Friday, 18 March 2016

Supreme Court: fraudulent devices

'I accept that we told a lie,' says counsel, meaning his client. 

Today's case is about fraudulent devices. I feel right at home:  I was the victim of a physical one the day before. 

A Lebanese loop, I now know, is one of those things that thieves put in cash machines to get your money. 

When the machine outside Tesco's starts behaving oddly I should just stand by it like Greyfriars Bobby and call the cops. 

But by the time I get back to the cash machine with a Tesco employee in tow, a scruffy man is fiddling with a bit of black plastic in the card slot. I see his alleged two accomplices close by, like coiled springs, half turned away, poised to fly. Between them they have allegedly got my alleged card and an alleged hundred pounds in alleged sterling. 

'What are you doing?' I ask Mr Scruffy. Over and over again. 

I have a flashback today when Lord Toulson asks counsel the same question, or rather, 'I'm a bit puzzled. Why are we here and where are we going?' His forensic skills are better than mine and he gets a better answer than I did. 

There is a silver lining in that my bank is insured against theft (although we all pay for the effect of fraud on premiums). And there's a golden lining in counsel's bespoke jacket, revealed for a few seconds when he nervously flips up the hem at the back. Well, more lemon, really. A nice bright citrus. 

A drawing is a lie, or at any rate a fiction, even if the draughtsmanship is perfect. There is emotion, narrative. As you draw your way around a body, it moves. If there is daylight, it changes perpetually. Technical drawing (of body parts, plants, archaeological sites and more) still exists, to compensate for the camera which - even when it doesn't lie - can see too much or too little. 

The bench refers to Basil D'Oliveira who lied about his age, fearing he was too old for the England cricket team. 

'I knew that cricket would arise in court today,' says counsel, a young woman. 'I'm glad it's in a form I could understand.' 

Later that day I read Anita Brookner's obituary in the café at the National Gallery, a perfect place for it. She also fudged her age but not, as far as we know, to the England selectors. 

Versloot Dredging BV and another v HBI Gerling Industrie Versicherund AG and others is looking at two questions: does the rule by which a fraudulent insurance claim precludes recovery under the policy apply to fraudulent means or devices? And if so, is that contrary to Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights? The narrative involves a stricken cargo vessel, a bilge alarm and a rogue mop head.

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