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Frequently Questioned Answers
Please note that this document is no longer being maintained. I departed in early 2000, exhausted by the overwhelming well, let's just say it had ceased to be a pleasant place to hang out and discuss bits of law among friends.

May I say that the law forum now provides rather better discussion of rather more law with rather less noise and heat. It is available at


  1. Introduction
  2. What is
  3. Posting to - some guidelines Posting to - general guidelines
    1. I'm New to all this Usenet stuff - what next?
    2. Using names in thread titles
    3. Can I post binaries to
    4. Mens rea cannot survive in a post-rationalist era. Discuss
    5. 'I have this agreement ...'
    6. 'There is a thread on child porn, should I join in?'
    7. This chap is clearly loopy ...
    8. How can I be popular?
    9. I have this loopy friend who wants to know ?
    10. 'My lawyer says ...'
    11. Please reply by e-mail ...
  4. What On-line resources are there for UK law?
  5. What's a troll?
  6. Lurking
  7. Having the last word
  8. Why can't I get Acts of Parliament on line (and if I can where are they)?
  9. What responsibility do posters to have?
  10. Advice for those seeking advice
  11. Can my employer read my e-mail?
  12. Do I need a TV Licence if ... ?
  13. Can I record a telephone call?
  14. Am I allowed to pee on the back tyre of my car?
  15. Finding a lawyer
    1. What do you mean by a Good Lawyer?
  16. I'm a lawyer, why don't people like me?
  17. Will this aluminium vest help me receive Channel 5?
  18. Legal Tag-lines
  19. Who is?
  20. Acknowledgements
  21. Administration - Version, Comments corrections etc

  1. Introduction

    This project started a few years ago, and then lay forgotten. It wasn't published, because it wasn't finished. It still isn't, and perhaps it shouldn't be. You will not see many smileys, but much is tongue in cheek. In case you should be tempted to think otherwise, this is not legal advice, it is a bit of argumentative legal fun. If you have a real problem, take real advice. That means setting out your problem in detail before a lawyer, and letting him, her, or it, discuss it with you in similar detail. There is no satisfactory substitute.

    Similarly, this document is not up to date. All legal advice has a sell-by date expiring on the day it is given. The human body stays the same, and a remedy which worked a hundred years ago should work today. Doctors are lucky. Lawyers operate within a vast expanses of rules and case law, any of which may change on any day, and entirely unpredictably. The date at the bottom of the document is not the date for all the text. I do not keep each of the several parts up to date, much will get out of date, and remain uncorrected for some time.

    I try to deal with some of the regular questions which come up on, and where the answers tend to be the same. It is an 'FQA' because although some of the answers are given regularly, nobody tends to believe them - which is only what you would expect of a bunch of lawyers and LIPs. I do not have the patience to write the sort of painstaking, and dry, work of reference which would justify the full title of FAQ. Take it as you find it.

    If you are not reading this on our glorious web site, then the remnants of HTML code do not work. I created this as a text file, it has become an HTML, document and when I post it to, it gets (almost) cleaned of HTML tags. Do not be misled and cause yourself apoplexy by trying your mouse buttons out on what look like links - they aren't.

    This file is maintained by David Swarbrick (details at the end). The most recent version is always available on-line at

    but should be posted to roughly once a blue moon.


  2. What is is a discussion group on Usenet, devoted to the discussion of matters legal, within the legal systems of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The group began in 1993 and is quite open and un-moderated. I am not sure quite who started it or how, but I think it had something to do with a law student called Jonathan Hill, now a barrister.

    What it is not, in any sense, is a forum for lawyers to forth of their wisdom, for the general betterment of those in need. There are many who post to regularly who are not qualified, but who have both through life experience, and general intelligence easily hold their own in discussions. There are many to whom I would happily defer on many points. It is not a 'club' for lawyers. Inevitably, those who post regularly, and do so over a longer period of time, coome to know each other fairly well

    You are therefore very welcome to join in. More than that, we beg you to do so. Because is un-moderated, discussion often wanders away from matters strictly legal, and sometimes descends well below what you might expect in a prison cell where the inmates have been fed on lentils for a week. If you read this on, you may already know that I am being polite. is un-moderated - what you post goes straight onto the group, and will be available almost instantly. Nobody checks it for common sense, or legal accuracy. Nobody can pre-censor you; and not many want to. This gives you a very considerable freedom. This freedom is much abused, but also gives a character to Usenet which is distinct and highly valuable. Try to restrain your own excess, but not too much. Be provocative, but not merely so.

    E-mail is dangerous; half way between a chat in a pub, and letter writing. It has the disadvantages of both. We feel as if we are chatting, but we know not who is listening, nor do we really know those we think are listening. In law, your every e-pistle is a permanent record, and in defamation terms what you write is published by you, and is subject to the laws of libel, not slander. It is also relativeley easy to find just about every posting you ever made, in any newsgroup. What you toss off in a moment's weakness, can found an action for libel against you. It may happen only very rarely, but it has happened, and will undoubtedly happen again.

    It is easy to post rubbish, and we all do so - well, ok, I do - every now and then. If you get something wrong, consider carefully posting a correction, and if necessary an apology. It is surprising how much an apology can raise your acceptability among readers. It takes a man (or a woman, sorry) to apologise.

    Be careful; it is easy to miss nuances of irony when reading posts, and it is easy for your own gentle irony to be seen as bitter and twisted sarcasm. I do not myself like smilies, but if you need to ask, then your reader probably does need a smiley. Nothing complicated a :-) will do.


  3. Posting to - some guidelines

    1. I'm new to all this usenet - what next?

      Coming across a usenet news group can be a bit of a shock to the system. Best stick around for a week or so, just reading, getting used to what is going on, and find out who is who.

      It can be helpful also to subscribe to the newsgroup news.announce.newusers. You will find, over a few days, several useful postings which will avoid your committing usenet doodoos. Particularly readable are the 'Emily Postnews' postings, which do not have the po-faced qualities so beloved by some others.

      A more entertaining alternative is to just jump in, caps lock on, and cuss away. You will very quickly find many helpful souls who will, no doubt very gently, give you suggestions as to how you might do things better. The learning curve will be rather quicker, and probably the 'recovery curve' slightly longer also.


    2. Using names in thread titles

      I wonder whether we could establish a norm (not a rule) within this group that regular posters would follow at their choice. Often a thread is started which uses someone's name in the title. The post may be used to insult, or denegrate, the person named. It would seem a sensible approach, when replying to such threads, to delete the name entirely, so as to make sure the unfortunate original target is no longer named. For one thing, such titles are often themselves libellous, and simply quoting it back repeats the libel.

      It might be taken as a quiet indication of the intention of the author generally to stay aside from personal insults. If enough of us did it, it would do much to take heat out of some threads. I speak, of course, as a past victim of this. The scars have gone, but the memory stays.


    3. Can I post binaries to

      Well you can, but expect to be roasted alive, after being shot at dawn, and hung drawn and quartered for elevenses. We want text, and text only. What the hell would you want to post anyway as a binary?

      Recently there have been so many e-mail viruses, that this is a more compelling reason to discourage binary postings.

      One or two post HTML files. I cannot imagine why, but they obviously know what they are doing, and have no wish to achieve any popularity.


    4. Mens rea cannot survive in a post-rationalist era. Discuss.

      Sometimes people post questions which might better be headed 'Will you do my homework for me?' Readers on will have different reactions. Some admire the wisdom of taking counsel from those who know, and some think it is just crass laziness. If what you post is too obviously a homework question, and little more, do not expect much help. Equally, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that a question is a homework, when, in reality, you should be seeing that some people do actually live the lives upon which legal chattering is based.

      If, on the other hand you take the time to pose the question, and to suggest one or two answers, however tentative, you will then, in general, provoke discussion, and are more likely to get the assistance you need.

      On the other hand, (I keep a spare in case of urgent need), one or two of our regular readers are lecturers in law, and they cast an eye over this list, just to make sure that none of their own students are looking for assistance. Who knows ... one could be yours ...


    5. 'I have this agreement ...'

      Some posters say 'I have this agreement/deed ... ' and then proceed to ask for it to be interpreted. Sadly, the first rule for any lawyer must be to 'read the words.' Without the actual words of the agreement any comment will be almost valueless - at best good guesswork.

      If you are asking others to take the trouble to advise you, and for free, the least you can do is to type in the necessary extract, and in this case more is generally good. Do not extract a few words from a sentence, and leave out the uncomprehended gobbledeygook. It may be precisely that gobbledeygook by which you sink or swim.


    6. There is a thread on Child Porn, should I join in ...?

      No, and again, No. We know you don't like child porn, and if you join in suggesting anything less than your own personal desire to fry slowly the dangly bits of any child molester, you will be accused of a having a sympathetic personality - which we know to be untrue. Sooner or later every such thread descends into name calling. You are best out of it.

      This also applies to threads on restricting access to guns; doubly so if the newsgroups include any US newsgroups, or anything looking like 'alt.guns ...'


    7. This chap is clearly loopy ...

      Well, now you know what we lawyers have to put up with every day. Some loopy people become fixated on medicine - they become hypochondriacs. Some loopy people become utterly and irretrievably fixated with the law, and become judges; and if they are rich enough, or poor enough, can also be clients.

      If someone is clearly out of his mind, there is little possibility that you will be able to use the medium of Usenet to solve his problems. The best you can do is usually to add his or her name to your kill file, and to pass by without further comment. Not, of course, that I ever manage to do this myself ...


    8. How can I become Popular?

      You can't. You can be popular with some of the people, some of the time, but don't aim too high. The best is to feel unpopular with everyone for some of the time, and hope that, for the rest of the time, you suffer benign tolerance.


    9. I have this loopy friend who wants to know ...

      C'mon, who are you kidding? If you had any friends, you wouldn't be here in the first place! It is perfectly proper to ask a question on behalf either of someone else or for yourself or, if schizoid, for both of you, but do expect to have your leg pulled.


    10. 'My lawyer says ...'

      If so, then the lawyers on the group will not, rather should not, second guess her/him, but simply refer you back. S/He will have far better information about the details of your matter than you can give to posters within the group.

      You may be able to extract a reluctant and general comment about the law, but not much of one.


    11. What's a troll?

      Every so often the newsgroup goes a bit quiet. A troll is one of those, almost useful, individuals, who posts arrogant rubbish to the group, in the hope, and no more, of stirring up a hornet's nest. It is usual to complain loudly about such people, but what would Usenet be without them? The stone is dropped in the pond, the ripples flow about, and before long everyone is happily slagging each other off again - but rarely on the topic chosen by the troll.

      An interesting philosophical question ...

      What relationship does a troll have to the Usenet disease of wanting to have the last word? See 'Having the last word'. A troll seems to be the precise reverse. Someone who 'drops a clanger,' then stands back, and watches a hundred people exhausting themselves trying to have the last word. Does a troll also seek to have the last word?


    12. Please reply by e-mail ...

      I personally always feel unwilling to assist when a post ends in this way. I feel the newsgroup is a place for discussion. The suggestion that a reply should be sent by e-mail just sounds as if you can't be bothered with the discussion, you just want a free answer.

      That is, of course a perfectly proper and respectable approach. It is just not one which is likely to generate much of an answer from me.

    13. Lurking

      Lurking is entirely honourable. For every subscriber spouting about this and that, there are at least ten others, who read most of what passes within the group without comment; they lurk. Lurking is fine. It isn't 'loitering with intent', and there are already too many of people shouting too much. A quiet peruser gives the rest of us a feeling of quite unjustified importance.

      It makes sense to lurk within the group for a week or two before posting. You will learn who needs to remain unanswered at all costs, who will spit at you as easily as say hello, and who is just trolling. You can talk to the other one. The patience will also give you confidence - if others are prepared to post so much rubbish, you should not be deterred from adding your own little gems (of non-rubbish of course).

      Remember that you do not know who will read what you write, and take care accordingly. Some banana heads will take the fact that you announce yourself as a leading QC and expert on TV Licensing, as a reason to take your word as gospel. They may act upon your very word, and hang upon them later.


    14. Having the Last Word

      What is it which makes usenet such a lively place? What makes it so boring. How can any conversation ever go on for two months? A simple but inevitable rule is that if three people are talking to each other, and each feels a strong desire to have the last word, and if words come cheap, then the conversation will continue well past any lingering point of virtue.


    15. Why can't I get Acts of Parliament on line?

      You can. As from the beginning of 1996 Acts are being made available on-line by the Stationery office. There are some real difficulties with the service, but we shouldn't be churlish. They are available on UK Acts on line (that's at

      This site is getting better all the time, but the search engine (or perhaps my use of it) needs some refinement.

      Acts of Parliament are subject to copyright (Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 s.164). Copyright in an Act continues until 50 years after the end of the year in which the Act is passed. We of course as foolish citizens may think we ought to be allowed to see them quite freely, but that is a different matter. I suspect that copyright was reserved not anticipating the situation of on-line publishing which now obtains, and that a different result might have been achieved by someone with gretaer prescience, but, again, we shouldn't be churlish.

      Before an Act becomes law it exists as a Bill and is protected under s166 by Parliamentary Copyright. However copyright under this section ceases when the Bill gets the Royal Assent and springs into life as an Act of Parliament. An interesting but untested question is therefore whether a Bill, after receiving the Royal Assent becomes Public Domain. Since the final form of the Bill is necessarily the form of the Act as passed, it suggests that Bills might be typed out and distributed freely, providing just the sort of access people ought to have. I do not suggest you try, but I might do myself, just to see.

      The Stationery Office have the authority to act in these matters. They exercise a general 6 month ban on reproduction of statutes without payment. Thereafter they have no objection to you reproducing Acts of Parliament on paper. They no longer object to electronic reproduction provided you give 'added value'. In due course you should see Acts of Parliament popping up all over the place. We (Swarbrick and Co) have a substantial database awaiting publication on-line, but it is also a major burden to maintain it, and it may well now never re-appear.

    16. Proper Justice on-line

      We lawyers live in a world where we are paid only to treat our criminal clients as sausage meat. When we try to do better, we lose out financially. Some criminal clients get badly defended, others get the best of a bad job, and others (I hope ours, anyway), get a proper defence in any event. It is a surprise to no-one that courts therefore make mistakes. Again, usually the mistakes are nothing more than one person being believed over another. Very occasionally they are the product of altogether darker forces.

      Those who have been wrongly convicted suffer. If an unfair parking ticket can make your blood boil, imagine how you must feel to be wrongly accused of some truly shameful crime. You are surrounded by people who of necessity - from their continuous contact with criminals and the system - have become hard-nosed, disbelieving and insensitive. If convicted, you may suffer all the indignities of conviction, and they are considerable, and in addition the burning injustice of living with guilt wrongly imposed. It may be anything from a parking fine to a long sentence of imprisonment.

      It would be comfortable to believe that these injustices are rare. How many there are is in fact unmeasurable; but I think they are more than occasional. The Commission on Scandals in Justice (I used to call them 'sandals in justice'), fights a rare old battle against such injustices. I am sure they occasionally plead the case for some false complainers; people who cannot accept that they have been found out; but on the whole they support and publish the cases of people who genuinely need support.

      Before you get too smug, remember that justice has a recognisable taste, but injustice is much more difficult to identify. We need those who are prepared to fight that fight for us, and we must not criticise if they occasionlly back one which we feel to be a wrong 'un. Top

    17. What responsibility do posters to have?

      Q. X posts advice to telling y that he is free to do Z. X gets it wrong. Can Y sue?

      A. As they say; it all depends:

      First, and sadly, all posters should remember that we have no idea who is listening, or how they will apply it to their own lives. Anybody barmy enough to rely upon advice given direct on without getting it checked first, may also be quite loopy enough to sue the source.

      For the lawyers, remember that the fact that you are not paid for what you say on usenet, is no particular protection if you make a mess. You might be insured, but how big is your excess, and what is your reputation worth.

      Disclaimers are probably ineffective. A professional lawyer might use one, but should be careful not to rely on it. A reader should read a disclaimer and heed it.


    18. Advice to those seeking advice

      The law is not simple. Comments and or advice made on Usenet cannot possibly reflect the complexity of your own position, nor usually of the law.

      The advice is given for free, and perhaps too freely. If you want to act upon something you hear on, it is in your interests to take legal advice, which is specific to your own problem.

      When you look at your problem and seek to describe it, you cannot always know that the bit which you think is irrelevant, is not, in fact, of great importance. A longer question may get a better answer, but a question which is too long may simply be skipped unanswered.

      A lawyer's job is to take your case, your problem, in its entirety, and generally to reset it within a new aspect, a different legal or factual context; one from which your problem may be solved. A problem of any complexity never has a simple answer in law. Even if it has a simple answer, someone else, usually another lawyer, might always create another perspective, and therefore a new way of attacking your solution. All legal advice, even what you pay for, is liable to be set aside. Never give it 100% reliance, particular if its source is


    19. Do I need a TV Licence if ...?

      We sometimes get questions, of the order of 'I watch TV by first receiving the programme on my laser printer then transmitted backwards down the parallel port at 300 squilliherz, before being displayed on my SuperVGA screen. Do I need a TV Licence?' This question comes in very many guises.

      The crowd of 'answerers' on have, as you might have guessed, no idea what you are on about when you talk technical, but they do not need to. The answer is, if you can watch a broadcast of Postman Pat - YES, YOU NEED A TV LICENCE - and sometimes even if you can't.

      The technical answer is that, if the TV or video recorder is 'installed' (does it have a plug attached), then it needs a licence.

    20. Other TV Licence questions

      • I do not have a TV, how do I stop the beggers sending me reminders every six months asking me if I have changed my mind yet? Answer: You can't. For every superior being such as yourself, there are fifty with similar pretensions, but who also have a TV hidden in the loo. Just enjoy the feeling of superiority by sending it back marked 'No.'

      • Do I have to let the Inspector in?

        No. Indeed if they do turn up, and if you just might possibly have something to hide, send them away. They will come back later with a warrant, and will then have the power to enter your house and search. What might be there for them to inspect upon return is for you.

      • "I've heard that two thirds of all women prisoners are there for not having a TV Licence."

        You heard wrong. It is not an imprisonable or criminal offence, but one of that strange category of things called a civil offence. However, failing to pay your fine is imprisonable, and that is indeed how far too great a proportion of women in prison end up there (though it is still less than two thirds).


    21. May my employer read my e-mail?

      Assume so, and of course whatever the law says, if you are daft enough to post your innermost secrets across the office chat-line, what do you expect? There is as yet no substantial justification in law for thinking he cannot, but things may be changing. The 1997 decision in the European Court of Human Rights in Holroyd v UK (1997) gives some limited hope that the law will move on, but do not rely upon it.

      For the moment, a wise employer will put into place a policy announcing that employees can have no right to expect privacy at work as regards communications using office equipment - whether telephone or computer. The policy may not be sufficient (and I think it shouldn't be), but it will probably help, since the main plank of the Holroyd case was the 'reasonable expectation' of Mrs H, of privacy. Top

    22. How do I find a good lawyer?

      • What do you mean by a Good Lawyer?

        The relationship between a lawyer and client differs according to the nature of the work, the client and the lawyer. You may want someone who will listen carefully, and help you come to terms with the inescapable if you must. You may want someone who will fight for all the money you (and he) can get. You may want someone who understands people, you may want someone who understands the law, and if you are exceptionally demanding, you may want both. You may want to pass a line of Rollers before entering a reception with deep pile carpets, or you may want to pay less. Each has their own proper place in the scheme of things, and the difference is very personal. Try to be clear in your own mind just what it is that you want.

      • Do I need someone local?

        Some sorts of work, such as making wills, drafting contracts and standard terms and conveyancing can be done at a distance. Others such as family law, assuredly will need face to face contact. Where you are involved in a matter before a particular court it will usually make sense (be cheaper) to instruct someone local to the court.

      • Do I know anybody who has recently had a similar type of problem?

        Personal recommendation is often the best guide, but do not assume someone, who has just done your conveyance nicely, will be similarly successful in defending you on a charge of being too friendly with the neighbour's goat. He might be, but do not assume so.

      • Buying on price is a guide, but can be a very poor one.

        Any firm is capable of making a dogs dinner of some job or other. I would certainly be careful of a firm which charges so little for their service that they cannot be doing the job correctly. Equally, if you go to an expensive looking firm's reception, ask yourself how many punters have to be fleeced to pay for the line of Jaguars in the car park. It is just possible that it will always be the other clients, and not you who will be paying for the cars. Possible but, somehow ...

        Lawyers are not, in general, good businessmen. Many have responded to competition, particularly in teh conveyancing market, by chopping prices without consideration of cost. They eventually find themselves in a position where they can no longer deliver a proper quality of work for the price.

      • Big or Small?

        Some advice and documentation prepared and given by the biggest firms (and usually the most expensive) can be awful, and some advice given by the smallest firms can be equally bad. An individual running a small practice can give excellent advice and so can an individual in a large firm. A partner in a large firm can take one hour to provide a service to you. One in a small firm can take two hours to provide the same service, but charge half the hourly rate. Size, as my wife keeps telling me, does not matter when assessing the nutritional value of a plum duff.

        On the whole, for many (most?) legal problems the answers are relatively straightforward, and it is not worth the probable extra cost of employing a larger firm, but for many matters the resources required are best found in the larger firm.

      • Specialisation.

        This is a topic fraught with disagreement, though on the whole the world is ending up moving toward specialisation. One solicitor cannot know all the law - therefore a specialist can be best. On the other hand, the system is designed so that any solicitor with or without specialist knowledge can obtain that knowledge from an expert at the bar (I mean consult a barrister - not chat it over with his pals in the pub after work).

        Against specialisation is that fact that often a client can come to the solicitor with a problem which he sees in one set of terms. A specialist may not see other possibilities for resolving your problem by concentrating too closely. He will prefer to resolve your problem in the terms of his own speciality rather than passing it on to others, or even perhaps noticing other elements. I do not say this happens very frequently, but it certainly happens. I do not see specialisation as an entirely wholesome virtue. In its simplest justifications, it can become a rather cheap advertising ploy.

        What happens when you specialise? You discard skills in other areas of law and concentrate on smaller areas. This process starts, logically at least, when I decide that I will not try to be a dentist and a vet as well as a lawyer. It continues when I decide to be a solicitor not a barrister. In other words, any legal professional has already specialised by becoming that. There is then a continuum where the subjects adopted become more and more precise. Knowledge increases in one area as oter areas of skill are abandoned. We drop non-contentious work, and settle for litigation. We then drop criminal, and general litigation, to concentrate on family law. Again, we drop general divorce work and concentrate on children work, then on care work and so on. It is possible to carry on this process of specialisation almost ad infinitum.

        At each and every level, a practitioner feels that, by discarding certain areas, and concentrating on others, he is more secure within that area. He feels that those who try to cover broader areas of work, cannot possibly know his particular area to the same depth as he does. In turn, however, he sees that those who concentrate even more tightly than he lose sight of the bigger picture.

        Lawyering is a creative activity. At its best it is about linking together a slightly odd element of this transaction with an idea from somewhere else entirely. Often the best solution to a problem is found by re-stating it in a different legal context. The scope to bring in that sort of solution is directly dependent upon a wide range of knowledge, and is lost with greater specialisation.

        Increased specialisation can often mean that areas of a problem are not spotted or are ignored. A question which appears to be about area X (your area of specialisation) also include questions about area Y. It can be convenient, but risky, to set them to one side.

        What does not exist is any non-arbitrary 'level' at which specialisation takes on a particular meaning. I met a chap once whose entire working life was devoted to the interpretation and litigation of particular clauses in a standard form contract. It must surely be right that he knew as much as anyone about the meaning of the various clauses in the contract, but at the same time I would distrust his ability to see his clients problems in any sensible context. Even he would admit that there is probably some poor soul somewhere even more sepcialised than he.

      • Trust

        On the whole, I recommend that find someone you can put your trust in, and do just that. That faith will not always be rewarded, and the trust should never be blind, but accept that that is what you are doing and live with it. If your lawyer cannot deal properly with your case and your trust, he should say so, and you should move on.

    23. Will wearing an aluminium vest help me receive Channel 5?

      Sorry this got cross-posted from uk.telecom.longbeards. Shouldn't be here at all, although now you ask I have personally found that by standing on my head whilst watching Channel 5, the logo and the programmes become much more satisfying. I am sure that, coupled with an aluminium vest, the entire effect should mean that at least those watching Channel 5 with you should be entertained.

      Ever so slightly more seriously, we get what are cross-posts from all corners of usenet. A very useful rule is that the more groups listed at the top of the article the less point there is in reading it. When people do come across a question with any sort of possible legal content, they tend to think of adding us to the list of newsgroups, presumably in the hope of getting intelligent and learned comment. Well, let me tell you right now; don't bother, because you won't.

      The sensible approach is, on each occasion, to prune at least one more apparently irrelevant newsgroup from the list. Top

    24. Can I record a telephone conversation?

      Recording a phone call between others by intercepting the public telecommunications system (PTS) requires a warrant under the Interception of Communications Act (IOCA). Without such it is illegal.

      Recording a phone call by accessing it without the PTS, eg by recording at a switchboard, has been held to be outside the scope of IOCA. Interception by public investigating authorities is now covered by the Police Act 1997 and the code of practice (still a draft?) under it.

      As between the parties to a call (typically where one side is wanting to record it with or without the knowledge of the other):

      There are regulations which restrict the attaching of equipment to the PTS to record telephone equipment unless it warns all involved that it is being recorded by use of an appropriate bleep or other warning.

      If you are willing to ignore such regulations, or can work around them, there is no legal restriction on recording such calls.

      None of this makes such recording moral or immoral, or right or wrong. I can see many times when I would think it be quite wrong, and a very few when I might do it myself, if I had the equipment and the prescience of the supreme being.

      1999. Oftel has now amended the licences under which commercial entities operate their exchanges. There is now a requirement which can broadly be summed up as to ensure that those whose conversations are to be recorded must be told first, and second that offices should make arrangements to allow staff to make private calls unrecorded.


    25. Am I allowed to pee on the back tyre of my car?

      This is, in every sense,


      More Questions to Come

      1. - should we have one? If you want to reduce the noise to signal ratio, start signalling. Volunteers to moderate? Effect on

      2. Can I advertise on Would you buy legal services from someone who advertsised on Modest details accompanied by a contribution showing a commitment to the spirit of, are most likely to work.

      3. Is a club? It might be, but it is quite open, and I hope that it is one where anyone is welcome. There are facilities for those who take a dislike to others to cope with their dislike by the operation of a kill-file.


    26. Legal Tag-Lines

      Tag lines are a relic of Bulletin Boards. They are the comm's equivalent of a haiku - cheap one liners. They are usually witty for a first couple of weeks. After that, as with even the best underpants, they need changing. Some are amusing, some wonderful and some plain pompous. Who is to say which is which?

      I tend not to use them,. but here are a few taken from other posting to the list. They are not necessarily funny, but for those who feel in need ...

      • "What about Magna Carta? Did she die in vain?" - Galton and Simpson's "Twelve Angry Men"
      • People who love sausages and respect the law should never watch either being made.
      • Good luck and remember the chinese curse: "I hope you have a lawsuit and know that you are right."
      • Audi alterem partem
      • My barrister ties up his briefs with little pink bows.
      • Nor shall we proceed against a freeman, nor condemn him but by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." Magna Carta - Chapter 29.
      • A song, a smile, a plea in mitigation.
      • "The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it" Walter Bagehot

      (More wanted)

      We also have occasional pieces or real wit:

      1. Alexander Baron
        > "A right without an attendant responsibility is as unreal as
        a sheet of paper which has only one side." > Felix Morley
        Cogito ergo sum - Moebius
    27. Who is ... ?

      In no particular order:-

      1. Wendy Woo

        27 yo female (gorgeous, of course!). Have LLB. Currently studying LPC (1999). Special interests: WW> clinical negligence; murder; jurisprudence.

      2. Richard Bristow

        A magistrate from 'down South' somewhere. Richard posts fairly direct, and usually reliable, replies when stirred.

      3. KKKatie

        A young lady being who hangs around on Usenet street corners, with the entire UK law on water works in her hand bag, in case, either of attack from the incautious, or the opportunity to correct those venturing an opinion on hosepipes. Interested in all matters of sewerage, and is therefore quite at home on

      4. Martin Kurrein

        A barrister who has taken to usenet like an unemployed youth takes to the cafe next to the Job Centre. He is an expert on employment law and the death penalty in Jamaica and all stops in between. Don't ever tell him he got it wrong, because he didn't.

        Martin has selflessly taken to shortening his answers to point those enquiring about employment law to a local web-site.

      5. Paul Burridge

        Paul knows a thing or two about landlord and tenant law - but more particularly three or four things about the ways of tenants. Paul tends to produce practical and sensible answers amongst the waffle. Paul also used to keep the statistics for the group which he kindly posted every month.

      6. Marc Living

        Barrister. Another young chap (they all seem so young now), with a convincing line in legal education. Marc manages what we all should, he keeps out of threads where he knows nothing, and trounces all around him when he does know.

      7. Ruth Hine

        Another barrister, but with a history of prosecuting for the CPS - and it shows. One of the less discreet posters to accused her of being the first lady contributor to talk sense. I think what he meant was she was the first one to agree with him.

      8. Richard Miller

        Richard Miller, 33, practising solicitor, special interest welfare benefits and police misconduct; I also take an interest in criminal cases and alleged miscarriages of justice even if the police are not alleged to be at fault.

        From June 98 to June 99 I was Chairman of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, and take a very close interest in the politics of legal aid (RIP) and civil procedure.

      9. David Swarbrick

        Me. Questionable sense of humour.

      Others to follow, until I get sued for libel, or asked to desist. If you have been mentioned, and are unhappy with the CV, or have not been mentioned, and might have been, a quiet word in my ear will secure a correction, deletion, or addition as is appropriate.

      Non-lawyers are almost absent from this list. I have wondered why, and the answers are relatively simple. Many of the non-lawyers hide their identity, or do not have such publically available bios. Similarly the people named seem to have hung around rather longer.

      There are one or two (and no more) who have been around for a while, and about whom I can find little positive to say. Don't worry, it isn't you.


    28. Acknowledgements

      Acknowledging contributions does not mean that I distribute responsibility. I carry the can. Helpful suggestions have been received from:

      • Kevin Calder
      • Richard Ross-Langley
      • Martin Kurrein
      ... and others.

      Unhelpful moaning has been received from an indidual who doesn't have the courage (yet) to post under her, or his, own name. We shall see. To be clear, I welcome criticism which includes even the vaguest attempt at being positive, or constructive, or indeed making any sort of contribution.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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