I have just been made to lie by a court official and I’m feeling quite angry about it. I was in two minds whether to blog or not, but this goes way beyond customer satisfaction and into the realms of disgust with the English legal system.
My mother died in December and I’m an executor. In order that the estate can be settled I need to be granted an “order of probate” by Her Majesty’s Court – Probate division.
For this I went to the Probate office in Leeds for a 10-minute meeting (cost of probate – £70) where all I had to do was sign a statement and swear an oath.
The statement was simple – less than a page long. Now, I’m not thick, but there were two paragraphs on this statement that I didn’t understand and I asked the clerk to explain them to me, which she did.
Haven’t we had a Plain English Campaign running in this country for years and years? And how many thousands of people sign the same declaration up and down the country every week without really understanding it?
Then I had the cheek to ask for a photocopy of what I’d just signed – oh no, that wasn’t possible!
Then I was handed a copy of the New Testament and asked to read an oath. Not being particularly religious (and ignoring the assumption made by the clerk that the New Testament would be OK) I asked if I could simply affirm.
The clerk then made handwritten changes to the statement I had made, to the effect that I was affirming and not swearing an oath.
Then I was given the script I had to read aloud in order to make the said affirmation. In it it referred to my handwriting (this document, in my handwriting blah blah). The damned thing was typed. I had signed it, but it was her handwriting for the amendments and not mine – so I ad lib ‘ed when I read it out and that got the clerk cross. She insisted that I had to lie; otherwise I couldn’t get probate (I think, technically, this could be called blackmail).
One question is, why is the system so sloppy and rotten? Another question is, is it just me?