Sunday, 10 January 2010
The law is an ass!
'I am ashamed the law is such an ass.'
George Chapman (1559?-1634?) Revenge for Honour IIIii
The UK is frequently judged to be developing into a 'nanny state'. There are many outdated laws which are never enforced. For example, London hackney carriages are required to carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats. This dates from the time of horse-drawn cabs, more than a hundred years ago. Some taxis carry specially manufactured small bales of hay in order to hold to the letter of the law. It is also illegal in London for a person suffering from the Plague to flag down a cab and no cab may carry corpses or rabid dogs.
Suicide is a capital offence! Presumably this only applies to failed suicides (but then that would not hold up in law!)
It is against the law to eat mince pies on Christmas Day. It used to be illegal to celebrate Christmas because it wasn't considered puritan enough. This was an understandable objection as it absorbed and ran alongside the Pagan festival of Yule, held to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the returning of light.
The idiocy of ancient law is well-known and amusing. What is more worrying is the way in which law is interpreted and applied in 2010. Myleene Klass, a broadcaster, singer and model with classical music training, saw teenagers peering through her window. She and her daughter were alone in the house so she grabbed a knife and screamed and banged on the window to scare them away. She called the police who advised her that she should not have used the knife to frighten the trespassers because carrying an offensive weapon is illegal, even within her own home. So we'd better all start carving meat and bread with a wooden spoon now!
In Glasgow, parents have been told that they must accompany their under-age offspring (that is, under 16) to the toilets in licensed premises. Do licensees think such teenagers will grab a bottle as they pass or perhaps they are afraid the youngsters might slip and bang their heads – or neglect to wash their hands.
Meanwhile, in snow-bound Britain, (Gordon Brown really has overdone his promises to halt global warming!) householders and store proprietors have been warned that they had better not clear the pavements in front of their premises in case passers-by slip on carelessly swept ground and sue for damages. 'Scatter grit, spread salt, use cat litter' you cry? NO – we have not had the training and more importantly, in this increasingly litigious land, we aren't covered by the relevant insurance clauses.
Yesterday many football matches were cancelled or postponed – a cause for celebration in my case – because the owners of clubs and managers of grounds are worried for the safety of their patrons. Schools have been closed across the land, though some are managing to soldier on, but the streets and forests are full of pedestrians with sledges and walking poles and the shops are heaving with those customers who have not yet slipped and broken ankles, wrists or necks and are busily stocking up with everything they need and often much they do not. Local 'corner' shops are doing a roaring trade and having to restrict purchases of some items – 'Only two loaves per customer, please!'
As Dick said, (not the Dick the shepherd of icicles fame) in Henry VI, Part 2, 'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'
. . . and so say all of us – or at least the Health and Safety contingent who see danger everywhere and no fun at all!