RDJ cathedral smallLook at this for a fantastic example of a wonderful modern cathedral. Utterly different from the gothic splendour of, say, Lincoln, but a very special place - and those modern stained-glass windows are just mind-blowing.

I hope to go and have a better look one day, preferably when I have two good legs to stand on and enjoy it - last time I visited this place I had a broken ankle and was hobbling on elbow crutches.

I was very lucky to get  this glimpse as the cultural police had closed off the area and I was one of the last people to be allowed to sneak through a cordon.

It was a grey and overcast day at the time so I can only imagine how the windows must look in blazing sunshine.

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Let me say, before I start, this article deals with my personal views and does not represent the views of any other lawyer nor yet of my own (unashamedly brilliant) law firm, Stapleton & Son.

Winston Churchill (allegedly) said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others".

If you have not been living under a rock (probably on a different planet) you may have noticed there is a thing going on at the moment called BREXIT*.

The government ran a referendum to refer the difficult question of whether we should "Leave" the European Union or "Remain" a member of it.  The result of this democratic process was that 16,141,241 people cast their votes to show they wanted to stay members of the EU but since 17,410,742 people voted to leave the EU all flavours of politicians have subordinated their personal views to "the will of the People".

The outcome looked like this:

The Vote

My difficulty with this form of democracy is that with such a close vote, 52% to 48% in round terms, the deciding margin was less than 1.3 million people, changing the shape of our country (all the rest simply cancel each other out).  Now 1.3 million people is a lot of people but our current population is about 66.02 million (last census figures from 2017) - and OK a lot of those people fall into categories who do not get a vote (too young, too imprisoned, too disenchanted with politics etc.) but it still seems to me to be wrong that less than 2% of the overall population is the deciding voting population that makes a change which is so fundamental and will affect the entire population of our country.

I have a few issues with politicians who stand behind the referendum vote insist on saying they are now, and must respect the "will of the people" - as a lawyer this should surely be "the will of a bare majority of the people", if for no other reason than to stay the right side of the trade descriptions act.  If 17 plus million people want to leave the EU why is that such an important and to be respected mandate, when 16 million people voted to remain?

The underlying problem, of course, is the "first past the post" interpretation of democracy.  Not "the will of the people", which implies a general will but the voice of the people - not necessarily the same thing at all. Given that the majority of centre votes for either side of a binary issue tend to cancel each other out - interestingly removing their direct democratic involvement in the outcome - the remainder tend to be from the shouty extremes, which, in my humble opinion, is not a great way to develop a strategy dictating the future of the country.

Referendums are peculiar animals. Even the definitions vary pretty widely between single issue matters being referred to an entire electorate for their opinion to a legally binding "decision of the people" - akin to a plebiscite. Whatever the process or intent the usual use of a referendum is to try and find a way forward when the "normal" political process either has, or would, stall if asked to decide the question through usual channels. For the record I am not impressed with the outcome of the last referendum - but I am not at all sure holding another one will do anything to improve matters - the simple God's honest truth is about half of us like to be European and the other half don't and our views are so strongly held and defended the country is busy tearing itself apart and I predict that whatever the outcome is - in, out  or somewhere in between roughly half of the population will be unhappy with the result - unless of course we can achieve unity again by finding a solution which leaves both sides equally dissatisfied? 

*[Which if you have missed it so far means "Brexit"]

We store a lot of deeds for clients. Many of the packets of deeds we hold may now be largely irrelevant to the process of selling that property and indeed some of the properties for which we are holding the deeds may have been sold without ever needing to refer to anything in the bundle.

How can this be?  Well mostly because any transfer of ownership of a property now triggers the requirement to register the property at the Land Registry. Once registered the bulk of the information will be available to anyone who buys "office copy entries" (copies of the significant documents from the Registry) and those office copy entries may often provide all the information a buyer will need without reference to the old paper copy documents.

BUT not always.

Land Registry entries are not infallible and they often leave out things which can become very important, for example the planning permissions or building regulations approvals for the construction of the property will be in the original deeds but not in the Land Registry entries.

The title plan will show the outline of the property - but may not show any boundary ownership markers which may have been in the original sales documents.

There will certainly not be any Gas Safe certificates, electrical inspection reports or guarantees for windows, doors, boilers or conservatories held at the Registry - proving compliance with these matters, in the absence of the original deeds packet may cost quite a lot of money or lead to the bane of the conveyancers life - providing indemnity policies as a cheaper and more convenient option than actually being able to provide the real information.

This is only going to get worse as the short cut solution of indemnity insurance policies has now become subject to European regulation in the form of the Insurance Distribution Directive which will make the provision of an indemnity policy much more difficult.

If you are selling a property it is always worth finding your original deeds - and if you have sold a property without needing deeds but you know we may be holding a bundle for you then do please tell us - we have duties for safe-keeping and insurance of deeds and if you don't need us to store them we can put the saved money towards repairing our leaky roof!