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Future Role of UK Notaries

Digital Signature Authentication and the CyberNotary Project

For some years now, the English and Welsh notarial profession have been working towards developing a system to enable its members to conduct their business electronically using digital seals and signatures. In 2008 the Notaries Society was able to announce that its E Notarisation programme had been successful and the use of the technology was now available to all Notaries in England and Wales, subject to applying for and obtaining the necessary digital certificate. The system is based on the Adobe CDS solution and therefore should be compatible with most recipients around the world. Although other countries have adopted slightly different systems, much work has been done elsewhere to provide Notaries in other jurisdictions with the same capability. Whilst it will take some time for the market to catch up with available technology, English Notaries have begun issuing electronic notarial certificates and it is expected that the demand for these will increase as the savings in time and cost and the improvements to efficiency in the electronic system (without prejudicing integrity and security) begin to be appreciated. This is an evolving project and further refinements to the system are planned to include, for example, electronic signatures of the Appearers, as well as that of the Notary.

At the same time, English notaries have been working closely with the UK Foreign Office to introduce the electronic Apostille so as to ensure that the efficiencies of the electronic Notarial Act are maintained in cases where legalisation is required for countries who are signatories to The Hague Convention 1961. This follows the initiative taken by The Hague Conference to introduce the E Apostille some years ago. There is optimism that a system enabling the issue of electronic certificates of legalisation in England and Wales will be available by the end of 2009.

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