The Truth Again. Always a Bit of a Worry.

More fuss about the meaning of words. What does “Truth” mean? [What does “Mean” mean!]

A Notary, when it comes to basics, is an “Expert Witness” as to matters of fact.

The role of an Expert Witness in most Courts of the World differs from that of the ordinary person who is called as a Witness.

The difference is that when the ordinary person [OP] sees a car crashing on a rainy road, he can say to the Court “It was raining. I saw the car crash. The car seemed to me to be moving faster than other cars. No other car crashed”. The Court will then decide whether or not it believes that evidence.

He cannot say “The driver was reckless in my opinion, he was doing at least 100 miles an hour, he was driving without a thought for the safety of anyone else”. Because those are opinions, not necessarily facts. The Court wants to hear the facts. It will then reach its own opinion.

On the other hand, an Accident Investigation Expert Witness [EW] may not have seen the crash. But he can inspect the wreckage, measure the skid marks and the treads in the tyres and whether the brakes had been tampered with. From this evidence and his expert knowledge, he can give his opinion to the Court as to the speed of the car before the collision. He is an expert, his opinion will help the Court and it is based upon knowledge and training beyond the expertise of the Court itself.

The EW needs to show the Court, why s/he should be considered to be an Expert. A Degree in Automotive Engineering and an MSc. in Safety and Accident Investigation for example. Actual Qualifications.

Similarly, a Notary Public has achieved that special qualification by examination and experience. Usually in England, some seven years’ experience and examinations which include a Law Degree and becoming a Solicitor before the final Notary exams.

So what is an Expert Witness of facts? As opposed to an OP stating a fact. Well I can say “It was raining”. And the Court will believe me! Well it will unless you can prove I am lying.

Here is the English Rule – link here. Other Countries treat Notaries in the same way.

32.20 A notarial act or instrument may be received in evidence without further proof as duly authenticated in accordance with the requirements of law unless the contrary is proved.

I think that anyone with a special status, has a special responsibility. If the Courts grant me the courtesy of believing what I say, I must be sure that I only speak or write the truth.

Last week I wrote about the deviations which increasingly occur, between the meaning of a document – the words of which it is composed – and the meaning which is actually to be ascribed to it.

It seems simple, surely. Just tell the truth. But when words don’t mean what they used to?

The example last week, of a client asked to swear that photographs [which were actually lying on a desk in Florida] were physically attached to the Affidavit she was signing in Leeds.

I have another one this week. Presumably if bad luck comes in threes, I will have another next week also. What is going on?!

This week a client is completing a tender for commercial work in Portugal. Part of the application form requires him to make, and me to notarise, a statement that his company if successful in its bid, will sign a contract “in the terms of the specimen attached”.

The problem is that the bid has to be lodged this week or it will not be considered, yet the final contract offer has not been fully written. So it cannot be attached to the bid. And even if it did exist, it will be many hundreds of pages long and is not intended ever to be printed out, but to exist as a digital document only.

Seems simple, just change the bid declaration wording to say that the Company will sign a contract “in the terms finally negotiated in due course” or some such vague wording.

No, we can’t do that, the terms of the bid declaration are set in stone, they are part of the Portuguese standard documentation for international tendering, as they have been probably since before computers were ever used in Offices.

So in order to compete for the tender, the Client has to sign a declaration [which has a prison sentence as punishment for any known lies contained in it] which he knows to be false, and which the persons who will receive it in due will know to be untrue. They expect it to be untrue, they require it to be untrue. If there had been a final contract now agreed, and if its thousand or so pages were printed out and actually attached to the declaration, they would be very cross!

So where are we now? In order to compete for the bid, the Client and I are required to complete a Declaration of Truth which contains a lie. Everyone in the procedure including the Portuguese Lawyers knows this and explains it by saying “It is a standard form. It describes a procedure which is outdated. We do it differently now. We can’t change the form because needs an Act of Portuguese Government and that’s not going to happen. So we all agree just to ascribe to the words, a meaning which is contrary to the meaning of those words in the dictionary”.

Where does that leave the Notary, who has to tell something called “the Truth”? Where, for that matter, does it leave the “Truth”?

As usual Bob Dylan knows. “A noble truth is a sacred dream” Link here

Ok that’s enough metaphysics for one day.

If you have a document that tells the Truth, for use abroad, please do get in touch. As ever, Louise and I are at  and and phone us on 0113 816 0116