An Oswestry solicitor who, in the 1990’s, acted for the inhabitants of the South Atlantic island of St Helena and its subsidiary territory islands of Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island in helping them to recover their full British Citizenship, has announced his retirement from the legal profession.
At that time Richard Hughes was a partner in the Oswestry law firm of Milton, Francis & Hughes, but in 2018 he became a Consultant Solicitor with GHP Legal after the two firms merged.
Saint Helena and all other Crown Colonies were reclassified as British Independent Territories when the British Nationality Act of 1981 came into force. As a result, the islands’ inhabitants lost their full British passports, along with the right of abode and the right to work in the UK.
This situation remained until 1992, when a Bishops Commission was established with the aim of restoring full British citizenship rights to the islanders. The islanders needed a UK based solicitor to represent them and Richard Hughes was instructed to investigate a means of achieving this goal, and in particular brief Counsel for a Legal Opinion on how to proceed.
The eventual outcome of the islanders’ plight came in 2002 with the introduction of the British Overseas Territories Act which restored their rights and designated St Helena and all other British Dependent Territories as British Overseas Territories.
Richard Hughes qualified as a solicitor in 1977. He was articled to Mr Edward Tomley of the Montgomeryshire firm of Williams Gittins & Tomley, with offices in Newtown, Llanidloes, Montgomery and Bishops Castle. During that time, he was also appointed acting Town Clerk of Montgomery.
Richard later moved to Hertfordshire, working for the firm of Gisby & Son, with Chalmers-Hunt & Bailey, who had offices in Ware, Waltham Cross, and Buntingford. After taking over the new office in Buntingford Richard became a partner, remaining in the firm for 12 further years until returning to Shropshire in 1987 and acquiring the Oswestry firm of Mr Milton Francis, which then became Milton Francis & Hughes.
With extensive experience in Estate Administration, Wills, Business and Agricultural matters, Richard was a member of the Law Society’s Agricultural Law Association and Probate Section and a Member of Solicitors for the Elderly.
Richard’s interest in agriculture and agricultural communities goes back to the days when, after being educated at Llanarmon D C and Castle Caereinion primary schools, Christ’s Hospital in Sussex and gaining a law degree at UCW Aberystwyth, he worked on the family farm at Castle Caereinion near Welshpool.
“The merger between Milton Francis & Hughes and GHP Legal was a natural fit,” recalls Richard Lloyd, Senior Partner of GHP Legal. “Going back to our own origins as Gwilym Hughes & Partners which later merged with the Oswestry firm of Brown & Lloyd, we have firm roots both in this region and particularly in the agricultural community, as did Milton Francis & Hughes.”
During his 48-year legal career, Richard Hughes says he has seen considerable changes in the way the profession operates, with professional innovations and technological advances affording great advantages, both to working practices and to clients.
Richard’s own keenness to adapt and innovate saw his firm being the first in Oswestry to publicly advertise, and to provide easy access to its offices for disabled clients. The latter was also a significant consideration when, in 2019, GHP Legal refurbished the town’s former Co-op Bank premises at 21 The Cross as additional office space.
“As legal practice has developed”, says Richard, “so have lawyers had to adapt and learn new skills. Whilst this is a good thing, almost fifty years’ experience has shown me that the most important skill a good lawyer still needs is the ability to listen to clients and to identify the essence of their legal problems and provide appropriate remedies or advice. Again, another fit with the ethos of GHP Legal.
“My farming experience taught me the skills of ‘feeding and mucking out’, and perhaps this can also apply to legal practice! I have always endeavoured to foster inter-generational relationships with my clients and be involved with local country and farming pursuits, and in return I have been fortunate to receive a great deal of loyalty from my clients.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my working life, but now it is time to hand over to Richard Lloyd and his excellent team at GHP Legal. Looking to the future, I plan to enjoy more time spent with my grandchildren, gardening, travelling (post COVID), fulfilling a long list of outstanding DIY tasks … and thinking about what to do when I grow up!!”