Richard Ollis LL.B, T.E.P. - Notary Public


What is a notary public

The modern day Notary Public represents the oldest branch of the legal profession worldwide. A Notary Public in England and Wales holds an historical office which can trace its origins back to the occupation of Britain by the Romans and indeed to Ancient Rome itself, where its holder was known as one of the “scribae” or “notarii”. Following the Reformation, thanks to King Henry VIII, the right to appoint a Notary Public in Britain was transferred away from the Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury, where it remains to this day. The Notary profession is regulated, not by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which supervises solicitors, including me when I act as one, but by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop, based in Westminster.

A Notary Public is an officer of the law who holds an internationally recognised public office. By virtue of the international status of his qualification, the signature and seal of a Notary Public is recognised, at various levels, as evidence of a responsible legal officer, in all countries of the world.

The role of English Notaries is expanding, in both the commercial and private spheres, due to the growth of personal mobility, the ever-widening boundaries of international trade and, of course, most significantly, the apparently irresistible progress, or as some might say, interference, of European law into the British way of life.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the laws of most continental countries (e.g. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Greece) are based on Roman law and these are known as civil law jurisdictions, in which the Notary Public plays a greater role. In contrast with that, the laws of England and Wales, along with Australia and most other English speaking countries in the world, including members and former members of the British Commonwealth, have developed, in substantial part, from what is known as the Common Law. This has been created, not by the imposition of Codes, whether by Roman emperors like Gaius or Justinian, or French ones like Napoleon, but rather through the application of scholarship and wisdom by members of the Inns of Court and the decisions and judgments issued and precedents set by judges in the highest of the Royal Courts themselves.

For information on the services provided by the English and Welsh Notary Public please refer to visit the Notary Services page.

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