16 Ridiculously Outdated British Laws Still In Effect Today

Free country? Not as free as you think.

There are a number of laws that are still technically in effect today that are, quite frankly, ridiculous.

And it’s not as if no-one’s noticed.

Jack Straw actively fought to keep a number of ‘trivial’ laws after the Lib Dems flagged them up.

In any case, here are a few of our favorites:

According to the Treason Felony Act 1848.

These 6 ridiculous British laws are still in effect todayIf you do have a pigsty outside your house, keep it hidden (Picture: Getty Images)

It is illegal to keep a pigsty in front of your house (unless duly hidden).

Now we can’t honestly say we’ve ever seen a pigsty in front of a house, but we’re sure they do exist (you know who you are) and I’m afraid the owner of that house is breaking the law. Those of you who spend your evenings poring through 19th century legal documents will know all too well that the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 specifically states that ‘every person who keeps any pigsty to the front of any street, not being shut out from such street by a sufficient wall or fence, or who keeps any swine in or near any street, so as to be a common nuisance.’

According to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

According to the Libraries Offences Act 1898.

According to the King’s Prerogative (1322).

It’s illegal for the keeper of a place of public resort to permit drunkenness in the house.

No, this doesn’t mean you can’t get drunk in the pub (as it is often claimed). What it means is that if you own a pub, you can’t legally let your clients get blotto. Which seems to defeat the purpose of a pub. Fortunately, no-one bothers to try and police this law.

(Picture: Getty Images)If you own a pub, try not to let your customers get drunk (Picture: Getty Images)

No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.

According to the Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004.

This law did have sensible origins. It was supposed to guard against ‘ring rot’ spreading to the UK. It’s continued existence is less sensible however. We feel that Polish potatoes – and for that matter, potatoes from many different countries – make a valuable contribution to British society.

According to the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.

It is an offence to be intoxicated and in charge of a cow in Scotland.

According to the Licensing Act 1872.

Why only Scotland? That’s our question. What are these lawmakers suggesting about Scots, alcohol and cows? We’re almost certain that drunks in the rest of the UK cannot take charge of a cow any better than a Scot can. The law also extends to horses and steam engines.

According to the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.

Bad references can constitute defamation of character (Picture: Getty Images)Bad references can constitute defamation of character (Picture: Getty Images)

An employer cannot give a subjective bad reference as this may constitute libel.

It is often said that an employer cannot legally give a bad reference. This isn’t true. Employers will more often than not opt to say nothing about a difficult employee rather than pen them a bad reference because any negative comment must be defendable in a court of law. The recipient of the reference has the right to sue for defamation of character or libel and given that libel laws in the UK are quite strict, the catharsis of slating a former employee is rarely worth the potential fuss.

According to the Statute Forbidding Bearing of Armour (1313).

It is illegal to beat or shake any carpet rug or mat in any street in the Metropolitan Police District, although you are allowed to shake a doormat before 8am.

We can’t say what the thinking was behind this bizarre law. Suffice to say if you want to shake your carpet rug in the street, you better set your alarm.

According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.


According to the Salmon Act 1986.



2 replies on “16 Ridiculously Outdated British Laws Still In Effect Today”

The whole thing about cows also applies to sheep and was enacted because Scottish women are so unappealing that their men historically preferred the intimate company of livestock. Our ancestors tried to enact the same law in wales, but there was too much local public sentiment against it. I heard repeal of the Licensing Act of 1872, cap. 12: Animal Buggery is one of the SNP’s main campaign policies but is unlikely to pass through UK parliament, which is why they are pushing for further devolution and even independence.

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