The 10 weirdest laws in Britain
Cambridge University academic Christopher Sargeant has revealed a ranking of the weirdest laws in force in Britain today after he spent two months analysing the British legal system for its most bizarre bills.
Based on research commissioned by Privilege Insurance, Sargeant used four factors when developing the final list: the age of the legal rule, the degree of clarity of the law, its modern-day relevance and the current public awareness of the law.
From MPs not being allowed to wear armour in parliament to the handling of fish, some of these are truly bizarre...
Find out the ten weirdest laws in Britain!
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. The original reasons behind this rule are unclear, although it may have reflected the desire of King Edward II to try to control the levels of overly conspicuous consumption in the realm.
In 2004, a Mr Robert Davies caught a 9lb sturgeon off the coast of Wales which he duly offered to the Queen, only to receive notice that she was happy for him to dispose of the fish as he saw fit. Thereafter however, Mr Davies was subsequently subject to a short criminal investigation on the basis that sturgeon are also a protected species, such that it is an offence to deliberately catch or kill them. The particular sturgeon in question, dubbed Stanley by the press, now resides at the Natural History Museum in London.
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.
The 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
We have a feeling many might have broken this law - by virtue of the Licensing Act 1872, s12, every person found drunk on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.
This offence was enacted as part of a wider package of rules designed to reduce consumption of alcohol and to encourage sobriety in the poor. It still remains in force today within England and Wales as one of a collection of rules prohibiting public drunkenness.
4. It is illegal to carry a plank along a pavement (as well as any ladder, wheel, pole, cask, placard, showboard, or hoop) 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.
This law was introduced to prevent the occurrence of a public nuisance and to ensure that persons are able to move along public thoroughfares.
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. This Act marked an attempt by King Edward II to try to rein in the tendency of his nobility to threaten to use armed force to put pressure on him to act in a specific way when he decided to assemble a Parliament.
Similar prohibitions had been issued previously, albeit none of these (including the 1313 Act) appear to have been entirely successful, with the Earl of Lancaster attending Parliament under arms until at least 1319. There is no evidence that anyone has been prosecuted for such an offence in living memory.
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.
This offence was originally enacted as part of a wider package of rules designed to reduce consumption of alcohol and to encourage sobriety in the poor.
In 2009, a Mr Godfrey Blacklin was prosecuted for this offence after he admitted drinking several cans of lager before riding a horse bareback through the town of Wallsend. The provision has also been used to convict at least two defendants caught drink driving on golf buggies.
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.
This law, which originally focused solely on salmon, aims to prevent persons selling fish gained through unlawful activities such as poaching.
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.
In other regions, an equivalent offence previously existed in the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, s28, but this was repealed by the Deregulation Act 2015, Sch 23(9), Para 45.
In each case, such laws were designed to expand the powers of the Police to regulate such conduct and thereby to ensure that the streets are kept clean and accessible.
9. It is illegal to jump the queue in the Tube ticket hall
Under the TfL 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 Transport for London Network.
These rules are designed to ensure the good order of the Transport 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.
In addition, the owner of the alarm must notify the local authority in writing of the name, address and telephone number of that person.
Such provisions were originally enacted to respond to growing public concerns around the intrusive levels of noise pollution created by such devices, a problem which still remains high-profile today.