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Statute of Frauds 1677

In 1677, the English Parliament passed an ‘An Act for prevention of Frauds and Perjuryes’. The preamble to the Act stated its object was:
‘For prevention of many fraudulent Practices which are commonly endeavoured to be upheld by Perjury and Subornation of Perjury Bee it enacted by the Kings most excellent Majestie by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and the Commons in this present Parlyament assembled and by theauthoritie of the same That from and after the fower and twentyeth day of June which shall be in the yeare of our Lord one thousand six hundred seaventy and seaven’,

Much of this Act has subsequently been repealed. However, section 4 of the Act remains in force in its original 17th century language:
‘noe action shall be brought . . . whereby to charge the defendant upon any speciall promise to answere for the debt default or miscarriages of another person . . . unlesse the agreement upon which such action shall be brought or some memorandum or note thereof shall be in writeing and signed by the partie to be charged therewith or some other person thereunto by him lawfully authorized’.

Remarkably, this section was recently interpreted and applied by the High Court to the age of email communication:
Golden Ocean Group Ltd v Salgaocar Mining Industries PVT Ltd and another [2012] EWCA Civ 265 In the absence of a specific law or contract stating otherwise, an email is treated as ‘writing’. The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision (in an interlocutory decision) that an exchange of emails was potentially capable of satisfying the requirements of the Statute of Frauds 1677 that a guarantee must be in writing and signed by the guarantor or his agent.

[Page updated: 14/01/2013]

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