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Spoooooooky laws still in place today

Halloween is the time of year we can all appreciate the macabre, the creepy, the unsettling. The law is no exception when it comes to terrifying souls. We asked some of our students to tell us about a spooky law that is still active today. From broomstick height restrictions to inconvenient places to die. The law is full of eerie surprises…

By Editorial Team. Published 30 October 2020. Last updated 11 January 2023.

ULaw students, Danika Hill, Teagan Williams, Karina Osman, Keylee Ashman, Zak Turner, Laura Roughan-Woodthorpe, and Tamsin Sahota, take us on a haunted ghost ride through the law.

Danika Hill, London Bloomsbury Campus
The vile-high club

Witches in Swaziland must fly below 150 metres on their broomsticks. If they go above that height they will be arrested and fined 500,000 Rand (£35k) according to the Civil Aviation Authority. The statute was made in 2013 after the arrest of a private investigator who was caught using a toy helicopter which had a video camera on board, and also applies to kites. The law exists to protect the country’s airspace and because the people of Swaziland strongly believe in witchcraft and black magic.

Karina Osman, Leeds Campus
A ban on dying?

The French town of Sarpourenx has had some issues with people wantonly dying and then expecting to be buried. The mayor issued a proclamation forbidding people from dying within the city limits unless they'd already purchased a burial plot in the local cemetery. The mayor also added that people who ignore this and die will be severely punished. It has been kept a secret and is unclear how the mayor will severely punish the dead.

Zak Turner, Guildford Campus
Don’t impersonate a police officer or a soldier – even at a fancy-dress party.

It’s Halloween. All you want to do is dress up, party like its 1999, and be remembered for the best costume. Except you opt to turn up to the party dressed in full military gear or a law enforcer. Everybody loves a hero or a person in uniform. Big mistake, though. According to the Seamen’s and Soldiers’ False Characters Act 1906, and the Police Act 1996, it’s illegal to pretend to be part of the armed forces or the police. Both of which can lead to a custodial sentence - understandably. So, next time you’re thinking it’s a good idea… think again. What’s crazier though is that dressing up as a paramedic is A-OK.

Teagan Williams, ULaw Online Campus
Taxi for rabid dogs?

Under London Byelaws, which ensure that ease of travel and safety on the transport system: “It’s illegal for any cab in the City of London to transport rabid dogs or corpses”. This was to try and prevent disease in London spreading through transport. This act wasn’t ever repealed so is still technically legislation to this day.

Laura Roughan-Woodthorpe, ULaw Online Campus
Ghostly New York Real Estate Disclosure Law

According to the real estate disclosure law in New York, all property sellers are obligated to inform potential buyers of any paranormal activity in a property. Following the case of Stambovsky v Ackley [1991] 169 A.D.2d 254 which was upheld in appeal, any paranormal activity has to be disclosed as material facts of the property. The Supreme Court judgment stated "as a matter of law, the house is haunted" with the argument being that poltergeist activity reported at the property meant that the listing was a misrepresentation as the house was not in fact "unoccupied".

Tamsin Sahota, London Bloomsbury Campus
The Witchcraft Act 1735

The last person executed for witchcraft was Janet Horne in 1727. She would likely have been protected under the Witchcraft Act 1735. This was a law passed by Parliament which made it a crime for a person to claim that any person had magical power or was guilty of practicing witchcraft.

The passing of this law effectively abolished the hunting and execution of ‘witches’ in Great Britain and marked the ending of the witch trials as the country moved into more enlightened times.

An interesting figure associated with this Act was Lord James Erskine- the only MP to offer significant opposition and a fervent believer in the existence of witchcraft.

This act has evolved- it was first repealed by the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 and later by The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This is a statutory instrument made under the ECA 1972 which introduced new rules about consumer protection in the European Community.

Keylee Ashman, ULaw Online Campus
Who you gonna call, Mr Speaker?

Finally, please try not to die in the Houses of Parliaments this Halloween. Under the Coroners Act 1887, dying is illegal in the houses of parliament. (DNA, Nov 7, 2007) ‘Anyone whose body is lying 'within the limits of any of the Queen's palaces; or within the limits of any other house where Her Majesty is then residing'. Due to the fact that parliament is classed as a royal palace, the convention arises that no parliamentarian dies until they are in an ambulance. It looks like no ghosts will be in Parliament to haunt lawmakers this year at least.


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