Food Safety

We successfully acted for a national retailer who was faced with a food hygiene closure on one of its premises. We were able to attend court within 24 hours of being instructed and have the order lifted, as well as working with the regulators to ensure all necessary steps were taken to reassure them as to the management of food safety on the premises in question. The relationship built with the regulators was sufficiently successful to ensure no prosecution was forthcoming and the client was able to reopen very swiftly afterwards.

 A client within the hospitality industry faced prosecution for offering for sale what was alleged to be mis-described items of food and in doing so had mislead consumers. After significant discussions with the regulator, as well as work with the clients internally, the allegations were withdrawn and it was acknowledged that there was no mis-description by the client and in fact the items sold were actually beyond the standards required of the consumers in question.

 Fire Safety

The team regularly advises on compliance with fire safety law and has defended a number of companies facing prosecution in this area. In one case where no fire occurred, a prosecution was brought in relation to overcrowding of the premises which in the prosecution’s eyes could have caused injury or death should a fire take place. The team worked with the client over a significant period to prepare for the court hearing. The court accepted the position and arguments set forward by us, and the client received a proportionate financial penalty, when other defendants received sentences of imprisonment and other financial penalties. As a result of the proceedings, the premises continues to trade successfully without any other enforcement action.

 Regulatory Crime

The team assist clients in a wide variety of instructions relating to regulatory protection, whether that be proceedings in areas such as consumer protection for unlawful selling arrangements, or discrimination under the equalities legislation to data protection breaches and compliance with the Gang Master’s legislation. The team is proud to have been able to assist clients through a number of instructions with specialist regulators in areas where technical skill and responsiveness are essential.

 Road Traffic and Crime

All members of the team have extensive experience in representing clients who face investigation and prosecution in respect of road traffic and criminal matters. The team recently by way of example secured an acquittal for a client who faced the loss of his driving licence for a number of speeding offences. A successful challenge as to the reliability of the personnel and speed detection devices involved led to a withdrawal of proceedings, and a successful retention of the client’s driving licence.

In addition, the team has secured acquittals for clients allegedly using mobile telephones whilst driving and in a case of excess alcohol successfully pleaded “Special Reasons”, and in doing so prevented a client convicted of driving with excess alcohol from being disqualified from driving.

 Training

All members of the team continually are engaged in training events, not just for clients, but also for specialist organisations and associations on a whole range of regulatory matters.

The team have currently delivered a series of webinars on the COVID-19 guidance and regulations and their applicability to particular clients or sectors within the economy.

The team’s ever popular “An Inspector Calls” continue to be delivered to clients equipping them with the necessary skills to deal with the regulators investigation in its first few critical hours and days.

The team can prepare and deliver bespoke training to board directors to “front line” workers on a whole range of regulatory topics.

 Litigation

In addition to the team’s extensive and long standing regulatory skills, they also deal with the whole range of civil litigation and dispute resolution matters, many of which are connected with regulatory disputes.

The team this year alone has represented clients threatened with ill-conceived winding up proceedings, claims for outstanding debts and has acted on a number of occasions when clients have been subject to fraud and have sought to recover monies as a result of this. The team continues to be regularly instructed on civil litigation matters and has only recently concluded a successful recovery of funds for a client where a number of suppliers have not completed construction works to the requisite standard.

 Inquests

Team members have been involved in the inquests and coronial investigations into a number of deaths in a wide variety of settings within the hospitality industry, in healthcare and the transport industry to name just a few.

The team is well placed to support clients throughout the entire duration of a case where sadly someone meets their death. In one case involving the electrocution of an employee, the team was able to deal with all aspects from beginning to end, including the coroner’s inquest, criminal proceedings from the Magistrate’s to the Crown Court, interviews under caution with the police and other regulators. In addition, the team settled a civil personal injuries claim arising from the death and also dealt with Employment Tribunal proceedings arising from the case, not to mention the successful appeal of a Prohibition Notice brought by a regulator as well.

This demonstrates the breadth of experience and skill in the team who can deal with all the issues arising from significant regulatory instructions.

Please contact Sarah Frow on 07702802572 or sfrow@woodswhur.co.uk if you would like further information.