My passport is about to expire, and I can’t seem to get a decent photograph for its replacement. The light falls badly across my bone structure, making my eyes look heavy-lidded and my jawline indistinct. The Passport Service advises that photos should contain no shadows – so can I just Photoshop them out?
Glen Bukowski, Chester
A brighter flash would resolve the Passport Service's concerns. I am not sure that it would meet yours, but I must strongly warn you against using computer software to edit your portrait. All new British passports contain a chip that allows for biometric analysis of a person's appearance, and immigration officers at this country's borders are increasingly likely to use scanners to match a passport photograph against the holder's actual face.
The facial recognition technology cost almost half a billion pounds to introduce - much of that generated through two fee increases - and it is highly sensitive. So much so, indeed, that an open mouth is enough to cause it to fail, according to a Home Office spokesperson in August 2004, and it is therefore forbidden even to smile. Spectacles can also throw the algorithms into disarray, unless worn on the extreme tip of the nose.
Given that the system can barely cope with day-to-day reality, your scheme to enhance that reality is fraught with risk. Were you over enthusiastically to edit your passport photo - by shaving off not just jawline shadows but actual chin, for example - problems on your next overseas trip are highly likely. An embellished image, though doubtless more pleasing to the eye, could set off more alarm bells than your uncorrected features ever would.
I'm about to whisk my girlfriend off to Las Vegas for the weekend. She thinks it's just a casino crawl, but I've planned something else – a wedding in the Elvis chapel! The thing is that she's rather a proud lady, and has always said she'd hate anyone to think she was with me for my money. I'm something of a feminist myself, but would hate to spoil the surprise by asking her to sign a prenuptial agreement. Would a postnuptial one work just as well?
Miles Emery, London
You evidently possess a rare combination of spontaneity and pecuniary wherewithal, and I appreciate why a man of your principles might wish to prepare for the worst.
As you probably know, a House of Lords ruling in May 2006 means that richer spouses nowadays have to contribute more than ever to a divorce settlement. Those concerned to handle the purse-strings of their relationship rationally are therefore well advised, legally speaking, to temper any impetuous impulses with some prudence.
A contract to divide assets at divorce is still not binding in this country, however, whether it is drawn up before or after marriage. A judge may take account of a deal between husband and wife, but will do so only if satisfied that neither side was exploited during its negotiation, and that neither would be unduly disadvantaged by its enforcement.
Postnuptial agreements are particularly suspect, because of the influence that a dominant partner can exercise during a marriage - and the closer to a break-up that it is made, the less likely it is to have legal effect.
The upshot is that you, your bride, and independent sets of solicitors should negotiate the terms of an agreement well before the first storm clouds appear in your relationship - towards the end of the weekend, perhaps? Assuming sustained feminism on your part and adoration on hers, it should be smooth sailing from that point on. And, by the way - happy gambling!
Sadakat Kadri is a barrister and author of "The Trial: a history from Socrates to O J Simpson" (HarperPerennial, 2006). Send your civil liberties and human-rights dilemmas to: Changing the Rules, New Statesman, 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0AU. This column appears fortnightly