School of Law

Teaching associate Christopher Sargeant reveals the 10 strangest laws still in force in Britain today

Nottingham alumnus and current law teaching associate Christopher Sargeant has revealed the 10 strangest laws still in force in Britain today.

His definitive ranking has been featured on the Guardian, Independent and Daily Mail websites, and takes into account the age of the legal rule, the degree of clarity of the law, its modern-day relevance and current public awareness of the law.

Christopher said: "Given its rich and varied legal history, it is inevitable that the UK has had its fair share of weird and wonderful laws. While many of these laws have, however, long since been repealed and many other so-called 'laws' turn out to be mere urban legends, a significant number still remain in force today.

"In any event, all of our laws (both past and present) together form key parts of the complex tapestry that is the UK legal order and can also provide us with unique insights into both the history and the nature of the society in which we all live and work."

1. All beached whales and sturgeons must be offered to the Reigning Monarch
By virtue of the Prerogativa Regis 1322, all whales and sturgeons (‘Royal Fish’) found in the UK belong to the Crown.

2. No person shall, in the course of a business, import into England, potatoes which he knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, are from Poland
By virtue of the Plant Health (England) Order 2015, art 19(6), it is an offence to bring any potatoes which are grown or suspected to have been grown in Poland into England unless written notification has been provided to an inspector at least two days prior to the intended date of their arrival. This law was originally introduced in 2004 to respond to a series of serious ring rot outbreaks in Poland which were adversely affecting their potato crop.

3. It is illegal to be drunk in the pub
By virtue of the Licensing Act 1872, s12, 'every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.'

4. It is illegal to carry a plank along a pavement in the Metropolitan Police District
By virtue of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, s54, it is an offence for any person to roll or carry any cask, tub, hoop, or wheel, or any ladder, plank, pole, showboard, or placard, upon any footway, except for the purpose of loading or unloading any cart or carriage, or of crossing the footway within the Metropolitan Police District.

5. MPs are not allowed to wear armour in Parliament
MPs are prohibited from wearing armour in Parliament by virtue of the Statute forbidding Bearing of Armour 1313.

6. It is an offence to be drunk and in charge of cattle in England and Wales
By virtue of the Licensing Act 1872, s12, it is an offence for any person in England and Wales to be drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine, or to be drunk when in possession of a loaded firearm.

7. It is illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances
By virtue of the Salmon Act 1986, s32, it is illegal for a person to receive a fish (including a salmon), to undertake or assist in its retention, removal or disposal, or to arrange to do so, if he believes, or it would be reasonable for him to suspect, that an offence is being committed by taking, killing, landing, or selling that fish, either in England and Wales or in Scotland.

8. It is an offence to beat or shake any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats before 8am) in a thoroughfare in the Metropolitan Police District
By virtue of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, s60, it is an offence for any person to beat or shake any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats before the hour of eight in the morning) in any thoroughfare within the Metropolitan Police District.

9. It is illegal to jump the queue in the Tube ticket hall
Under the Transport for London Railway Bye-Laws, Bye-Law 1, any person directed to queue by an authorised person or a sign must join the end of the queue and obey reasonable instructions by any authorised person regulating the queue within the TfL Network.

10. It is illegal to activate your burglar alarm without first nominating a 'key-holder' who can switch it off in your absence
By virtue of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, s71, where a Local Authority has designated a region within its jurisdiction as an 'Alarm Notification Area', any person who has an audible intruder alarm installed on premises within that area must nominate a key-holder who can switch off the alarm in their absence.


Posted on Wednesday 14th September 2016

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