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Meet the team

The AOP’s legal and regulatory directorate represents AOP members on a range of issues involving the GOC, NHS, patient complaints and medical malpractice claims, as well as providing general legal and regulatory advice.

Legal and regulatory

  • Ella Franci

    Ella Franci

    Director of legal and regulatory

Biography

Ella has over 17 years of experience in the optical sector. She is a highly respected and experienced lawyer and worked in various roles within the AOP’s legal and regulatory directorate, before becoming its director of legal and regulatory services in 2019. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Ella graduated with a degree in medical biochemistry.

Her current role includes the oversight and management of the AOP’s legal and regulatory directorate, which represents AOP members on a range of issues involving the GOC, NHS, patient complaints, and medical malpractice claims, as well as providing general legal and regulatory advice. She also holds a small number of complex and high profile cases, most recently the case of GOC and Honey Rose.

Employment

  • Liz Stephenson

    Liz Stephenson

    Solicitor - head of employment

  • Louise Wilkinson

    Louise Wilkinson

    Employment solicitor

  • Anna Emerson Moering

    Anna Emerson-Moering

    Paralegal

  • Claudia De Silva

    Claudia De Silva

    Paralegal

Biography

Liz Stephenson is the head of employment at the AOP.

She has specialised in employment law since 2005. Liz qualified as a solicitor in 2006 and worked at two leading national firms before joining the AOP. She was previously a partner in private practice at a highly ranked firm and joined the AOP in January 2020.

Liz has a wealth of experience representing clients in the employment tribunal including numerous ground breaking reported cases on issues such as discrimination, unfair dismissal, trade union rights, and agency workers’ rights. She has also dealt with cases in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal, High Court, and before the Certification Officer.

She has represented many large groups of clients dealing with a number of collective cases involving multiple claimants. She has won and settled countless cases and has extensive experience in advising on all aspects of employment law.

Liz has been recommended in the Legal 500 on numerous occasions and has often been praised for her clear advice. She has a passion for helping people with their employment law problems and using the law to achieve change. She enjoys public speaking and has delivered training seminars to large audiences for clients as well as at ACAS conferences and for the Institute of Employment Rights.

Biography

Louise is an employment solicitor at AOP.

She has a wide breadth of knowledge of employment and discrimination law. After qualifying in private practice, she worked for a wide range of clients including private, local authority, public sector and charitable organisations, a trade union, and government departments. This included successfully setting up and managing an employment team at a large, not for profit organisation.

Louise is experienced in managing a complex variety of casework and is an expert in all aspects of employment law, including statutory and contractual rights, tribunal procedures, the conduct of litigation, mediation and settlement of claims, TUPE, and redundancy procedures.

She is enthusiastic about employment law and has been commended for her communication skills and ability to give clear, accurate, and workable advice.

Professional discipline

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    Scott Shadbolt

    Head of professional discipline

  • Katharine Germishuys

    Katharine Germishuys

    Legal adviser

  • Nan Mousley

    Nan Mousley

    Solicitor

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    Katie Holland

    Solicitor

Biography

Scott Shadbolt is head of professional discipline at the AOP and reports to the director of legal & regulatory.

Scott previously worked at the General Dental Council for over 10 years before joining the AOP in late 2023. Scott’s experience at the General Dental Council, and in various other legal roles prior to that, allowed him to develop a wide array of skills which allow him to assist members with enquiries and formal investigations.

In particular, Scott has vast experience in professional regulation matters from interim order proceedings to substantive investigations and hearings. Scott also has experience of High Court proceedings particularly those relating to extensions of interim orders and appeals.

Biography

Katharine Germishuys is a legal adviser in the professional discipline team.

Originally from South Africa, Katharine qualified as an attorney in 2012 and additionally holds a degree in Political Science.

With a background in advising intergovernmental bodies on financial regulatory matters specifically investigations and enforcement, she appreciates executing successful approaches to comply with regulatory obligations. She supports members in establishing a collaborative relationship with their regulator to ensure they are well placed to engage and defend any potential misconduct cases.

She has a particular interest in the rule of law and how it has been and still is established through the struggles of ordinary people.

Biography

Nan joined the AOP in 2021.

Qualifying as a solicitor in 1989, Nan’s career began in criminal defence, both as a litigator and advocate defending those charged with offences ranging from minor public disorder, murders, frauds, and drug dealing. She has appeared successfully as an advocate in the magistrates, Crown Court and Court of Appeal.

Nan’s skills as a criminal lawyer have been a huge asset to the AOP’s professional discipline team; not only has she secured a series of excellent results at the General Optical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee, but she has also secured favourable outcomes for members being investigated by the NHS.

Biography

Katie joined the AOP in 2021 bringing a wealth of experience and expertise in professional regulation to the organisation.

Qualifying in 2006, Katie has spent a considerable proportion of her career in private practice specialising in litigation and dispute resolution acting in a wide variety of disputes that vary widely in value and complexity. Katie was promoted to Partner in 2010. In 2011, Katie decided to widen her legal expertise to include regulatory and disciplinary law when she joined the largest global accountancy regulator, ACCA. There she spent the best part of 10 years dealing with high profile investigations, many of which attracted reputational risk and/or press interest.

Katie’s extensive legal background ensures that she offers sound, pragmatic, and sensitive advice which has led to her track excellent track record of achieving results for members.

Clinical negligence

  • EfaSchmidtphoto

    Efa Schmidt

    Head of clinical negligence

  • Emma Brindley

    Emma Brindley

    Solicitor

  • Loshima Begum

    Loshima Begum

    Solicitor

  • Raiza Murtaza

    Raisa Murtaza

    Solicitor - maternity leave

Biography

Efa is the head of clinical negligence at the AOP and joined in 2019. She is an experienced litigation lawyer with over 15 years spent practicing in law. She was called to the bar as a barrister in 2006 and cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2011.

Efa has a wealth of experience in clinical negligence law having represented clients in proceedings involving delays in diagnosis and misdiagnosis brought against NHS Trusts, GP’s, optometrists, surgeons, and private hospitals.

Immediately before joining the AOP, Efa worked on the Infected Blood Inquiry representing more than 1000 victims who were infected with contaminated blood over a period of two decades.

Before that, Efa represented clients at one of the UK’s largest consumer law firms where she managed many complex cases including those where proceedings had been issued within the High Court.

She has represented 100’s of clients and has worked on a number of high-profile legal cases, including Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Cyril Smith, Southbank International School, Dr Hamid and Derek Slade, where she regularly advocated in the Royal Courts of Justice. She has also represented clients internationally including the USA, Saudi Arabia, and India.

Efa has also appeared on national television (including Sky News, BBC, Channel 4, ITV), radio and national press commenting on current and topical legal issues.

Outside of her traditional practice, Efa has taught a module in Crime and Punishment at the University of Westminster in London; she was part of the Steering Committee that launched the Thames Valley Brain Injury forum; and she did a secondment in the USA where she was sworn in as a Court appointed Child Advocate. She also has a First-Class Business Studies Degree.

Efa is committed to providing the highest level of client care and prides herself on going the extra mile to ensure the very best outcome possible for our members.

Biography

Emma is a clinical negligence solicitor at the AOP. She reports to our head of clinical negligence, Efa Schmidt, and is assisted by the team’s paralegal, Claudia De Silva.

Emma studied at Cambridge University and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in law (with honours). Emma also went on to complete a Master of Laws (LLM) at the University of Law.

Emma joined the AOP as a paralegal in 2017 and was subsequently offered a training contract, which she completed whilst also studying for the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Emma qualified as a solicitor in 2020 and has been specialising in clinical negligence claims since.

Emma has gained a significant amount of experience in the field of clinical negligence, having worked on a range of complex and high value claims, both as a paralegal and during her training contract. In 2021, she represented a member at a High Court Trial where she also assisted the leading Counsel.

Emma has also assisted in a number of professional discipline/regulatory matters, in particular working with the director of legal & regulatory and the member on the notable General Optical Council v Honey Rose (2020) and Professional Standards Authority v General Optical Council and Honey Rose (2021). She completed a seat in employment law in 2020.

As a qualified solicitor, Emma has day-to-day conduct of all our clinical negligence claims, both pre-action and litigated. She is committed to delivering the best possible standard of service and resolution for our members, regularly going beyond to secure discontinuances and settlements alike. She is routinely commended by our members for her robust, dedicated, and compassionate approach.

Outside of her everyday practice, Emma has a keen interest in the costs associated with clinical negligence claims; she completed her master’s dissertation on this topic and was awarded a distinction grade. Emma has also written a number of legal articles for OT and is considering undertaking further training to obtain her Higher Rights of Audience.

Biography

Loshima joined the AOP as an in-house solicitor in November 2023 following her departure from private practice. Before she qualified as a solicitor in 2021, Loshima gained several years of experience in personal injury, where she specialised in dealing with claims arising out of employer’s liability and public liability.

During her training contract and post-qualification, Loshima’s career transitioned to the exciting world of clinical negligence, where she delved into the complexities posed by the healthcare sector and its legal challenges. Loshima has dealt with various types of clinical negligence claims including, inter alia, dental negligence, misdiagnosis of cancer, birth injuries, incorrect surgical procedures, and fatality claims.

In addition to her legal career, Loshima dedicates her time to community service. She actively engages in pro bono work at her local mosque, offering legal counsel on a range of issues. She is dedicated to making a positive impact beyond her career and attempts to exemplify a holistic approach to the practice of law.

Clinical and regulatory

  • Henry Leonard

    Henry Leonard

    Head of clinical and regulatory

  • Farah Topia

    Farah Topia

    Clinical adviser

  • AishahFazlanie400

    Aishah Fazlanie

    Clinical adviser

  • Roshni Kanabar

    Roshni Kanabar

    Clinical adviser

Biography

Henry is the head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP.

Since qualifying as an optometrist, Henry has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including independent opticians, small groups, and large multiples. He is an active member of his Local Optical Committee (LOC), serving as clinical governance lead for Buckinghamshire, and continues to work regularly in community practice.

In his role as head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, he provides tailored advice to individual optometrists throughout the UK and is involved in drafting clinical and regulatory guidance for the wider membership. Since joining the AOP in 2015, he has provided over 300 clinical opinions to assist the AOP’s legal team in representing and defending practitioners who are the subject of employment, NHS or GOC investigations, and in respect of civil claims.

Henry also acts as a media spokesperson for the AOP and has been interviewed on live national television for BBC News and Sky News, and on multiple national and local radio stations on a range of topics including driving and vision, children’s eyecare, and how smoking affects eye health. He has appeared in local and national print media, features regularly within the optical press, and has attended parliamentary roundtable events, giving presentations to MPs on vision and driving.

Henry has an interest in software development; most recently he developed the AOP’s GOS audit tool, allowing contractors in England to audit their NHS claiming to identify areas where they may be vulnerable to reclaims following an audit. Henry also represents the AOP on the Information and IT committee and the NHS England Transforming eye care for people with learning disabilities project.

Henry has also been involved in charity work; he is a current trustee of the Optical Benevolent Fund and has previously travelled to Tibet to help set up an optometry clinic in the remote town of Yushu on behalf of ROKPA, a medical charity working in Tibet, Nepal, and Zimbabwe.

  • KevinWallace

    Kevin Wallace

    Clinical adviser