If you’ve ever felt bewildered by legalese and found it far removed from Plain English, take heart: you’re in good company. Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Ward recently heard a case revolving around the Council Tax liability of a family living on an old tug boat, the Cannis. One factor having a bearing on the decision was “hereditament”. Having struggled to find an intelligible definition/explanation of this term in the statutes, Sir Alan commented:
If prizes are to be offered for legislative gobbledegook then the foregoing would surely qualify. Having undertaken that trawl through these various statutes I confess to my shame I am no wiser nor would any ordinary citizen be without help from the Practice Note. [my italics]
So judges can be just as flummoxed as we are by legal jargon. Here is one of the “astonishingly informative” definitions Sir Alan was referring to:
(1) An hereditament is anything which, by virtue of the definition of hereditament in s. 115(1) of the 1967 Act, would have been an hereditament for the purposes of that Act had this Act not been passed.
So now you know.
If you’ve got time, read through the judgment. It’s long and complex, but fascinating, with occasional touches of (very dry) wit. And if you don’t have time, at least read paragraph 30 (having first read paragraph 4, to get the reference). It’s good to see a judge with a sense of humour and who can turn a nice pun.
With thanks to Joe Ury of BAILII
By Marian Dougan
Published by Marian Dougan
Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster.
From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group.
She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options.
Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland.
She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.
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Great article highlighting the dangers of “legislative gobbledegook” for those who need to understand it.
PS this is a short judgment by most standards!
Thanks, Sarah! (more brevity…)
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