A light covering of snow over the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Parliament Square, London, England. The British legal system is a strange beast. Our laws have been formed of a patchwork of rules brought in bit by bit for the past 800 years.
Some seem bizarre because they haven’t been updated for more than a century, while some are very new charges that catch people unawares.
We reveal seven of the strange laws that could catch you out when you’re doing anything from household chores to commuting.
1. Defacing currency
A report from The Daily Mail this morning revealed that if you write, draw or scribble on any note, under the Currency and Bank Notes Act of 1928, you could be fined £1 a time. It’s not exactly a rigorously-enforced rule, but might make people think twice before they post something amusing they’ve done to a bank note on social media.
UKBelieve it or not, the same report revealed that the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 stipulated that hanging washing out in the street, beating carpets or flying kites there are against the law – and the rules have never been amended.
The residents of a new development in Beverley may not be surprised by this law – as a clause in their house deeds prevents them from hanging washing out too – in case it lowers the tone of the area.
3. Putting your feet on train seats
Railway bylaws outlaw all sorts of things, from walking the wrong way on an escalator to trying to get onto a train before at the passengers have got off. In practice most of these aren’t rigorously en-forced, however some train companies are cracking down on one offence under the by-laws: putting your feet on the seats. In January one man travelling in an empty carriage in Cheshire was slapped with a £50 fine for doing it.
4. Walking a dog without a spare poo bag
Daventry Council have introduced rules for dog walkers which decree they can be fined up to £100 if they walk their dog without carrying a dog poo bag. If you’re tracked down by an enforcement officer after you have used and disposed of your bag, this is no defence: the council expects you to be carrying a spare.
Last year a grandmother from Kent was fined £60 after her one-year-old granddaughter fed Christ-mas cake to squirrels in a churchyard. The council enforcement officer said they were attracting pests, and the council was operating a zero-tolerance approach.
6. Failure to weed
A homeowner in Gloucester said at the end of last year he would have to sell his house to pay the fines he faced for letting his garden get overgrown. The neighbours complained, so the council tried to persuade him to cut back his overgrown garden. When he failed to do so, they stepped in, did the weeding, and then sued him for the cost.
7. Having a long funeral
We reported last summer on the man from Nottingham who had stayed at his wife’s graveside after her funeral and was billed £160 by the council for it. The council had charged the extra fee because the gravediggers had had to stay beyond their contracted hours.