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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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Do government agencies have a duty of care with personal

Resolved Question:

Do government agencies have a duty of care with personal documentation?
We got married in Australia in February, and upon our return to the UK, my wife had to change her driving licence to her married name. The DVLA will not accept photocopies of marriage certificates, so we sent a unique document, the card Australian marriage certificate, with actual signatures of ourselves, the celebrant, and the witnesses. We were very concerned that the document should not be damaged in any way, so we sent it special delivery in an A4 card stiffened envelope, enclosed return postage, special delivery, and a return address label, with instructions to send it back in the same envelope.
They used the special delivery label to send it back, but decided to fold the certificate in half, and send it back in an A5 envelope.
My wife immediately complained by email, and today, a letter has arrived saying that the certificate was folded because the return envelope was not the correct size. Lies.
To compound the incompetence, my wife has a new driving licence with her married name's ***** ***** the printed names, and the driver number have not been updated. Considering a driving licence is a legal form of ID, what checks do these people make there?
The certificate is the heartbreaker, though. A totally unique document has been spoilt, and I would very much like to take action. What's your view?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Did you have a covering letter saying not to fold it please?
Alex

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
this was witnessed by the lady at the post office
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Ok - can you get a replacement from Australia?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The covering letter gave specific instructions to re-use the stiffened card envelope that they had received it in. That's why we also enclosed a return address label, and return postage by special delivery.
In Australia, there is only one certificate. We also signed a register, which I understand goes off to Canberra for records. The marriage certificate is unique, with the actual signatures of myself, my wife, the celebrant, and the witnesses.
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Have you called and asked if you can have a replacement?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Any replacement cannot have those signatures on it, we only signed one.
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

What is it you want to achieve? How much are you seeking to claim? I dont think its worth anything more than £10,000 in compensation.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The money is not that important, but I want to see someone made accountable, publicly, for not taking care of other people's personal property. Whether it's a cardboard certificate, or a Renoir, surely they have a duty of care, and if monetary punishment in the form of compensation focuses their minds on that, it's fine by me. A unique thing has been spoilt by their couldn't care less approach, and they are lying to cover it up.
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Ok - so what do you want to achieve, make someone accountable but in what way?

I dont see what the end result would be at this stage?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Newspapers pick up on court cases. As the DVLA is a public body, it seems to me that there is a public interest in making sure that they look after other peoples precious possessions whilst they are in their care. If expensive monetary recompense, and the glare of publicity ensures that this does not happen again, then that is what I will have to accept. The certificate is irreplaceable.
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Yes I understand that and I am sorry for your precious loss. I can imagine this is very upsetting. So you want to go to the newspaper, or you want to go to Court?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That's why I'm asking for legal advice. What are the chances, given the details, of a successful prosecution?
Seems to me that a successful action will reel the press in anyway, given the public interest.
You say up to £10000, but what legal costs am I likely to be faced with?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The key question has to be: Do arms of government have a duty of care?
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

It would be a small claim so no legal costs save for the Court fees.

These would be:

1) £455 issue fee

2) £335 hearing fee.

Problem is if you take it to Court, the Judge is there to put you back into the position you would have been in. In this case a new certificate so usually it would be a replacement cost.

Its going to be hard to take them to Court for anything else. Do they have a duty of care? Not at law (ie the Police it was found they have no duty to protect citizens) however where they have been negligent there is a claim.

But your remedy for this would be compensation.

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Alex

Ash and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
To replace the certificate, The judge would need to get the DVLA to fly 4 of us back to Australia, engage the services of the celebrant again, recall the Australian witnesses, and get a time machine to take us all back to 14th of February.
Interesting.
I think I'll just go to the BBC consumer rights show.
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Good luck. Alex