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THE UK: Subject Guides

4 Strange law cases in British history

Read about the oddest cases in British law history. Could you keep a straight face if you were a judge in one of these cases?

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Often credited as society’s moral cornerstone, at time the realm of law feels intimidating and inaccessible. Television tells us that being a lawyer means sleepless nights amidst a sea of takeaway Chinese food boxes; of anonymous phone calls and board-rooms with impossibly high ceilings. Cynics tell us that being a lawyer means being chained to your desk, resigned to a future of climbing endless mountains of paperwork.

The truth is that the practice of law is based on people. Whether as individuals or acting within an organization, you deal with consequences of what people do, how they behave towards others and above all, how they distinguish right from wrong. How you’ll be asked to chalk this up is unpredictable, and differs from case to case. These four bizarre UK cases are testament to the fact that in law, you can never quite know what will turn up on your desk.


The Ninja of Swansea

Decked out in full ninja attire and carrying homemade nunchunks, enthusiast Musahid Islam was spotted scaling the exterior of Singleton Park’s Swiss Cottage in July 2013.

It’s not illegal to be a ninja, nor is it to practice ‘ninja training’ in public. Nunchunks are not considered offensive weapons unless they are carried with intent to cause harm, and in this case were named simply as a training device made from a chest-expander device.

Whilst Islam might be deft in his mastery of motor skill, he left a bag containing a Stanley blade in the park toilets that was found by a council worker. It was this that caused his undoing.

Previously a victim of racial vilification due to his Bengali heritage, Islam claimed that the blade was meant only for his protection. He was charged in the Magistrates’ Court with possession of a Bladed Article, and received a sentence of eight weeks detention which was later suspended for 12 months.


Motorist persecuted for driving through puddle

A 22 year old Essex driver faces a court summons and a £5,000 fine for driving through a puddle and subsequently splashing a mother and her two children in January 2014.

The children, David, eight, and Emma, 11, were left completely soaked and cold by a wave of dirty water after the motorist had passed them. Debbie Pugh, the children’s mother, claimed that the driver deliberately drove through the puddle at high speed, and could have easily avoided it.

Little did the driver know that there was a police officer in the car behind him who saw the whole thing. After witnessing the incident, PC Mark Hercules pulled over the vehicle and informed its negligent pilot that he was being reported.  

The driver has been reported for careless driving under violation of Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act, upon grounds of driving ‘without reasonable consideration.’ This, according to the Crown Prosecution Service policy, includes ‘driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed.’


Journalist’s report on two QCs pastry habits proved false

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some baked goods to alleviate pressures of being two of the best-known QCs in Belfast. According to Dublin-based newspaper The Sunday World in 1987, Desmond Boal and Robert McCartney sought to do just that, only things didn’t go to plan.

Running beneath the headline Who Nearly Had a Bun-Fight?, the story reports that upon discovering there wasn’t enough chocolate éclairs in the bakery for both men, the two had a public dispute about who saw them first.

The paper admitted that the incident had been fabricated, with the journalist responsible saying from the witness box that he thought ‘it was true at the time and it was only a trivial humorous item.’

Suffice to say that Boal and McCartney took the matter to court, and successfully received £50,000 each for substantial damages.  Why the journalist chose to colour his fiction using two legal professionals remains a mystery.


Batman Strikes Back

West Yorkshire vigilante Stan Worby marched into Bradford Police Station dressed as Batman on February 25, 2013, with apprehended suspect Daniel Frayne in tow.

Worby was presumed to be completing a citizen’s arrest: a sometimes hazy grey area that puts self-appointed deputies at risk of civil liability. Did Batman have probable ground to apprehend the suspect? How was he made aware of the situation in the first place? These troublesome grey areas rest on moral arguments as to whether the citizen’s judgement call is ‘right’ or not, and in what circumstances it came about. Both are key moot points in contemporary law practice.  

Depending on the circumstance, citizen aides may be charged with kidnap or assault, or even end up as a suspect in the crime itself.

In this case, Worby is assumed privy to Frayne’s suspect status as the two were reported friends, but it’s unclear whether Frayne offered any resistance or created need for Batman to defend himself in the name of justice. 

As it later transpired, both Worby and Frayne were both charged with burglary after police stopped a vehicle containing goods that were suspected to have been stolen.


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