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Christmas crimes: These are the laws Santa breaks

It’s no secret Father Christmas does all the hard work at Christmas. But to manufacture and deliver all of the presents on time, many illegal behaviours must be taking place.

Below, Peter Crisp, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at The University of Law, reveals five laws St. Nicholas could be guilty of breaking in order to deliver Christmas cheer around the world:

1. The naughty or nice list

Throughout the year, many children are on their best behaviour to ensure they’re on Santa’s nice list. But how does Santa know whether each child should be on the naughty or nice list?

To gather this level of detail, Santa and his elves would need access to a lot of personal information, to ensure each child is on the correct list. If he is collecting all of this information, he will need to adhere to the Data Protection Act 2018¹. Everyone responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. If Father Christmas isn’t following these rules, then he could face a number of penalties and fines up to £20million from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office).

2. Employee rights

To ensure all gifts are made within good time, Santa’s little helpers will need to work all day and night to manufacture the presents, which could mean Father Christmas is overworking his elves.

The UK legal limit for working is 48 hours per week and workers have a right to daily and weekly rest breaks, which include a daily rest period of at least 20 minutes if the working day exceeds six hours. What’s more, workers should also have the correct employment contracts in place to ensure they’re not being exploited. Should he not have the appropriate regulations in place for his elves, then they could make a complaint to an employment tribunal and Santa could be hit with a financial penalty.

3. Drink driving

Father Christmas is often greeted with sweet treats including cookies and mince pies when he visits each house. However, some parents leave him an alcoholic beverage to enjoy such as beer, whisky or brandy.

In the UK, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 ml of breath, or 107 mg per 100 ml of urine. So, should Santa have a few cheeky tipples at each house he visits, then he could face imprisonment, be banned from driving or be billed with a fine if he’s found guilty of drink-driving.

4. Speeding

Santa only has one night to deliver his presents across the world; therefore, he’ll have to travel pretty quickly to avoid any disappointed faces come Christmas morning. The maximum speed limit in the UK is 70 mph, but in built-up locations such as residential areas, it’s 30 mph. So, should Santa be caught speeding, he could receive a fine and penalty points on his license. Moreover, if he builds up 12 or more penalty points within a 3-year period, then he could be disqualified from driving altogether.

5. Animal welfare

According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, a person commits an offence if they don’t ensure that the needs of an animal for which they are responsible are met to the extent required by good practice. For the purpose of this act, the needs of an animal include:

  • A suitable environment
  • A suitable diet
  • Exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Be with, or apart from, other animals
  • Protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Should Father Christmas be disregarding animal welfare laws, for example, forcing his reindeers to work in freezing conditions, without recommended rest stops and food, then he could be breaking the law. The most serious crimes can lead to a fine of £20,000 and as much as 51 weeks of imprisonment. Those convicted can also be prohibited from owning or dealing with animals.

Crisp at The University of Law also comments: “In order to deliver all of his presents on time, it’s clear Santa commits a number of crimes each year to ensure he gets the job done. Personally, I think he should practise what he preaches and put himself on the naughty list!”

For more information about The University of Law, please visit:

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1. Website accessed November 2019 -

2. Website accessed November 2019 -

3. Website accessed November 2019 -