Britain Is Getting Rid of Its Outdated (and Pointless) Laws

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Over the centuries, England’s Parliament has passed a staggering 44,000 pieces of primary legislation—and many of them are absurd. You’re not allowed to haul a plank of wood down a busy sidewalk, for one thing. You also can't ride a horse while drunk, or "handle salmon under suspicious circumstances."

While they may seem humorous, these laws bog down the books. That’s why Britain’s Law Commission, which reviews laws and recommends changes, will repeal more than 200 measures next year. Wood-hauling and salmon-handling may finally be legalized, and the Law Commission will also get rid of regulations related to British colonial rule in India, as well as many obsolete church laws.

However, not all ancient rulings will be thrown to the wayside. Although it was passed more than 800 years ago, a medieval act called Quia Emptores is still the basis of many principles for English property law. The Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861 is used today to prosecute violent crimes. And parts of the 1267 Statute of Marlborough will still exist, including an element that concerns the seizure of goods to satisfy debts. In short, the Law Commission isn't getting rid of laws simply because they're old—they also have to be irrelevant or unnecessary.

The United States has its share of pointless, outdated, and simply bizarre laws. (For instance, it’s illegal to give a moose a beer in Alaska.) While lawyers and laymen alike usually chuckle at these rules, England’s attempts to purge unnecessary rules from the books makes you wonder if we should do the same.

[h/t New York Times]