The head of La Trobe University’s law school has shed some light on the letters V.C. placed before a Bendigo councillor’s signature on a revised code of conduct which had threatened to see her disqualified.
City of Greater Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman was one of 107 Victorian councillors facing disqualification over a revised code of conduct required by the state government. Cr Chapman did sign the document, though not in the presence of the city’s CEO and with the letters V.C. before her name.
Professor Patrick Keyzer said V.C. stood for a Latin phrase meaning signed under duress.
“That doesn't mean the signature isn’t valid as a signature, it just means the person who signed it wasn’t happy about being placed in a position where they felt compelled to sign,” Mr Keyzer said.
“That doesn't mean the signature is invalid.”
Mr Keyzer – an expert in constitutional law – said he had never heard of the concept before and had yet to come up with any precedent despite trawling though legal tomes.
“I even pulled out Broom's ‘Legal Maxims’ – which is ancient 18th century book – but at the moment I’m just going off the same resource as everyone else...what I can find online,” he said.
“It is a very quaint act, a very quaint thing to do – but I’m sure the councillor must have her reasons.”
A Google search using the keywords “V.C.” and “duress” leads to blogs and forums with titles such as ‘How To Sign Your Name Without Assuming Liability’.
However, Mr Keyzer said the concept was unlikely to be challenged in a court of law.
“[Cr Chapman] could be referring to the fact she understood the sanction was dismissal from council and that was her objection, rather than to the code of conduct itself – you’d have to ask her,” he said.
Cr Chapman has refused on several occasions to explain to the Bendigo Advertiser why she wrote the letters V.C. in front of her signature despite answering other questions.