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The photo will clearly be your mother’s property so she should be able to demand for its return. The issue is what happens if your sister refuses to return it. A solicitor can only do so much and they cannot really do much more than simply make a formal request for its return, something your mother can do for free without using a solicitor. A formal solicitors’ letter can still add a bit of weight as it would show she is taking this seriously and is enlisting professional help but it would still not guarantee its return. If she flatly refuses to return the photo then the only option left is for legal action. That would only have two potential outcomes – an order for specific performance ordering her to return the photo, with failure to follow it resulting in potential contempt which can eventually become a criminal breach. The other possibility is compensation for damages but that won’t resolve the issue of getting the photo back. I suggest you start off with sending a letter yourself (or helping your mother send one from her name) and only getting a solicitor if it appears she is refusing to give the photo back. As a starting point you can also set a specific timescale -for compliance, such as 7-14 days, although it is preferable to specify a set date instead.
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