independent

Friday 18 April 2014

The country where the new mother-in-law gets in on the action

Land deals in the midlands aren't what they used to be. On December 3, 1868, a lease was signed on a plot to be used to hold a sewage tank in Mullingar.

The terms of the lease stated that the land, beside the Colum Barracks, would be leased for 10,000,000 years. The lease will be up for renewal in the year 10001868.

This nugget of legal inanity is one of 250 such examples in a new book entitled The Law Is An Ass, compiled by Richard Happer.

Ludicrous laws, incredible injunctions and downright daft directives fill the pages and, what is more, they are all still to be found in dusty legal texts, having never been repealed or altered.

Most will make you giggle, but if you are a Welsh person passing through the town of Chester you had better beware.

There it is still legal to shoot a Welshman with a crossbow, as long as it is within the city walls and is done after midnight. No wonder the Welsh feel unloved by their English neighbours.

In a section entitled "Love, Lust and the Law" we learn how, in Florida, any form of sexual contact other than the missionary position is deemed a misdemeanour.

In New Mexico it is legal for couples to have sex in a parked vehicle during their lunch break from work, so long as the car/van/campervan has its curtains drawn to prevent strangers from stealing a glance inside.

Watching a couple in full swing is allowed in Cali, Colombia, but only if you're the wife's mother – no pressure on the husband there then. The law states that the first time a woman has sex with her husband, her mother has to "witness the act".

In all parts of the world, legislators appear to have taken leave of their senses down through the years. Even parliamentary privileges continue to raise eyebrows.

Did you know, for example, that it is still entirely legal to enter the Houses of Parliament in Westminster in a suit of armour?

In far-flung places such as Alaska, questionable laws regarding the locals are baffling.

Like the one which says that it is legal to shoot bears with a gun there, but if you whip out your camera you could be in big trouble.

The law states that waking a sleeping bear for the purpose of taking a photo is prohibited, but putting a bullet between its eyes is grand. I wonder if the state's former governor, Sarah Palin, came up with that one?

Laws involving animals feature heavily.

In Malaysia, it is forbidden for people to dance on the backs of turtles, while in Florida if you tie your elephant to a parking meter you must pay the same fee as you would for a vehicle – proper order.

Fancy going on a holiday with your beloved goldfish? Well, just remember that in Seattle they are only permitted to ride the city buses in bowls if they keep still.

Indeed, it seems no creature is above the law in the USA. In Chicago, a monkey was found guilty of shoplifting and served five days in jail.

The blindingly obvious laws will make you shake your head in dismay.

In London – and they're pretty strict about this – you must be sitting in the front seat while driving.

Memphis drivers are specifically required by law to be awake while driving, while it is an offence to drive blindfolded in Birmingham, Alabama.

In Denmark, you legally have to check under your car for children who may be sleeping there before you start your engine, but if you don't and end up behind bars, don't worry – it's not against the law to escape from prison in Denmark.

Even in death the law is, as Mr Bumble stated in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, an ass, it seems.

In the remote Arctic town of Longyearbyen in Norway, dying is against the law.

The graveyard there stopped accepting newcomers 70 years ago because bodies do not decompose in the permafrost. Finally, eternal life.

The Law Is An Ass is written by Richard Happer and published by Punk Publishing.

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