The 10 most bizarre laws

A Cambridge researcher has compiled the 10 most bizarre laws that are still in force in the UK, and some people may be alarmed to know that it is illegal to be drunk in a pub.  Added to that, MPs are forbidden from wearing armour in parliament, you should not jump queues in the London Underground, and there is a ban on importing potatoes from Poland without written notification.

The laws were identified by Christopher Sargeant, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge.

Section 12 of the 1872 Licensing Act declares that “every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”. It was enacted to reduce consumption of alcohol and to encourage sobriety among the poor. It remains in force within England and Wales as a rule prohibiting public drunkenness.

The Metropolitan Police Act 1839 makes it an offence for any person to carry any cask, tub, hoop, wheels, ladders, planks or poles on a footway “except for the purpose of loading or unloading any cart or carriage”. 

The law prohibiting MPs from wearing armour in parliament by the Bearing of Armour Act dates back to 1313. It was an attempt by Edward II to prevent nobles from threatening to use force when parliament was called. 

The other five unusual regulations highlighted by Mr Sargeant are: a different part of the 1872 Licensing Act that outlaws being drunk in charge of cattle; the 1986 Salmon Act which makes it illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances; a 19th century law banning the beating of carpets after 8.00 a.m. on streets in London; Transport for London rules that prevent queue-jumping in tube stations; and a 2005 law that prohibits activating burglar alarms without nominating a key-holder to turn them off.

Mr Sargeant, who is studying at Cambridge University’s faculty of law, said: “Given its rich and varied legal history, it is inevitable that the UK has had its fair share of weird and wonderful laws. This reflects that even the oldest laws can still serve a key purpose (even if this is not always immediately obvious) or that such rules may be maintained for symbolic reasons.”

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