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 There are many outdated laws which are never enforced.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!


  1. It's the typical panic mentality that prevails when we are faced with hardship. It stops people from thinking.

    The law is only as good as the law makers and we all contribute to this, though those responsible for putting the laws in place, the lawyers who implement those established by their politicians can get bogged down in trying to make laws universally understandable such that they can becomes a nonsense. And it's so hard to change a law once it's established as you suggest.

    These issues are complex. I wouldn't want to try to simplify them too much but a bit more common sense would help but how do you bring common sense to bear on the mob?

  2. Interesting laws you have! I'm afraid fear of being sued is strong in Canada too. Pretty soon we won't be able to leave out homes unless we are very, very brave...and are willing to risk whatever might happen.

  3. Well said! I, too, am always amazed at the depth & breadth of our own silliness. Or is it confusion? At any rate, this was nicely done and greatly appreciated.
    Your Fan
    p.s. Have a lovely & safe week in your snowy wonderland :O)

  4. It seems we are in accord! Indeed, Elisabeth, how can we bring common sense to bear?
    Stine - keep smiling :-)
    Noni - my thanks to you - and I hope you all have a good week ahead.

  5. Some aspects of law make no sense at all to me either.
    I remember so well that in the early 1960's my late father used to clear the snow from the pavement area at the front of our Scunthorpe home. That was until a friend of his advised him that, having cleared the snow, if any person should then slip and fall on that particular area, he would be fully responsible for their injuries! He checked this out and found that his friend was quite right.
    Apparently, by interfering with the snow, you then make yourself responsible for any accidents occuring on the surface which you have created!
    Yet I have seen youngsters creating slides in the snow along pavements, which may then result in someone taking a nasty fall, but no mention is made of them being held responsible. Strange.
    We all need to ake extra care right now, and believe me, two sticks as well as two feet can be extreemly difficult to keep track of!
    Best wishes to you all, Sylvia xx

  6. Sylvia - keep indoors, keep safe - don't go out . . . :-)

  7. I was amazed at the level of stupidity in this country as well: the met office, the police, everybody is warning to stay indoors when the weather is really bad, unless you really really need to go out. But people think it's not that bad, get into an accident and then blame the gritters and salters for not gritting or salting that stretch of road. And all for a pack of smokes sometimes!

  8. I was laughing with two of your phrases "So we'd better all start carving meat and bread with a wooden spoon now!" and "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
    I don't know what happened to us looks like they think we the people are dumb and stupid. What are they thinking when they make the laws???
    Here in the US, expect that the pavement of all business stores are well salted, because the customers might slip and fell down you get sued!! For everybody to know we are the country of lawsuits ^_^

    My 2 cents ^_^


  9. Excellent! I remember my granddaughter, then 8, shaking her head and saying, 'Gramma, they just don't teach common sense, anymore.' I can still see her expression.


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