The [odd] Rules of Law

Is it legal to shoot a Welshman with a longbow on Sunday in the Cathedral Close in Hereford?  How about handling salmon in ‘suspicious circumstances’?  Surely there isn’t a law against dying in Parliament?

Whether you study or work in law, at some point someone you know will question you on the truth about the legality of these old legal myths.  ‘Of course not’ you’ll tell them confidently!  However there are some surprising truths hidden amongst these tall tales.  In March 2013 the Law Commission undertook the important task of discerning fact from fiction, and published a list of legal curiosities still in effect today.

Below are some of the more surprising laws still in force (including one of the examples above)!


  • It is illegal to be drunk in charge of a horse.

That’s right, no horseplay allowed here (sorry). As per the Licensing Act 1872, it is an offence to be drunk in charge of a horse, cow or steam engine.


  • It is illegal to carry a plank along a pavement.

Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 makes this an offence, along with flying a kite, playing annoying games, and sliding on ice in the street. No. Fun. Allowed.


  • It is illegal to be drunk on licensed premises.

“Every person found drunk… on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty” section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872.  It is at this point in the article I’m sure some of you have realized you are now career criminals.


  • It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.

The 1313 Statute Forbidding Bearing of Armour makes this a no-no. Understandable? Yes. A missed opportunity to spice up PMQ’s? Absolutely!


  • It is illegal to willfully and wantonly disturb people by ringing their doorbells or knocking their doors.

Those games of ‘knock door run’ as a kid? Criminal.  Section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 also makes it illegal to beat or shake any carpet or rug in any street, and to keep a pigsty in front of your house.


  • It is illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances.

Yes it’s true! An offence under the Salmon Act 1986 no less! So next time you see someone handling a Salmon in suspicious circumstances, you’ll know for sure they’re up to something fishy


Learning law can be fun (with the exception of land law obviously).  Find more legal curiosities, along with some debunked urban law legends in the Legal Commission’s report available to download here.


Written by Joe Beet – OULS News Reporter

Joe Beet


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