King Canute on a Bicycle? With Google Glasses?

King Canute on a bicycle? With Google glasses?

The story of King Canute [Cnut the Great] these days is told one of two ways. Version One – the King was a man who knew that he was only a man and not a God. So when his Courtiers flattered him and told him he was all-powerful, his demonstration that he was powerless to stop the incoming tide was intended to prove to his courtiers that even the King himself is subservient to God’s law.

Or, version Two, perhaps he really did think he could stop the tides – certainly most people speak of King Canute being a fool who thought that his powers extended to stopping the sea in its tracks.

Whichever is true, it seems a bit politically dangerous for a King to have shown so graphically that there was a limit to his power. So either way Canute may have been on a loser.

The new incoming tide now is the ever increasing speed of change in technology. This extends to bicycles and cameras!

You will have noticed that ever other cyclist in the city these days wears a video camera. No doubt the purpose of this is to enable the cyclist to prove what happened if he should be unlucky enough to be involved in a road collision.

Another potentially more intrusive development is the so-called “Google glasses”. In UK they are not really here yet but the worry of them is already causing concern. One fear is that by the time everybody wears Google glasses it will be possible for the internet to locate anyone anytime. If you are an escaped convict, or an office-worker on a “sicky”, sitting on an underground train opposite a Google glass wearer then the internet will recognise your face just as a number plate recognition already recognises your car.
Most people seem to agree that this is a bad thing.

There is no present framework in the law to deal with Google glass – it is not yet clear indeed what Google glass is capable of. Will it allow a criminal to walk once around the streets and then, back home at leisure, identify on his computer the whereabouts of every security camera he has strolled past and its field of vision enabling a route to be plotted which avoids all security cameras?

Will it allow people to sit in the cinema then walk away with a perfect version of the film downloaded through their glasses?

Back to King Canute. These days perhaps King Canute’s younger brother is still alive and practicing in the German courts. This would be the District Judge in Munich dealing with a fairly trivial motoring collision earlier this year.

Each of two drivers gave conflicting evidence blaming the other and there were no witnesses. One of the drivers however had a video camera in his car which he says clearly showed how the accident happened. The Judge refused to see the evidence of the video film. The reason the Judge gave or is reported to have given is “at this rate society will be giving up the right for informational self-determination – if every citizen attaches a camera in his vehicle or his clothing everyone will be filming and permanently monitoring each other for no reason”.

In another German case a Judge has said that the use of video cameras in vehicles may even be illegal in certain circumstances.

These two Judges are prioritising the privacy interest of citizens and whilst most of us would agree that privacy of citizens is important I wonder whether our agreement would extend to excluding video evidence when it is the only means of being sure of the circumstances of a road accident.

I would also suggest that the Judges would have not have excluded the video evidence if the accident had resulted in death. So where do we draw the line!

The Law is constantly having to adjust itself as the circumstances of modern life change. At present the advent of Google glass certainly seems to be raising more questions than the law can presently answer.

I doubt whether the answer is to sit on a Throne, or a Judge’s chair, order back the tide of technology and simply refuse to listen to the evidence.

My function is to Notarise your Personal or Business information and warrant it to be correct so that the truth of it is understood and accepted in any Country in the World. And in Munich too, usually!

Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

Hollywood comes to West Yorkshire – By Louise Morley

Hollywood comes to West Yorkshire – By Louise Morley

I have mentioned before in an earlier blog that one working day is never the same as another for a Notary’s Assistant.

We were instructed recently to attend upon a film set for an upcoming Hollywood movie to assist with some Notarial requirements. It was very exciting I must say! – We got to meet the Director who had very kindly offered us the opportunity to stick around and watch the scene being played out [by an “A” list star I might add].

The atmosphere was electric and I must admit I was in awe of the situation and could not quite believe how the day had come about where I was in the office one minute and standing in the middle of a film set the next watching the making of a Hollywood blockbuster!

You just never know who might call upon your services and I can say that I will never forget this particular working day!

Please remember if you are in England and  have any documentation that is for use outside of England and Wales then this should be executed in the presence of a Notary [and not a Solicitor].

We are available to discuss any requirements you may have and advise you on the best course of action. Please do not hesitate to contact me 0113 816 0116 or email louise@atkinsonnotary.com

A right to be forgotten? Whose Right? To Forget What?

A right to be forgotten? Whose Right? To Forget What?

The internet these days is everybody’s first choice of reference: – if you want to settle a pub quiz or a dispute about a football match in the 1960’s or anything whatsoever just “Google it” and there the answer will be.

Imagine if Google said it had forgotten which Country won the World Cup in 1966. Bit of a surprise.

In future for some questions you might need to use Google.com, or Google.au – if you use Google.co.uk some of the answers will be missing. There is now in Europe– according to the Judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2014 – a “Right to be Forgotten”

[Philosophy corner – Is there really a right to be forgotten, in human relationships? On the one hand, Mud sticks, and sometimes the newspapers print a libel on their front pages, and a later apology in tiny print lost among the small ads. And the Internet remembers the false allegations and might lose the apology. Most people might agree let’s delete it and forget all about it. But what about a Celebrity who wants to erase links to a deeply regretted hairstyle in their teens in the 1980’s. Is it too trivial? Who decides? And of course, Rolf Harris and several others would prefer that things that happened in the last Century be forgotten no doubt. The reality is that healthy humans do not usually forget things about each other.]

The Judgment goes short of saying that information in the Internet must be located and destroyed [as if that would be possible anyway]. What it says is that a search engine such as Google.co.uk working in Europe must erase links to information on the Internet if that information appears to be “inadequate irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive in relation to the purposes at issue”

Quite apart from the consideration of the extraordinary burden this places upon Google and other European search engines, the real question is whether the Judgment should be sustained.

A recent report [click to read it] of the English House of Lords Committee  uses language which is remarkably robust for a diplomatic paper. See para 56 – the decision is both “unworkable” and “wrong in principle”

There is shortly to be a new European law on the subject of Data Protection which is expected to address this topic again. We shall wait and see

Another Hard Case – More Bad Law?

As I wrote in an earlier Blog, “Hard Cases Make Bad Law”. The expression means that when a Court yields to the temptation to twist the Law in favour of a person with whom it feels sympathy – someone whose circumstances are a Hard Case – but in truth the Law does not support their claim, then the result will be Bad Law. It means, that the Law should be applied pure and simple – and with no regard to any unfortunate hardship of the particular case.

In my earlier blog I was pleased to see the Court follow the maxim. But today I see a case which I think may be Bad Law, where the Court has in my opinion bent to please claimants for whom it feels sorry.

The case of CLP Holding Company v Singh & Kaur deals with liability pay to pay VAT.

The facts are simple – the Contract for Commercial Premises in England was in the form used by most Lawyers in England and said that the price was £130,000.00.
In the small print of the Contract was the usual wording which said that “All Sums Made Payable By The Contract Are Exclusive Of Value Added Tax”

This was a property which was within the VAT regime. Accordingly the clear and obvious meaning of the Contract was that the Purchasers should pay £130,000 for a property to the Seller and a further sum of £22,750 [17.5% in 2006] to the Tax Man.

The Purchasers’ claim was that being unsophisticated shopkeepers they had no knowledge of any liability to pay VAT, and so should not have to pay it. In my opinion this should have nothing to do with it. Admittedly, they had already paid the £130,000.00 before moving in and the Sellers had muddied the water by saying that nothing further was payable TO THEM on formal completion. But Still.

After various Court cases and decisions going one way then the other on Appeal the present result has been in favour of the Buyers for whom the Judge has sympathy [identifying this as a “Hard Case”] – the law report says, in the words of the Judge “the Defendants are individuals and whilst I recognise that the property comprises Commercial Premises there has never been any suggestion that the Defendants were aware or had any reason to suppose that the transaction might be subject to a VAT charge”.

Really? So presumably if it had been the Sellers who were ignorant, the case would go the other way? Perhaps the trick to winning Court disputes is to prove that you are more ignorant than your opponent – Is this the new Law?

Leaving aside the fact that one would have thought that circumstances and knowledge of the Purchasers was nothing to do with the case, what about the fact that the Purchase price was clearly written in the Contract and that later in the small print of the Contract, were written the words that “all sums made payable by the Contract are exclusive of Value Added Tax”.

The Judge have dealt with that little problem by saying that “General or Standard conditions in Contracts are overruled by Special Conditions” – and that because the price of £130,000.00 was written in the Contract therefore that price was a Special Condition so that the statement of “The price is £130,000.00” has overruled the General Condition that the sum to be paid is exclusive of value added tax.

This surprising interpretation would seem to mean that a written statement of the purchase price will always overrule the general condition that “all sums made payable by the Contract are exclusive of value added tax”.

If that be the case I fail to see the significance of writing that general condition into the Contract as other than a waste of ink.

I do wonder whether this rather surprising result will be applied in favour of any future such case where the Purchasers are professional business men. [Let me Guess – urr no, thought not] So now we have a two tier system of one law for the sophisticated and another for the ignorant or careless – this is the Bad Law resulting from the Hard Case.

Of course all the worry and fuss, wasted time and wasted cost of the Court cases would have been avoided if only the Sellers had written in the contract that the purchase price was “£130,000 .00 plus VAT.”

Certainly this is the message which Conveyancing Lawyers will pick up from the Case – Do not rely upon the General Conditions of your Contracts – spell it out once and spell it out again. The Law has “dumbed down” and if your contract cannot be understood by the feckless, you will be the loser.

I usually finish my blogs by saying that the law is of such complexity that an Expert should always be consulted. But if you take any guidance from this case, perhaps it is – stay away from Experts who know the Law and will explain it to you, or you will have to pay your VAT!

Be that as it may, I am, as ever, here in Leeds and ready to provide my Notarial Services – Do please contact me whenever I can assist you. I am at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com and +44 (0)113 816 0116 and notary@atkinsonnotary.com