“The law is an ass!” said Mr Bumble in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, and it’s true that whilst we all depend on the law to keep us safe, it can also have peculiarities.
Times change and usually the laws change with them, but occasionally, laws remain in existence that have become irrelevant to modern life. They may seem comical to us today, but they also give us a fascinating insight into the past.
But not all weird laws are historical, some laws that are made for specific circumstances just sound strange out of context.
Here are seven laws which will make you chuckle and might even help you win a pub quiz one day!
- It’s illegal to be drunk in charge of a cow
It’s an offence to be drunk in charge of a cow, or indeed, a horse under the Licensing Act of 1872. Fortunately, the Act also prohibits you from being drunk in possession of a steam engine or a loaded firearm.
- It is against the law to have a pigsty at the front of your house.
Unless you can hide your pigsty from public view, it is illegal to keep pigs at the front of your property. This is according to the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. Although it’s probably rarely used, you might be glad of it should your neighbours ever start a pig farm in their front garden.
- It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.
This is from a statute written in 1313, which forbids MPs from wearing a suit of armour whilst in the House. It is believed that the statute was written to prevent any possible uprising against the government of the day.
- Playing knock and run is illegal
Did you ever play ‘knock and run’ as a child? Did you know you could have ended up under lock and key? According to the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839, it’s against the law to knock on someone’s front door and run away.
- It is illegal to be drunk in a pub
You may think that your local hostelry would be the obvious place to have a few too many, but that’s not the case. It is actually an offence under section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872.
“every person found drunk… on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.”
And not only is it illegal for you to be drunk in a pub, it’s illegal for the landlord to allow you to be drunk on the premises. And in a relatively new law, introduced under the Licensing Act 2003, it is also an offence to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk, or to buy alcohol for a person who is drunk.
- It is illegal to dress up as a police officer, soldier or sailor
According to the Seamen’s and Soldiers’ False Characters Act 1906 it is illegal to pretend to be a member of the armed forces, and the Police Act 1996 states that you must not dress up as a police officer.
- And finally, it is illegal to handle salmon under suspicious circumstances.
You may think there’s something fishy about this one but unbelievably, this is actually a law and not that ancient either. In fact, it is stipulated in the Salmon Act of 1986. So be careful on your way home from the supermarket if you’ve bought salmon for dinner, try not to look dodgy or you may just land yourself in deep water!