The accuracy of source material is vital for a proper understanding of policy wordings, and possible court cases. Robin Wood considers some of the complaints

The thorny question of how many people does it take to constitute a riot, has occupied our minds this week and leads us to examine the approach to source material.

You may remember that a few weeks ago, our question writer, relying on a well known text book which quoted case law, suggested that the answer to the above question was "three or more".

No criticism of the material writer who checked against two reasonable sources, but there are some great learning points that came out of the replies we received.

Research by Richard Mikula at Topaz Insurance gave this definition of riot:

According to the public order offences (part1 Public Order Act 1986) the answer is "where 12 or more people who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot".

The answer we gave, he says, comes under violent disorder (s2):

"Where three or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them (taken together) is such would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using or threatening unlawful violence is guilty of violent disorder."

Learning point one
We all remember how over the years we have moaned about what appear to be non-accurate text books and exam questions. I counted myself as one of the throng, until a few years ago when I spoke to the CII about a query on a question and was quite taken aback.

I had expected a rather pompous response but instead was greeted with a welcoming "thank you for telling us, could you send us the authority you are relying on and if you are right we will make sure it is amended".

It was the "thank you" that was the surprise.

Text books and assessment and examination material are often put together by specialists and checked against various authoritative sources but, with the best will in the world, inconsistencies and inaccuracies will always be present.

As an expert witness, I have spent much time in court listening to lawyers who have spent many long hours trawling through source material to emphasise a point, only to find themselves outwitted by clearer and more detailed research.

If you really do not accept a point, take time out to get in touch with the author or publisher. But do make sure to explain in reasonable detail why you think the material is incomplete or not correct, and whatever you do, do not crow.

There are many hundreds of specialists shut away in dungeons with no food or water for weeks on end, whipped to within inches of their lives to produce user-friendly text books, articles and assessments for the industry. They cannot always get it right (see learning point three).

Learning point two
Thankfully, the number of readers who contact us with views on errors is far higher than actual errors. The feedback is very useful to us for two reasons.

l It can tell us that we have not been clear in the manner we have conveyed a point.

It is ideal that assessment and learning material is understood and relevant to the target audience.

Unless you raise the matter, nothing gets done about it. We receive quite a number of emails from readers saying that they did not understand a point, because we were using jargon or it was not clear enough. This really is important feedback.

l If there are a number of queries on the same point it often shows that the industry is out of date or mis-informed on that point. This is vital. We have all heard of the urban myth, but there is also such a thing as an insurance myth which, if unchallenged, can lead to nasty professional indemnity claims against brokers.

A classic myth is that the personal claims experience of a director under a personal insurance is not material under a business combined policy for his/her business.

Another myth is that a broker has a duty of disclosure to an insurer.

If any of you fancy a challenge to either of those, then do get in touch. Don't forget that any time spent should be recorded on your individual learning file.

Many thanks to Richard Mikula for taking the time to write in on this one. We will inform the publishers of the textbooks and give you further feedback if needed.

Learning point three
Your expertise and opinion is valuable. Many items that are written on market practice rely on a body of opinion. You are part of that body.

A good example arises in the courts, where I have seen many an expert express an opinion as to market practice that arises out of a career working in the London Market or for national brokers.

It is only in the past decade or so that provincial brokers have been recognised as the body of brokers (much, I have to say, due to the efforts of Biba and IIB and the brokers themselves), and the fact that they might do business in a different manner to the London Market. This is now well accepted at a high level within the industry.

Changes like this can arise only if those involved with an industry at street level have their say.

Finally, here is a key point raised by a partner of Lovells, one of the leading insurance law firms.

Assessment material and examinations tend to refer to standard this and standard that as a point of reference, policy wordings being the prime example.

Both the regulator and the law require you to be reasonably competent to advise on the actual policy in hand not on a standard policy.

Most disputes arise because a broker does not know and understand the actual policy being recommended and, in many cases, the document has not even been read.

A word of warning, therefore, that generic assessment is not enough. You have to go further and reasonably ensure that you and your staff know and understand the actual policies you use. Many brokers are now realising this.

A good tip is to make sure that you have a library of the policies you use and make sure that you have a regular update among staff who use them.

Using this CPD page
For the vast majority of practitioners and indeed support and supervisory staff in our industry, CPD is about regular learning and study that is planned, recorded, timed and evaluated.

If you are a member of a professional body with a CPD requirement then there will be certain rules regarding the quality and nature of study material, and the way in which it is recorded.

For staff of GISC members this means recording on your individual training file what the learning was, who provided it and when.

It might be structured, such as a course, a learning programme or exam study. But it can be unstructured. This form of study encompasses reading the trade press, technical material or taking part in activities to support your professional body.

Some CPD requirements are points related (a little antiquated) and others require a time value to be allocated.

For example, it might take one hour to read Insurance Times each week. Most of that could be put as a time value but, in reality, perhaps only an half hour was devoted to learning something. The rule is to be honest with yourself and record the time that is relevant.

Always take time to make a note of what you felt you gained from the activity. This is useful information for anyone else considering the same activity.

In response to the popularity of our CPD programme each week's CPD page can now be downloaded from our website. We will be preparing a binder for you to keep these in alongside the results of the exercises.

This page is edited by RW Associates, specialists in training, compliance and competence.

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