Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Captain Ranty's "Legal Fiction"

I have been reminded by the good Mr Wadsworth (here) of a recent posting on the site of the deliciously entertaining but occasionally deranged Captain Ranty (here). In the piece highlighted by Mr Wadsworth the Captain made a bizarre and patently absurd assertion, namely that a judge in a County Court had made a finding in law that there is a distinction between between someone calling himself Roger Hayes and living at a particular address, let's call it 34 Acacia Avenue, and Mr Roger Hayes who has been billed for Council Tax at 34 Acacia Avenue.

The case to which he refers involved a claim being made in the County Court and I infer the local council had issued a summons against "Mr Roger Hayes" and served it at 34 Acacia Avenue claiming whatever sum of Council Tax for 34 Acacia Avenue had not been paid. I also infer that the only adult human being who is both known as Roger Hayes and lives at 34 Acacia Avenue attended court. When there he claimed not to be Mr Roger Hayes and not to be liable to Council Tax for 34 Acacia Avenue because he was Roger Hayes, the human being, whereas Mr Roger Hayes is legal corporation but not comprised of flesh and bones. I don't propose to waste a good keyboard on explaining everything that is wrong with this manifestly ludicrous proposition, save to say it has no merit in law and is almost certainly unfounded in fact (for example, I'll bet you a pig to a pork scratching that the human being has acknowledged himself to be Mr Roger Hayes hundreds if not thousands of times and has benefited from doing so - in passing, I wonder whether he has a bank account and, if so, whether the bank records the account as being that of Roger Hayes or Mr Roger Hayes, if the latter poor Roger would be liable to repay every penny he has ever withdrawn). What I want to explain is what the judge's conduct of the hearing amounted to.

By way of background, I should point out that nothing Captain Ranty or (Mr) Roger Hayes are saying today is at all novel. Every year the courts hear these and similar arguments being put forward in a vain attempt to challenge either the right of the court to hear the case or the very concept of enforceable law. Friday afternoons are reserved for such people by the procedural judges (known as Masters) of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court. The arguments range from demands that the judge provides evidence of his appointment followed by a refusal to accept that the judge is a judge unless he can do so, to assertions that certain Acts of Parliament have no effect because they contravene Magna Carta, to attempts to get one judge to re-hear a case that has already been heard by another judge, and all sorts of nonsense in between. Experience shows that the best thing to do is sit back, let the barmy argument be put and then get on with the case. Frequently this involves adjourning the matter to a later date on the ground that further evidence is required on one point or another or because the court has run out of time due to the spouting, at great length, of unmitigated tosh by the misguided litigant. In some instances these adjournments are made in the hope the nutter will give up, and sometimes they do.

The choice for the judge is to allow the rubbish to be spouted, or to try to prevent it being spouted. No third way exists. Trying to prevent carries risks because the litigants are often either unstable or obsessed or both. Neither County Courts nor the High Court are usually staffed by a six-foot bouncer with a stun gun, instead they have an usher who is more likely to be a lady in her late fifties called Enid with no weapon more effective than a clipboard and a ballpoint pen. No judge is going to put his or her staff at any physical risk if they can avoid it, so the path of least resistance is adopted. This involves trying to dismiss the point briefly in the hope the annoyance will accept the indication and go away, but if that fails it is safer to allow them a "day in court". That does not mean that any credence at all is given to the eccentric theories being expounded, far less does it amount to an acceptance of those theories or that the person arguing them has any legal right to appear in the case at all. It's all a matter of practicalities. Years ago judges tended to be somewhat brusquer on average than they are today, yet even the most robust would show their greatest politeness when faced with a litigant in person barking up the wrong end of a very sturdy tree.

Nothing in the case referred to by Captain Ranty hints for even a second that the judge accepted any part of the fanciful arguments being put in front of him. Rather, it is a classic case of a judge trying to get a nutter to go away and then sitting back resignedly and facing the unappealing fact that the nutter will persist and should be allowed to do so to prevent any unpleasantness and/or the wasting of even more time by another judge being faced with exactly the same scenario at a later date.


newt said...

Sounds to me like a member of the legal profession trying to maintain the closed shop.

The good Captain's arguments have merit in that "the game" being played in courts across the country is being explained and it really is only about money.

Unfortunately, the attractiveness of the argument has indeed attracted a fair share of freaks and nutters just trying it on the same as the courts do.

However, reasoned argument like that used in the Birkenhead court will eventually win through.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TFB, that's most interesting background info. Do you have any more specific examples for our general merriment?

newt said...

Not just yet, I'm still falling about laughing at your post

Captain Ranty said...


"..occasionally deranged..."

That doesn't paint a black picture at all, does it? It surely wouldn't cause people to think I was mentally unbalanced and therefore incapable of studying the law, would it?

Whilst your diagnosis is wrong I respect your right to say whatever you want.

BUT, given that you got my mental state wrong, how much else did you get wrong?

Quite a bit.

I will respond at my place later.


Jeff W said...

Well said. Good to see this subject getting an airing. The judge in this instance was patiently putting up with a buffoon while trying to move proceedings along. Only the terminally deluded would interpret that dialogue as evidence that the judge had accepted the Freeman "logic".

Captain Ranty said...

My response is here:



Spycodog said...

However, by adjourning or otherwise not proceeding with the case the court /judge did not require either of the "Roger Hayes" to pay the disputed amount so that would be a victory of sorts?

TheFatBigot said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Mr Newt, the purpose of my post was explain what the judge did in order to explain that it was not what (Mr) Hayes thinks it was.

A formal Order would have been drawn up at the end of the hearing. That Order would record all findings made by the judge. Had he ruled as (Mr) Hayes says he did, it would appear on that Order. I might, of course, be wrong, but I doubt that the Order says any such thing.

Mr Wadsworth, I could give many examples I have witnessed in person. Maybe I will one day when I have nothing better to do.

Captain, your derangement (limited, as I am sure it is, to this one issue) is proved by your response to my piece for reasons I will expand in the next day or two.

Mr W, ta.

Mr Codog, yes and no. It is a victory in putting off the inevitable but that comes at a price. One reason councils use the County Court for these claims is because that court has the power to award interest for late payment and to order the payment of the council's costs if its claim succeeds. An adjournment means another hearing and more costs as well as more interest.

james c said...


The Captain needs to find a cheaper and less dangerous hobby.

H.R. said...

Let's see...

If one appears before a judge and at the end of the hearing one is not immediately clapped into irons, then it's a victory?

Have I got that about right?

TheFatBigot said...

Sadly old Enid can't manage the irons these days Mr H.R., it's her back. She'll make the Judge a nice cup of tea though.

H.R. said...

Well, I guess that rumor was false, then. I'd heard that old Enid was quite fond of the handcuffs and only dated gentlemen who would clap her in irons.

Barnacle Bill said...

Mr. FB I'm glad to see you are back to your old blogging self.
Your post reminds me of a boundary dispute my mother had to endure for over five years with her next door local nutter.
I attended one of the hearings which happened to be back before the same judge. Who asked the defendant if he would accept his ruling now.
To which the defendant replied: "If it is an honest judgement your honour ..."
Pins dropping we might say!

Anonymous said...

FB, pages like that of Captain Ranty are simply the 21st century projection of the Saloon Bar Bore and his buddies. Get yer pint quick and just nod vacantly when you come into their range.

Loving the way that years of study and decades of experience always gets relegated behind an internet bore's "feelings" or "opinions" on a particular subject - which always seems to be Law, Medicine or Engineering for some reason!

That said, the "legal debate" on that page is excellent value for comedy. Thanks for the link!