chapter  1
47 Pages

The legal framework for international business

If we are prepared to recognise that, potentially, the law affects us all in the things we do, how does this manifest itself? Most people appreciate that it is illegal to kill a fellow human being or to point a gun at someone in the street and relieve this person of his or her wallet, but these are examples of criminal law which form but one small part of the law as a whole. While few would fail to agree that such antisocial behaviour as just described should be prohibited and that it should be down to the law to do this, there are very many other situations where a failure to satisfy the requirements of the law can have serious consequences, even if the threat of imprisonment is not one of them. For example, is it widely appreciated that, under English law, a person who witnesses a will cannot take a benefit under it? So if an uncle draws up a ‘do-it-yourself’ will and bequeaths a substantial legacy to his favourite niece, would he realise that if he requested her to witness his signature, he would simultaneously be depriving her of his benevolence? Likewise, would the average man in the street appreciate that he owes certain duties to persons who may trespass on his land? He might find it strange to be ordered to pay compensation to a teenager who falls down a disused well while stealing apples from his orchard. If a village resident sends a text message to her neighbour making disparaging remarks about the chairman of the Parish Council, would she readily appreciate that this bastion of local democracy may have an action for libel against her? It is unlikely that any of the actors in the scenarios just described would consider themselves to have done anything ‘wrong’, but nevertheless their actions or, in the case of the disused well, inaction, would be judged according to the requirements stipulated by law and noncompliance with these could have the consequences described.