Dear Lord above, can\’t The Guardian even copy a story properly?

A care home manager has been fined £1,118.62 after he settled an £804 debt to his accountant with five crates of mostly 1p and 2p coins. He had been to the bank especially, he said: be glad that you weren\’t behind him in the queue. So what did Robert Fitzpatrick, the care home manager, do wrong?

So they\’ve copied this from the Mail.

And they are correct that coins are only legal tender up to certain amounts, depends upon the coin (this is not true in the US, where the penny is legal tender in any amount).

But the bloke hasn\’t been fined that amount at all. For he\’s not done anything illegal in the slightest which, even these days, is a requirement for being fined. He\’s been told that his original £800 odd payment was not made in legal tender. Thus he must make the payment, plus legal costs I assume, properly.

He does get his £800 odd in pennies back though.

Churnalism is bad enough but being unable to copy a story properly is something else, eh?

There\’s an important point at the bottom of this. It is not necessary to settle a debt in legal tender. As long as everyone agrees you can settle a debt with pennies, a pint or a plate of barbecued puppies. However, it is sufficient to settle a debt with legal tender. If you offer such and it is rejected then you are deemed to have paid that debt.

Which is why the guy didn\’t get fined: he did nothing illegal in attempting to settle a debt not in legal tender. If the accountant had laughed and banked it then that would have been the end of the matter. What he has been told is that because the accountant did not accept the not legal tender then he must pay the bill in legal tender: or, if the accountant were to accept it, a plate of barbecued puppies.

9 comments on “Dear Lord above, can\’t The Guardian even copy a story properly?

  1. @Matthew,

    Unfortunately it would be the tax office which would be the one in the position to be a prick about it.

    Even more unfortunately, this is the tax office we are talking about and it is not therefore beyond the bounds of possibility that they might decide to be pricks about it…

  2. @ Matthew L
    I remember some years ago a friend, returning from Scotland, stopped in the Black Country and tendered a Scottish £5 for a small purchase. It was refused. On re-tendering a Sassanach note he received a number of pound coins, on close inspection of which a number were revealed as having Scottish insignia on them. These he returned, demanding English-motif coin replacements. He left the shopkeeper turning out his till to examine every coin…

  3. All genuine British pound coins are issued by the Bank of England, and have equal status as legal tender. But as your friend and not the shopkeeper, may have been aware, questions of legal tender are irrelevant to purchases from shops, where what is required is agreement by the parties on terms of exchange acceptable to them both.

  4. @PaulB: does that mean that shopkeepers can refuse to be paid in legal tender if they so choose? I thought debts had to be accepted as settled if legal tender is offered? For example if I eat in a restaurant and attempt to pay the bill in notes (having eaten the meal), can the owner refuse them in payment for my ‘debt’, and demand some other form of payment – gold or silver for example?

  5. Jim: whenever a debt is created by a contractual agreement, the creditor is obliged to accept payment in legal tender but not otherwise.

    Eating in a restaurant is deemed to create a contractual agreement to pay for the meal, so legal tender rules apply to the payment – for example, the restaurant is not obliged to offer change.

    In contrast, the offer of goods for sale in shops is deemed to be no more than an “invitation to treat”. Until the purchase is settled by means of a payment acceptable to both parties, no contract exists, so there is no contractual payment to be enforced or accepted.

  6. “tendered a Scottish £5 for a smal” …. once in Tooting the local shop was offered a Bank of Ulster five pound note, which of course they did not accept. I examined the note, which was new to me, and decided it was of such good quality that it must be real, swapped it with the unfortunate traveller and then banked it myself.

    There seems to be a range of legal tender in this country, though its not much use if the shops won’t take it.

  7. Matthew/Pedant-General: gbp1 and gbp2 coins are legal tender in the UK for any amount. They are the *only* legal tender in Scotland and Northern Ireland. So yes, if you paid your tax in gbp1 coins, the taxman would have to suck it up.

    Johnnybonk: no, read the rest of the thread and PaulB’s link.

    The only legal tender in England & Wales for amounts over gbp10 is gbp1 and gbp2 coins, and Bank of England banknotes. The only legal tender in Scotland and Northern Ireland is gbp1 and gbp2 coins.

    Scots and NI notes everywhere, and English notes north of the border, are accepted in settlement of debts only by voluntary agreement between both parties. And all retail transactions occur only by voluntary agreement between both parties, whether or not the proposed settlement is by legal tender.

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