Japanese Knotweed spreads alarmingly quickly and has deep roots which make it almost impossible to remove once it has set in. It has a reputation for destroying the foundations of buildings and drastically decreasing their value. Homeowners are terrified that it might make its way from a neighbour’s garden into theirs: no wonder that, according to GoodMove’s 2020 study, the third most common cause of neighbour disputes was ‘plants’. All of this makes it a little ironic, therefore, that Japanese Knotwood is also an anti-inflammatory and can be used to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of joint disease, burns, and sore throats. In other words, while homeowners regard Japanese Knotwood warily for its propensity to inflict pain, the plant itself can actually relieve it.
Many disputes begin when a homeowner refuses to pay for the treatment or containment of their Japanese Knotweed and thus allow it to spread into their neighbours’ gardens. What happens, however, when you actually foot the bill for the treatment of your neighbour’s Knotweed, only for that neighbour to begin acting in a hostile manner? The previous negligence of the Japanese Knotweed problem is compounded with your neighbours’ active spreading of the Knotwood seed into your garden, along with pouring concrete into it and dumping building materials into it. What do you do when your neighbour has damaged your roof, fence, telephone line, felled your trees, and even acted in a violent manner towards you?
Unfortunately, this is the current situation for one of our clients. Whilst it sounds shocking, contentious neighbourly disputes are sadly quite common and have only been exacerbated by Covid-19 necessitated lockdowns. Several organisations which deal in mediating disputes between neighbours, like Calm Mediation and Scottish Mediation, launched hotlines to deal specifically with arguments resulting from coronavirus lockdowns.
The Guardian ran an article in peak lockdown last year titled, ‘Like the English Civil War’, quoting one ‘concerned retiree’ on strained community relations. If your neighbour was intentionally damaging your property and becoming physically violent with you, it could indeed feel like someone was waging war on you, especially within the restrictive conditions of lockdown.
The important thing to remember is that no-one should have to put up with abuse. Everyone has the right to feel safe, especially in their own home. No matter the demand of lockdown or the expenses incurred by removing Knotweed, aggression is never the answer.
Despite the intimidation our client has faced, they still wish to resolve the matter through mediation, hoping they can find a way to see eye-to-eye with their neighbour. Conflict happens and communication breaks down; that’s just a part of life – but it doesn’t always have to be the end. The Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution website says that ‘mediation provides an opportunity for people to communicate better, to understand one another’s concerns, and to jointly come up with ideas for how to end their dispute.’ In fact, mediation is rather like pain-relief; and just like Japanese Knotweed can reduce inflammation, mediation aims to take the fire out of difficult disputes. We hope our client’s neighbour comes to see the value of it too.
De Jure Chambers has partnered with the Anglia Ruskin University Foundation to offer internships to the university’s law students. Paul Chiy, the principal of De Jure Chambers, says, ‘We are delighted to partner with our local university in supporting young graduates gain the experience to access the profession.’ The internship has already been very successful, with several ARU graduates currently working at De Jure Chambers, and we hope this relationship will continue to grow.
When Angelica Botta graduated from Anglia Ruskin University, she quickly found the job market to be extremely over-saturated. ‘You apply for job after job and you get endless rejections back, if they do get back to you at all,’ she said. ‘It can be disheartening. Nobody really says it, but at a lot of places it seems to be a lot more about who you know rather than what you know. I just wanted an opportunity to prove I could do it, as much to myself as to anyone else.’ She decided to use her university’s employability support network, and on their list of temporary vacancies found an eight-week Legal Administrator internship at De Jure Chambers. It looked like her opportunity had finally come: she applied successfully for the internship, and after the eight weeks was up she was given a one-year contract. This April she was promoted to Senior Paralegal after only five months working at the firm.
What makes the De Jure internship different from other work experience programs? According to Angelica, ‘the difference is that work experience is normally just reading documents, but with DeJure, I joined on Monday and had my first client on Tuesday. I had to find a solution. I had to learn how to draft documents, how to draft contracts, how to deal with the client, how to do my administration – I had to figure it all out straight away. That’s the difference, you don’t just observe other people doing the work, you do the work yourself right from the outset.’ In this way, the internship actually equips people for effective preparation for a career in law. When asked how the internship had helped her, Angelica said, ‘Quite frankly, it gave me a career. I was working at Debenhams at the time I started at De Jure. If it wasn’t for the internship I would probably still be in retail.’ This is because at De Jure Chambers we don’t value who you know, we value what you know. The internship gives brilliant people the opportunity to pursue their ambition.
De Jure Chambers is a progressive law firm committed to helping create a fairer society, whether that’s through supporting the development of our local communities, making sure high quality legal services are affordable for everyone and not just large corporations, or, as here, finding ways to level out the playing field and make this industry accessible to all new graduates.
The Anglia Ruskin University Foundation aims to advance the education of students attending the university through financing the provision of any facilities not normally provided to students.
De Jure Chambers has offices at 5 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LG, and F21 Stirling House, Waterbeach, Cambridge CB25 9QE.