Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Legal Curiosities: Fact or Fable?

The Law Commission has published Legal Curiosities: Fact or Fable?

From time-to-time there are Statute Law (Repeals) Acts intended to tidy out dead wood from the massive so-called 'statute book.'  (See the 2013 Act).  A few candidates for the next such Act appear in the document. 

It is illegal to:

Enter Parliament wearing a suit of armour; to be drunk on licensed premises; to carry a plank along a pavement; to be drunk in charge of a horse and to fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling house.   It is definitely illegal to kill a Scotsman in York whether within or outside the city walls and regardless of the day of the week !! 

It is legal to:

Die in Parliament (and some have); eat mince pies on Christmas Day; put a stamp upside down on a letter. 

A fascinating insight into some of the things which have been considered unlawful during our lengthy legal history and to some of the myths which are mentioned occasionally !

In English Law, once a statute is enacted it will always remain in force until repealed and this is so irrespective of whether the statute is actually enforced.  There is no rule of desuetude.  


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  2. "There is no rule of desuetude. "

    Oh yes there is! It's just behind you!

    "It is the legal doctrine that long and continued non-use of a law renders it invalid, at least in the sense that courts will no longer tolerate punishing its transgressors."

    Try enforcing the mince pie one, and you will have a pantomime acted out, ending with the supreme court proving it.

    1. In English law, statutes remain in force until repealed. Occasionally, old Acts are used to deal with contemporary issues. An example was the use of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 s.36 to deal with protesters who interfered with a train. Of course, whether an old statute is enforced is another matter.

    2. By the way, it IS legal to eat a mince pie on Christmas Day and we do not have to practice Archery anymore!!

    3. Italian Lawyer10 May 2013 at 10:44

      As long as it lasts, ObiterJ. With governments so concerned about obesity becoming a social problem, I wouldn't count on either mince pie on Christmas Day or freedom from compulsory sports practice for much longer. It will be nice, however, to be able to have my shot at a Scotsman next time I 'm in York.

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