Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Die In Parliament, It's The Law

By Gary Cleland (Gary Cleland is a former national newspaper journalist who reported for The Daily Telegraph and has written for The Sunday Times, The Sun and the Daily Mirror.)

Published: 4:11PM BST 12 Apr 2008

A ban on people dying in the Houses of Parliament has been named the most absurd legislation in Britain.

* The ten most ridiculous British and international laws

In a public vote, the second strangest law was one making it an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the monarch's head upside down on an envelope.

A bizarre Liverpudlian bye-law that apparently banned women from going topless in public unless they worked in a tropical fish store came third.

However, the city has denied such a rule existed, saying it was an urban myth.

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "It's something that has been heard of before and does crop up from time to time, but it is absurd.

"It is a myth and totally made up. It has no basis in fact."

But others are real - the reason people are banned from dying in parliament is that it is a Royal palace.

Nigel Cawthorne, author of "The Strange Laws of Old England", said: "Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral.

"If they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly."

He added: "You can see the sense in the 1279 law banning people from wearing armour to Parliament. It is not supposed to be a violent place."

At number seven on the list is a law, the Royal Prerogative 1324, that decrees that any whale or sturgeon found on the British coast belongs to the monarch.

The law is very much still in place, as fisherman Robert Davies found out in 2004 when he was investigated by police in Plymouth.

He had faxed the Royal Household to tell them he had caught a sturgeon, and was told to keep it, but did not realise it was still illegal to try and sell it.

Eventually no charges were brought.

Other laws on the list include Oliver Cromwell's decree from around 1644 to combat gluttony by banning people from eating mince pies on Christmas Day and the revelation that, according to an old London bye-law, a pregnant woman can relieve herself anywhere she wants - including in a policeman's helmet.

Not everyone is happy about that. There is currently a petition on the Downing Street website calling on Gordon Brown to take that right away from pregnant women, calling it "an insult to male police officers".

The survey, carried out by television channel UKTV Gold, also asked people to comment on some of the more absurd international laws.

Top of that list was a local bye-law from Ohio in the US, that banned residents from getting a fish drunk.


  1. Nice site, very informative. I like to read this.,it is very helpful in my part for my criminal law studies.

  2. Too funny! But i believe all true.
    In Canada today we are celebrating the bd's of both Queen Victoria and the reigning monarch Elizabeth. Long live the Queen!