• Thu
  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 5:31am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 1:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 10:09am

An unwelcome reminder of why 'the law is an ass'

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Every now and again we are reminded of the truth of the expression, "The law is an ass."

Ever since Aquitaine Investment Advisors moved into new premises in June, it has been receiving hand-delivered legal documents: writs, bundles of skeleton arguments from two law firms - Simmons & Simmons and Howse Williams Bowers. However, the respondents no longer occupy the premises.

Aquitaine has told the messengers and emailed the chief operating officers of both law companies informing them of the situation. But still the documents have kept arriving.

"We tell both firms' delivery employees that the service is incorrect - their response is simply: 'We know this, just throw them away'," writes Aquitaine's group managing director, Marlene Whittman. She added, "I can't do that. It's not the right way to treat sensitive legal documents."

She began to wonder about the professionalism of these two law firms.

However, Kevin Bowers, a senior partner with Howse Williams Bowers, told Lai See that much as he regrets the situation, there is nothing he can do about it. His company represents the liquidator of Wing Fai Construction. Two of the defendants are acting in person and have given their previous office premises, now occupied by Aquitaine, as their address for serving documents. The defendants in question have disappeared. "Until they change that address, I have no option but to keep sending documents there even though I know they are not there. It's a court rule. I'm under a court direction to carry on doing it," says Bowers.

He concedes that it's unfortunate for Whitman and he wishes he could send them somewhere else. But the law is the law, and from time to time it's an ass.

 

Snooze control

It's a poor show if you fall asleep on the job. But if you're an air traffic controller, it's pretty serious. But this is what happened at Wuhan airport recently. A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 was preparing to land, reports AFP, but had no response from the air traffic control tower for 12 minutes. The plane landed safely but "because air traffic control was asleep on duty, [the plane] called many times," civil aviation authorities said in a statement quoted by the business magazine Caijing. "But there was no reply, and no contact could be made with the control tower."

Citing a separate investigation, Caijing said two controllers had fallen asleep. The incident happened on July 8 and the statement was dated July 29 but there was no explanation for the delay in making it public. The report triggered online anger at the danger the incident posed for air safety. "Such serious consequences. Should let him sleep as much as he wants in prison," said one post.

 

Arts affairs

In our piece of July 31 headed "Tycoon bids for a piece of Central Police Station project", we wrote that two of the bidders that submitted a proposal to operate the contemporary art element of the project were "ruled out on a technicality because they were not set up as non profit-organisations".

However, the bidder mentioned, a consortium which included Asia Arts Archive, Para Site, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Ink Society and the School of Architecture of the Chinese University of Hong Kong are in fact all set up as non-profit organisations, and with the exception of the latter have charitable status.

The technicality which made the consortium ineligible for consideration was that it was not registered as a special purpose company.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

asiaseen
I suspect Mr Bowers is being economical with the truth when he says he can do nothing about the problem of document service. Perhaps he should consult the Rules of the High Court, Order 65 rule 4. The law is not quite such an ****.
 
 
 
 
 

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