It is not just legal language that can be difficult to comprehend for the layman and legal translator alike. Often, it is the very content of legal texts that is strange. And the UK has no shortage of bizarre British laws if authors and journalists are to be believed.
From time to time books are published about England’s weird and wonderful laws. Nigel Crawthorne’s The Strange Laws of Old England (2004) is a hilarious case in point. And today the Guardian published a short story about a study commissioned by an insurance company that looks at whether obscure legislation is really needed. It offers a list of the 10 most bizarre British laws “to highlight the complexity and antiquity of statutes that remain in force”. The study has been prepared by a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge and -as is normally the case with lists or compilations of this type- contains some truly odd stuff.
Here are some short excerpts from the article:
“Section 12 of the 1872 Licensing Act declares that “every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”. It was enacted to reduce consumption of alcohol and to encourage sobriety among the poor. It remains in force within England and Wales as a rule prohibiting public drunkenness.
The Metropolitan Police Act 1839 makes it an offence for any person to carry any cask, tub, hoop, wheels, ladders, planks or poles on a footway “except for the purpose of loading or unloading any cart or carriage”. It was passed to ensure people could move freely along public thoroughfares without obstruction.
MPs are prohibited from wearing armour in parliament by the Bearing of Armour Act which dates back to 1313. It was an attempt by Edward II to prevent nobles from threatening to use force when parliament was called. The Earl of Lancaster, it was reported, still attended parliament carrying weapons until at least 1319.
… a different part of the 1872 Licensing Act … outlaws being drunk in charge of cattle; the 1986 Salmon Act – intended to ban poaching – makes it illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances; a 19th-century law bans the beating of carpets after 8am on streets in London.”
To read the full article about these bizarre British laws, click here.