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Busting Common English Legal Myths

by | Dec 21, 2021 | News | 0 comments

English law can seem exceptionally strange at times, as although most laws are designed with a specific set of circumstances in mind, the law as written can be very different.

For example, various road traffic laws make it illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving. However, the way this is written means that paying at a drive-through restaurant using a phone is also technically a crime.

You are also not allowed to handle freshwater fish in suspicious circumstances under the brilliantly named Salmon Act 1986, which whilst having the noble goal of stopping illegal poaching, does have one of the greatest lines in English law.

These two laws as well as countless others that are technically still on the statute books make it understandable that people will believe some very common but mythological laws exist.

Here are some of the most famous, and whether they are true or not.

You Can Be Hanged For Sticking A Stamp Upside Down

Whenever the topic of baffling and bizarre laws are brought up, one of the biggest headline topics is the idea that misplacing a stamp when posting a letter can lead to a trip to the gallows pole under archaic 14th-century treason laws.

This is not the case, and not just because the Human Rights Act 1998 banned the death penalty in the United Kingdom. Whilst the Treason Act 1351 referred to crimes involving the Great Seal, Privy Seal and coinage, the act has never referred to stamps.

Committing an act with the aim of deposing the current monarch would rely on a much greater burden of proof than an upside-down stamp.

It Is Illegal To Say Anything Bad In A Reference

Leaving a job can fill both the employer and soon-to-be-former employee with a lot of emotions, some of which can be tempting to express in documents set to be sent to a previous employer.

However, it is not the case that it is a criminal offence to say something bad about a former employee in a reference, so long as it is true.

UK employment law does allow for damages to be sought in cases where inaccurate or misleading information in a reference caused them to suffer a loss.

However, as written explicitly in the Defamation Act 2013, truth is an absolute defence against defamation. If you can prove that the comments are the case, it is not a crime.

Two Hours Of Longbow Practice Every Week

It can sometimes feel like you do not get enough free time, but it could be worse; a long-repeated myth about regular longbow training could be true.

The Unlawful Games Act 1541 was intended to ban several games that were blamed for the “decay of archery”, although it must be noted that this was over a century after Agincourt and the musket had been invented.

The law required all men over 17 and under 60 to own bows and arrows and banned such evil games as dice, cards and cricket.

What is often claimed is that this law is still on the statute books, which is not the case. Most of it, including the archery parts, was repealed in 1845, and the rest were repealed through the Statute Law Revision Act 1948 and the Betting and Gaming Act 1960, which legalised small-odds gambling.

For more information and advice about laws that are still in effect from solicitors in Surrey, get in touch today.