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Britain's absurdest laws wow the crowd

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A survey to determine which of Britain's laws merits the "most absurd" crown has named a ban on popping your clogs in the Houses of Parliament as worthy winner.

Second up was the rarely-enforced legislation which makes sticking a stamp bearing Her Maj Liz II's head upside down on an envelope an act of treason, closely followed by the Liverpudlian bylaw which prohibits women going topless unless they work in a tropical fish store.

The poll was carried out by UKTV Gold, and the 4,000 participants also honoured Ohio's prohibition on getting fish pissed as the best piece of international tomfoolery. Occupying second spot on the worldwide podium was Indonesia's punishment of masturbation by decapitation, with the fact that in Bahrain a male doctor "can only examine the genitals of a woman in the reflection of a mirror" taking the bronze medal.

And before you start crying foul on the topless Liver Bird thing, the Telegraph quotes a Liverpool City Council spokesman as debunking: "It's something that has been heard of before and does crop up from time to time, but it is absurd. It is a myth and totally made up. It has no basis in fact."

Which is a terrible shame, we reckon, especially for tropical fish fanciers.

The dying in parliament one is, though, completely true. The reason for the ban is that the buildings count as a royal palace, and Nigel Cawthorne, author of The Strange Laws of Old England, clarified: "Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral. If they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly."

Most ridiculous British laws:

  1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament (27 per cent)
  2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down (7 per cent)
  3. In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store (6 per cent)
  4. Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day (5 per cent)
  5. In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter (4 per cent)
  6. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet (4 per cent)
  7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen (3.5 per cent)
  8. It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing (3 per cent)
  9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour (3 per cent)
  10. In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow (2 per cent)

Most ridiculous foreign laws:

  1. In Ohio, it is illegal to get a fish drunk (9 per cent)
  2. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation (8 per cent)
  3. In Bahrain, a male doctor can only examine the genitals of a woman in the reflection of a mirror (7 per cent)
  4. In Switzerland, a man may not relieve himself standing up after 10pm (6 per cent)
  5. In Alabama, it is illegal to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle (6 per cent)
  6. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on a Sunday could be jailed (6 per cent)
  7. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth (6 per cent)
  8. In Milan, it is a legal requirement to smile at all times, except at funerals or hospital visits (5 per cent)
  9. In Japan, there is no age of consent (5 per cent)
  10. In France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon (4 per cent)

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