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Joel Semakula

Call: 2017
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Practice Summary

Joel joined Chambers in 2020 and is developing a practice across all three of Chambers’ main practice areas with a focus on property, environmental and planning law. He has particular experience securing urgent interim relief for claimants ranging from government to commercial entities. In appropriate cases, Joel accepts instructions on a direct access and pro bono basis. He is a member of the Attorney-General’s junior junior scheme and is an assistant editor for Garner’s Environmental Law.

His most recent instructions include:

  • Acting for the defendant (led by David Holland QC) in a six-day trial in the High Court where the claimants seek his removal as a trustee and substantial damages for alleged breach of trust.
  • Acting for the commercial developer (led by James Maurici QC) in a ten-day planning inquiry appealing the decision to refuse planning permission for a mixed-use development in Takeley.
  • Valero Energy and others: Acting for a number of large commercial entities to secure urgent interim injunctions to restrain trespass and nuisance to their private land in response to large-scale protest activity.
  • National Highways Ltd v Heyatawin [2021] EWHC 3093 (QB): Acting for National Highways (led by David Elvin QC and Myriam Stacey QC) in proceedings to prevent trespass and nuisance on the strategic road network in response to significant disruption caused by large-scale protest action by campaign group ‘Insulate Britain.’
  • Acting for the Respondent Landlord in an appeal of a possession order where the key issue was the extent to which District Judges are required to scrutinise the complex forms for possession orders and the consequence of a failure to notice an error by the landlord, even if not raised by a tenant in the defence or hearing.
  • Wallpott v Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee [2021] EWHC 3291 (Admin): Acting for NHS Wales (led by David Lock QC) in a judicial review of a decision not to approve NHS funding to meet the costs of the Claimant’s treatment for terminal illness where it was determined she did not fall within the policy to permit independent patient funding.
  • Acting for the successful local authority in the High Court resisting an application for permission to judicially review a decision not to grant coronavirus grants and small business rates relief.
  • Acting for the successful Rule 6 Party (local residents’ group) in a five-day planning inquiry, which was one of the first appeals to challenge a proposal for DMS housing where key issues were Rural Exception Sites and Very Special Circumstances for Green Belt development.
  • Advising a global energy company on recovery of approx. £3m overpaid rent in respect of its petrol station sites.

Before commencing legal studies, Joel was an investment banker with Morgan Stanley in New York. Joel, therefore, brings a wealth of commercial experience to his practice at the Bar. Following his legal studies, he was the Judicial Assistant to Lady Justice Gloster (as she then was) and Lord Justice David Richards at the Court of Appeal where he assisted on cases covering commercial, chancery, public and international law.

Away from the law, Joel can be found performing on a comedy stage or volunteering with initiatives that support social mobility.

Property / Rating

Joel was the designated Property pupil, having developed his property law experience at the Court of Appeal. He is developing a varied residential and commercial property practice and recent instructions include:

  • Acting for the defendant (led by David Holland QC) in a six-day trial in the High Court where the claimants seek his removal as a trustee and substantial damages for alleged breach of trust.
  • Valero Energy and others: Acting for a number of large commercial entities to secure urgent interim injunctions to restrain trespass and nuisance to their private land in response to large-scale protest activity.
  • National Highways Ltd v Heyatawin [2021] EWHC 3093 (QB): Acting for National Highways (led by David Elvin QC and Myriam Stacey QC) in proceedings to prevent trespass and nuisance on the strategic road network in response to significant disruption caused by large-scale protest action by campaign group ‘Insulate Britain.’
  • Appearing in related contempt proceedings (led by Myriam Stacey QC) in the Divisional Court.
  • Acting for the Respondent Landlord in an appeal of a possession order where the key issue was the extent to which District Judges are required to scrutinise the complex forms for possession orders and the consequence of a failure to notice an error by the landlord, even if not raised by a tenant in the defence or hearing.
  • Acting for the successful local authority in the First-tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Land Registration) on an application to alter the register based on mistake where the respondent had been registered as proprietor of its farmland on the basis of adverse possession.
  • Acting for landlords and tenants on a range of matters related to service charges and possession of residential and commercial premises including: s.8, s.21, tenancies falling outside the Housing Act 1988, property guardianship schemes, service occupancies, forfeiture, and claims against unknown trespassers.
  • Acting for the successful local authority in the High Court resisting an application for permission to judicially review a decision not to grant coronavirus grants and small business rates relief.
  • Advising a global energy company on recovery of approx. £3m overpaid rent in respect of its petrol station sites.
  • Acting for the successful landlord in the County Court in a claim for rent arrears and property damage and in defence of a counterclaim for breach of the Housing Act 2004 and breach of covenants.
  • Acting for a residential landlord to secure approx. £40,000 in service charge arrears.
  • Acting for a landlord in the County Court seeking to secure an access injunction over a property for the purpose of repairing property damage.
  • Acting for the successful tenant to resist a landlord’s application to strike out his Defence and Counterclaim for property damage, failure to protect the tenancy deposit and breach of covenant.
  • Providing advice and drafting on matters such as beneficial interests, alterations to the register, auction sales, charging orders, rent arrears, rectification of contracts of sale and leases, tenancy deposits, property damage, notices and restrictions, equality act defences to possession claims, securing access rights, restrictive covenants, co-ownership, rights of way, the right to park, interpretation of leases, implication of terms into leases, enforcement of landlord covenants, the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, right of first refusal, 1954 Act renewals, structuring property transactions and the frustration of leases in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial / Arbitration

Joel is developing a varied practice covering all aspects of commercial/arbitration law, having come to the Bar with significant commercial experience, including investment banking, in-house litigation within a major corporation and assisting leading commercial judges in the Court of Appeal. Examples of his recent instructions include:

  • Advising a global energy company on recovery of approx. £3m overpaid rent in respect of its petrol station sites.
  • Appearing for the Claimant in the County Court in a preliminary hearing in an approx. £1m claim for damages for breach of contract related to the operation of a car boot sale business.
  • Appearing for the successful professional recruitment company resisting a claim brought in the County Court by a potential recruit for breach of contract.
  • Acting for an events planner claiming significant damages in the County Court against a venue and caterer for breach of contract.
  • Advising a developer on the commercial and property law implications of adopting a particular structure for commercial property transactions.
  • Acting for a landlord seeking to recover rent arrears from a commercial tenant resisting the claim on the basis that its lease was discharged by frustration of common purpose by the coronavirus business closure regulations.
  • Providing advice and drafting on matters such as negligence, contractual interpretation, mistake, rectification, and misrepresentation.

 

Prior to starting pupillage, Joel worked in the global litigation team of an oil major. During that time, he advised on various matters including enforcement proceedings, bilateral investment treaty claims, environmental and decommissioning claims, JV disputes and general commercial disputes in various upstream and downstream oil and gas sectors. He also gained experience in institutional arbitration under the LCIA, ICC and LMAA rules and worked on several multi-million-dollar arbitrations, including:

  • An LMAA arbitration concerning the cause of two explosions aboard a large commercial ship that caused the ship to be taken off hire and contaminated the cargo aboard.
  • Two related ICC arbitrations concerning indemnification under the French abrupt termination regime for losses/damages incurred following the decision to discontinue shipments of crude oil via a pipeline.
  • An ICC arbitration concerning the French interdependence regime and unlawful termination of a European Gas Transportation Agreement.

Planning / Infrastructure

Joel is developing a varied practice covering all aspects of planning, infrastructure, and procurement law. Examples of his recent instructions, as both sole and junior counsel, include:

  • Acting for the commercial developer (led by James Maurici QC) in a ten-day planning inquiry appealing the decision to refuse planning permission for a mixed-use development in Uttlesford.
  • Acting for the successful Rule 6 Party (local residents’ group) in a five-day planning inquiry, which was one of the first appeals to challenge a proposal for DMS housing where key issues were Rural Exception Sites and Very Special Circumstances for Green Belt development.
  • Acting for the successful Parish Council in the High Court to challenge the lawfulness of a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) for a motocross track in an AONB.
  • Acting for the successful appellant business owner (led by Paul Brown QC) in an enforcement appeal where the local planning authority alleged the material change of use (without planning permission) of a property to a mixed use as a nightclub and shisha lounge and required the cessation of the use
  • Acting for a local residents’ group to challenge the adoption of the Local Plan.
  • Acting for the successful Parish Council (led by Sasha Blackmore) to challenge a new housing development of sixty-four dwellings in a small village on the basis that it was outwith the resolution to grant.
  • Appearing at a Pre-Inquiry Meeting for the Hatfield Aerodrome Quarry Appeal concerning mineral extraction where impact on water quality in the local area was a key concern.
  • Acting for the relevant highways authority and local transport authority (led by Richard Turney) on highways and compulsory acquisition issues related to the DCO of the Aquind Interconnector between France and England, including making oral representations before the Examining Authority.
  • Advising the relevant Minerals Planning Authority on planning enforcement options to secure the developer’s compliance with the restoration of a former colliery site.
  • Advising the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on environmental issues as part of the examination in the Sizewell C DCO to build and operate a new nuclear power station.
  • Providing advice and drafting on matters such as deliberate concealment risk, certificates of lawful use and proposed development, heritage issues, EIA development, CIL, inappropriate development in the green belt and AONB, climate change, s.73 applications, conservation areas, habitats concerns, permitted development rights, planning conditions and s.106 obligations and costs in planning inquiries.

Joel also regularly investigates corporate complaints on behalf of local authorities against planning departments.

Energy / Environment

Joel is developing a varied practice covering all aspects of environmental law. Examples of his recent instructions, as both sole and junior counsel, include:

  • Advising the relevant Minerals Planning Authority on planning enforcement options to secure the developer’s compliance with the restoration of a former colliery site.
  • Advising the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on environmental issues.
  • As sole counsel, acting for the successful Parish Council to quash a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) for a motocross track in an AONB in the High Court on environmental grounds.
  • Appearing at a Pre-Inquiry Meeting for the Hatfield Aerodrome Quarry Appeal concerning mineral extraction where impact on water quality in the local area was a key concern.
  • Advising (as a junior to Alex Goodman) on a potential claim in respect of a number of Experimental Traffic Orders made by a local council where carrying out the orders would lead to further breaches of NO2 legal limits and further exacerbate air quality concerns in the area.
  • Acting for energy companies to secure urgent injunctions to protect key assets in response to largescale protest action.
  • Acting for the statutory highways authority (led by David Elvin QC and Myriam Stacey QC) in committal proceedings against environmental protestors.
  • Advising a global environmental charity on a potential challenge – including on climate change grounds – to the grant of planning permission for a new service station on a site proximate to a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and a Conservation Area.

Joel regularly accepts pro bono instructions from the Environmental Law Foundation and is an assistant editor for Garner’s Environmental Law.

As an in-house litigator at an oil major, Joel advised on environmental and decommissioning claims.

Public / Inquiries

Joel is developing a varied public law practice and is a member of the Attorney-General’s junior junior scheme. Examples of his recent instructions, as both sole and junior counsel, include:

  • Acting in oral permission renewal hearings in the High Court.
  • Wallpott v Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee [2021] EWHC 3291 (Admin): Acting for NHS Wales (led by David Lock QC) in a judicial review of a decision not to approve NHS funding to meet the costs of the Claimant’s treatment for terminal illness where it was determined she did not fall within the policy to permit independent patient funding.
  • Acting for the successful Leader of the Opposition of a local authority in disciplinary proceedings and defending her right to free speech before the Standards Committee.
  • Acting for NHS Blood & Transplant (led by Charlie Corey-Wright QC), a core participant in the Infected Blood Inquiry.
  • Assisting with the Secretary of State’s appeal to the Supreme Court against Begum v Special Immigration Appeals Commission [2020] EWCA Civ 918 concerning deprivation of citizenship and leave to enter to participate in judicial proceedings.
  • Acting for the Claimant (led by Fiona Scolding QC), who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and learning disabilities, bringing a claim for damages flowing from breaches of Article 3, Article 5 and Article 8 of the ECHR and professional negligence in respect of his ill-treatment in hospital while detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Acting for Highways England (led by Samantha Broadfoot QC) in related inquiries investigating deaths on smart motorways.
  • Assisting the Department of Health and Social Care with a review of legislation in preparation for a new Health and Social Care Bill.
  • Appointed as an independent investigator of complaints against a local authority’s planning department.
  • Appearing in the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chambers) in bail hearings for immigration detainees.
  • Drafting and advising on matters related to immigration, just satisfaction under the ECHR and data protection.

Education

As a school governor, Joel also has a particular interest in education law. Examples of his recent instructions include:

  • Appearing in the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) in EHCP appeals.
  • Acting as a clerk in school exclusions appeal panels.
  • Acting for the Good Law Project and students who had been downgraded from the Centre Assessment Grade (led by Fiona Scolding QC with Leon Glenister and Yaaser Vanderman) to challenge the fairness of Ofqual’s system for awarding A level grades.
  • Acting for UsforThem (led by James Maurici QC with Yaaser Vanderman) to challenge government guidance to schools around dealing with COVID outbreaks.
  • Providing training to local authorities on admissions and exclusions appeals.
  • Drafting and advising on matters related to local authorities’ duties under the Children and Families Act 2014 in respect of children with special educational needs.

Healthcare

Joel’s previous commercial experience as an investment banker involved conducting analysis on strategic rationale of mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, equity and debt offerings, recapitalisations, and other capital allocation decisions for healthcare companies. He brings that experience to his developing practice in healthcare law. His most recent instructions include:

  • Wallpott v Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee [2021] EWHC 3291 (Admin):
  • Acting for NHS Wales (led by David Lock QC) in a judicial review of a decision not to approve NHS funding to meet the costs of the Claimant’s treatment for terminal illness where it was determined she did not fall within the policy to permit independent patient funding.
  • Acting for NHS Blood & Transplant (led by Charlie Corey-Wright QC), a core participant in the Infected Blood Inquiry.
  • Acting for the Claimant (led by Fiona Scolding QC), who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and learning disabilities, bringing a claim for damages flowing from breaches of Article 3, Article 5 and Article 8 of the ECHR and professional negligence in respect of his ill-treatment in hospital while detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Assisting the Department of Health and Social Care with a review of legislation in preparation for a new Health and Social Care Bill.

Costs

Joel hopes to develop a varied costs practice. His recent instructions include:

  • Acting for the successful defendant in its claim for indemnity costs following the discontinuance of proceedings against it which the judge accepted were an abuse of process.
  • Acting for the successful landlord in recovering its costs under an indemnity provision in a lease following service charge proceedings that had been transferred from the County Court to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).
  • Acting for a London local authority in detailed assessment proceedings in the Senior Courts Costs Office and subsequent appeal in the High Court following settlement of a large number of housing disrepair claims.
  • Advising on settlement and using set off to resist a costs application following the discontinuance of property proceedings.

Qualifications

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – BA Political Science and Economics (First Class)

University of Oxford  (Mansfield College) – BA Jurisprudence (with Senior Status)

BPP University, London – BPTC (Outstanding)

Awards

University of Oxford: D’Souza Prize for the best overall performance on the Senior Status course

Gray’s Inn: The Bedingfield Scholarship, the Inn’s most prestigious award for the BPTC

Gray’s Inn: David Karmel Entrance Award, the Inn’s highest award for the GDL

Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship

Morehead-Cain Scholarship, full merit scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Fulbright Scholarship

Professional Associations

UK Environmental Law Association

Property Bar Association

Chancery Bar Association

Administrative Law Bar Association

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