OPINION: The Law Society
Reporter: John Hardcastle
Date online: 05 July 2010
“I know not whether Laws be right or whether Laws be wrong.
All that we know who live in gaol is that the walls are strong;
And that each day is like a year, a year whose days are long.”
Oscar Wilde. ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’.
I read with a mixture of boredom and general disinterest, news reports of Councillor Greg Couzens exhorting us to sign up to a government online initiative to ‘name, shame and scrap’ your least favourite law.
This sort of ‘government via internet’ nonsense was brought in by New Labour and is no doubt designed to fool the electorate into believing that their views are somehow important. All of this is flummery and balderdash of course. Bread and circuses for the proles of the New Roman Empire.
It was a warm day today and I had nothing better to do so I idly scanned a few of the suggestions. Most of them of course were predictable. There were various calls to scrap the Human Rights Act (1998), a dangerous point of view in my opinion in a country that relies entirely upon an unwritten and thus ever-changing constitution to protect the few rights that its citizens still manage to enjoy.
There was the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and of course, the Immigration Act (2002 & 2009). The Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) gets a few nominations as well as all the other usual suspects that seem to be held by frequenters of the Regal Moon (Opinion passim) to account for most of society’s ills.
I reflected on this for a while and immediately thought of two of our more obscure laws that in my humble opinion should be cleansed from the statute books:
- The law that still makes it illegal to eat mince pies in England on Christmas Day should, in my view, finally be repealed. As a law-abiding citizen, I have for years refused this customary final course of my festive dinner for fear of being hauled up before the local ecclesiastical court and given a hefty fine.
- In Liverpool it is illegal for a woman to be topless in public, unless they are a clerk in a tropical fish store. Clearly, any stagger round Liverpool city centre in the late evening will confirm that this law is being tested to its very limit and should also be scrapped (assuming of course that the half-naked strumpets who parade down Lime Street in a highly intoxicated state during the latter part of the evening are not all bona-fide employees of tropical fish emporiums).
The Licensing Act (2003) is a popular target of people’s displeasure and has been blamed by many for the death of live music in many smaller venues such as pubs. Were it up to me, I’d ban karaoke and those artistes who do not employ musicians but instead sing to backing tracks (due apologies to Brendan Decko and others) .
I do not profess to be an authority on the law and thought I knew just enough to help me get through life without running foul of ‘the old Bill’. That was indeed what I thought until last Saturday.
On the day in question, I was driving along Edenfield Road when I suddenly realised that I had not bought a newspaper. I pulled the car up in the Cutgate Shopping Centre and asked my twelve year old to nip out and get me a copy of The Telegraph from the Co-op. He returned to the car five minutes later minus paper and told me that they had told him that he had to be fifteen to buy it. I asked him for more information and he told me they had said something about ‘adult content’.
Now had this been ‘The Sunday Sport’ or some ‘top shelf ‘ magazine I could have understood it but The Daily Telegraph for God’s sake. Has the world gone mad?
I did not have time to go into the shop to find out which law forbids a boy of twelve from buying a newspaper. I am searching the internet in vain to find out which law labels my choice of newspaper as an obscene publication from which striplings and minors must be protected.
Needless to say, when I find out which law actually covers this type of crime, I will be pressing for its immediate repeal.
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