You’re having a laugh

Planning to have salmon for dinner?  Make sure you don’t handle the fish “in suspicious circumstances”………

It was Charles Dickens who coined the expression “the law is an ass” nearly 100 years ago.  It is arguable that there is a fair amount of evidence to back up that assertion. Did you know that the Salmon Act of 1986 makes it illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances?  Woe betide you should you choose to carry a plank along a pavement. That is an offence under the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839. As we are coming up to the festive season, perhaps some landlords may need reminding that it is illegal for them to permit drunkenness on their premises under an act of 1872. And, did you know that it is an offence to be drunk in charge of a horse? Oliver Cromwell famously banned Christmas celebrations (and Maypole dancing) but that law was largely ignored and by 1660, it was safe to eat mince pies again.

Some laws are just outdated.  If you have the plague, the law says that you should not take a taxi – or any other form of public conveyance – without first telling the driver. Since 1839 it has been an offence to beat or shake any carpet or rug in the street. But, in case you have any concerns, it is okay to shake a doormat outside as long as you do so before 8.00am. The same Act of Parliament also made it illegal to fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling house.

It is not only British laws that raise a smile.  In Texas, a blind person is allowed to hunt so long as they have a sighted person with them.  In Alabama, it is illegal to be blindfolded whilst driving a vehicle.  In Ohio, it is illegal to get a fish drunk.  Still on the theme of animals, in Florida, there was a law to prevent anyone from tying their elephant to a parking meter. Also in Florida, single women are not allowed to parachute on a Sunday. In France it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon.

Perhaps surprisingly, humour can also be found in the apparently dry and dusty world of wills and probate. One aggrieved man wrote in his will “I always promised to mention my first wife in my will. Hello Sue!”  Another left £1 to her daughter “for the kindness and love she has never shown me”. Perhaps the saddest tale involved the beloved cat of an elderly lady. In her will, she left her entire house to be used to provide for her pet. Sadly, on the day of the funeral, the cat was to be found sunning himself lazily on the drive when the hearse arrived……. You can guess the rest. 

Sometimes, people elect to impose conditions on gifts in their will.  It may have been a surprise to three adult children to discover that receipt of their inheritance from their mother was conditional upon them resisting the temptation to spend it on “slow horses, fast women and only a very small amount on booze”.

So wills can be a laugh. What is not funny is that thousands of people die each year without having got round to making their wills. In many cases this means that family, friends and good causes that are important to the deceased may lose out whilst others who are less deserving reap the benefit. 

We at Scott Bailey will take your legal problems seriously whatever the issue you may be facing.  If you need help navigating your way through a legal minefield, we will have the expertise to help.  To speak to one of our specialist solicitors, contact us on 01590 676933 or email at law@scottbailey.co.uk