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 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 I mistakenly go to get help - and when I get back with a Tesco employee in tow, a scruffy man is fiddling with a bit of black plastic in the card slot. His two accomplices are close by, like coiled springs, poised to fly. Between them they have got my cash card and the money I was trying to withdraw.

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

Today 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: my bank is insured against theft (although we all pay for its effect 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.

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 lied about her age but not to the England selectors. 

Versloot Dredging BV and another v HBI Gerling Industrie Versicherung 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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