Dealing with Foreign Language Legal Documents.

Dealing with Foreign Language Legal Documents.

As an English Notary I am used to seeing documents written in French German and Spanish and I have some knowledge of those written languages.  Of course I also see documents written in all the languages of the world – Arabic, Chinese, Russian and no Notary could hope to read, or be be fluent in, all languages.

The Notarial profession has its practice rules and rule 9.3 says: “a Notary may not authenticate by means of a Notarial act a document drawn up in a language other than English unless he has satisfied himself as to its meaning but this does not prevent a Notary from authenticating the execution or signature of a document in any language.”

For a Notary presented with a document in English or in a language in which he is sufficiently able therefore, this is no problem.

Before the advent of the Internet this rule would have meant that an English Notary presented with [for example] a Russian language document which he could not read would need a professional translation of the document into English before being able to proceed.Sometimes such a translation will still be required but it is now very often possible to type the foreign language document or have it emailed from abroad as a “plain text” or “word” digital document. There are various translation engines on the internet which can then decode (with varying degrees of accuracy!) the foreign text into English.

This is an invaluable tool for a Notary and can save translators’ fees for his clients – Nine times of ten the document is being prepared for a client who is fluent in the language of the document anyway, but of course then the concern the Notary has is whether his client is explaining honestly and truly what is the meaning of the document.

Whilst a computer translation will not be grammatically accurate in English it will help enormously to indicate whether the document is a Power of Attorney or other proper legal document, or a document which should not be Notarised for whatever reason.

The “Vicky Pryce” defence to be abolished? Married women to be credited with minds of their own Shock Horror!

The “Vicky Pryce” defence to be abolished? Married women to be credited with minds of their own Shock Horror.

The 2013 case involving the trials and imprisonments of the ex-MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce brought into the spotlight the legal defence afforded by section 47 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 of “coercion of married women by husband”. Her plea was – in essence – “He forced me to do it”

The anomalies of this defence viewed through modern eyes are that
* This defence is available ONLY to a married woman who is able to show that she committed a criminal offence because her husband forced her to do it. (And in today’s context no-one knows what FORCED means. Arguably it used to mean TOLD her to do it, in days when a woman’s living depended entirely upon the goodwill of her husband).
* It is NOT available to a married man “forced” to offend by his wife nor
* To either party in a same-sex relationship. Nor
* To a women who has lived with, but not married, a dominant man for whatever period of time.
These anomalies now seem to be out of date. Most women would now consider it ludicrous that, whether or not married, their husband’s will should ever override their own, still less be presumed to do so as a matter of law.

It seems that the defence will shortly be abolished – Lord Taylor of Hall Beach has supported on behalf of the government a proposal by Lord Pannick QC to abolish the defence and to repeal section 47 of the Act. [Do note, that there is still the defence of duress if anyone commits a crime because of threats of death or really serious physical harm.]

Having looked up Section 47 of the Act, my particular interest in it is to note the wording of the 1925 legislation. It states that for any offence other than treason or murder it should be a good defence to prove that an offence was committed under the coercion of a husband, AND:-
In particular, it abolishes the previous law which, if you can believe it, was that ANY offence committed by a wife in the physical presence of her husband would automatically be deemed to be no offence by her at all.

Before 1925 therefore it appears that the law considered that a women who was present with her husband, could have no mind of her own whatsoever. A very graphic illustration of the Victorian mind-set – if somewhat bad news for the law abiding husband of a criminal wife. Presumably he would have had to go to jail because of her crimes – that is, for not controlling her!

Changes come slowly but they do come.