What are some of the most bizarre or unusual laws still in existence?

Article by  Adrianna Wit, intern at Justis Publishing

justis-publishing-logo copyThere are a number of bizarre, unusual or curious laws still in existence. Although most of them have been repeated and re-framed by different sources, it is essential to check whether they are still good law that has relevance in today’s world.

For example the Polish Potatoes (Notification) in England Order 2004, which used to forbid an import of Polish potatoes into England, has been revoked by The Plant Health (England) (Amendment) Order 2008. Luckily (or not) many bizarre laws still remain in use and it is these that I will be examining in close detail.

How many times have you seen a bank note with writing on it?

It turns out that under the Currency and Banknotes Act 1928 defacing a bank note is an offence. Therefore impressing any words, letters or figures amounts to criminal liability.

Can you enter a cab if you have the plague or cholera?

Another example of bizarre law is the provision under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which forbids any person suffering from the plague or cholera entering any public conveyance. Oddly enough, he can still access the cab if he informs a driver about the disease.

“Thou shalt not sing in public nor block a street”

Under the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907 c. 53 it is illegal to sing any profane or obscene ballad in any street. As we are on the topic of things forbidden to be done in the streets, it is crucial to mention the prohibition of erecting a washing line across the street.

Can I beat my rug in public?

If you are into your cleaning you should be aware that under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 s. 60 you are not allowed to shake or beat a carpet or a rug in the street. Doormats are fine, but only before eight o’clock in the morning.

Now let me progress to a more pleasant topic, namely food and drink.

Sir, can I ride my cow in public?

Now imagine that you have just eaten lovely meal with a moderate amount of wine. If you got drunk and you are in Scotland you better keep a great distance between you and cows, because under the (Alcohol) Licensing Act of 1872 it is an offence to be in charge of a cow when you are drunk. Even if you are sober, remember that according to law you cannot drive your cow down the roadway between 10AM and 7PM.

two swans

Have you ever dreamt about eating a mute swan?

Assuming that we all met one during our lifetime, it would be important to be aware of the fact that only the Queen and her guests can eat them. So if you have on your “things to do before you die” list eating a mute swan, you better start working on becoming the Queen’s best friend!

What about dead whales?

However, if you find any dead whale on the coast you need to be aware of the fact that it already belongs to royal family.

Is an upside down stamp really a sign of treason?

Keeping in mind that you are attempting to become best friend of the Queen you probably would like to avoid an act of treason such as placing a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down. But do not worry, according to research, this law is only a myth and is not existing.

The above is a really narrow selection of bizarre British laws, but it should give you a flavour of just some of the odd laws still on the statute book; albeit as we have discovered some of them are more a myth than an actual law.

Thanks to Adrianna Wit, currently an Intern at Justis.

Also this post: http://blog.justis.com/the-5-most-commonly-misspelled-law-words-2

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