When asked to pick up a brief at 5.30 for a hearing the next day, shortly before a bankholiday weekend which the IS is taking off for just as soon as he's bunged the papers on the fax (a few hundred of them, in no readily discernable order), always assume it is going to be a fucking hospital pass.
Heigh ho. It's rare to seek light relief in a High Court judgment on appeal from the VAT Tribunal but Mr Justice Mann has doubtless added much to the sum of judicial knowledge in his judgment in Spearmint Rhino v. HMRC. Apparently dancers at Spearmint Rhino are not agents of Spearmint Rhino (or employees, so far as individual lap dances are concerned), which is thus not obliged to pay VAT on the provision of their services (bearing in mind that "it was not submitted that the [various transactional] documents were in any way a sham or failed to record the true relationship between any of the parties" on which point I wouldn't dream of commenting). It does occur to me to wonder whether any of the dancers themselves are over the VAT threshold and thus liable, but I guess probably not, unless they're in very high demand.
At the start he refers to the gaps in judicial knowledge left by Sutton v. Hutchinson, an even better case where Ward LJ started off with: "
The appellant is a lap dancer. I would not, of course, begin to know exactly what that involves. One can guess at it, but could not faithfully describe it. The Judge tantalisingly tells us, at paragraph 21 of his judgment, that the purpose is "to tease but not to satisfy"."
and then continued with the almost too clichéd for belief story of how:
By about the end of 2002, or early in 2003, the appellant seems to have begun to tease the respondent. He, being a rich businessman, sought, no doubt, to enliven his lonely evenings in London by seeking entertainment at the Spearmint Rhino club in Tottenham Court Road where the appellant was then employed. Having been tempted, he managed to obtain her telephone number and invited her to dinner. It was not exactly the traditional boy meets girl, "Let's have dinner, darling" kind of invitation. It was an invitation which she accepted, but entirely on the basis that she would be there as his escort and, as his escort, she would provide the services of companionship and amusement, but for a consideration. That consideration would amount, according to the judgment, to perhaps about £700 or £800 a night for the pleasure of her company at dinner. But the arrangement was made on a number of occasions and, as they went on, the relationship changed and at some time early in 2003 it is common ground that the services included sexual services, for which even more money was paid as a consideration. Whether or not rule 2 of the Spearmint Rhino club had been breached, requiring that you could get no satisfaction, we do not know and fortunately do not have to decide.
... Ultimately the claimant wanted some of his money, which he said was a loan, back. Later on Ward LJ observed that "
One may ask, how on earth does a case like this see the light of day?". Indeed. Utterly bizarre story.