Tag Archives: laws

A man can avoid UK Death Duties and a woman can piss in a policeman’s helmet

I told someone an untruth yesterday.

In the UK, if you die, your estate has to pay Death Duties (Inheritance Tax) on what you leave behind over £325,000… unless you leave it to your spouse, civil partner, a charity or (rather oddly) a community amateur sports club.

So, basically, your sons, daughters and other heirs have to pay tax on what they inherit in your will.

If you are Lord Bloggs and own some flash country house, hundreds of acres and an estate worth several million pounds, the Inheritance Tax can be crippling. Tax is assessed at 40% of the net value of the estate. The ‘estate’ is property, land, cash, investments, anything of real value you leave behind.

But there is a way round this tax. Not just for Lord Bloggs but for any man who leaves an estate worth over £325,000 (and, with current house prices, that is not uncommon).

If you are a man and your wife is dead, you can marry your son.

A mother cannot marry her son. It is illegal.

A father cannot marry his daughter. It is illegal.

Incest is illegal.

But there is no law against a father marrying his son.

It is one of those quirks in UK law. Much like the quirk that used to mean male homosexuality was illegal but lesbianism was not illegal.

It was never illegal for a father to marry his son because the thought of it was inconceivable and male homosexuality was illegal.

So, now male-male marriages are legal, there is a quirky loophole in the law – that a father can marry his son provided the marriage is never consummated (because incest is still illegal).

That means that if, after the death of his wife, a man marries his son then… when the man dies, the son is his spouse and is not liable for death duties/inheritance tax.

Unfortunately, I found out today that is all a load of utter bollocks.

I told an untruth. Mea culpa.

Apparently a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act 1949 specifically prohibits a father marrying his son – acccording to the Daily Telegraph, who should know about such things.


A great pity.

I rather enjoyed the British quirkiness of it all.

Perhaps we should repeal the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act.

I was always comforted by the thought that there is still an Oliver Cromwell law on the statute books which made it illegal for anyone in England to celebrate Christmas or to eat mince pies on Christmas Day.

But apparently it is an urban myth – Charles II repealed almost all Cromwell’s new laws.

London Metropolitan Police helmet

There is another urban myth that it is legal for a man to urinate on the rear wheel of his vehicle if his right hand is on the vehicle. And that pregnant women can legally urinate in any public place, including into a policeman’s helmet.

Alas, the BBC – who know about such things – say these are just that… urban myths.

Except – and this is true – the Law Commission does say that a police officer may make an exception for an expectant mother.


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Is it still illegal to celebrate Christmas in England? + Eating sloths in Guatemala

Phoenix, Arizona, the perfect place to fry an egg

Phoenix, Arizona: a perfect place to fry an egg on the sidewalk

Yesterday I had lunch with someone who has just come back from Phoenix, Arizona.

“I read a while ago that it was the fastest-growing city in the US,” I told her, “but that it is a hell-hole and you can’t go outside comfortably because of the heat.”

“It was very hot,” she agreed. “They have a new law on the statute books which makes it illegal to fry eggs on the sidewalk any more.”

She swore this was true.

What fascinated me was the phrase “any more” and the fact that such a law might be necessary: that it had become so prevalent it was a problem.

In the 1980s, as far as I am aware, it was still illegal under the law of England and Wales for young adult males NOT to practice archery every Sunday (presumably in case the French invaded or the English monarch decided to invade France)… and it was illegal to celebrate Christmas (under an un-repealed Cromwellian law). As far as I know, it still is.

The mis-named English justice system is constantly fascinating.

Last week, I read in the London edition of Metro newspaper that Westminster Magistrates’ Court had given a 20-year-old man a £745 fine and imposed a curfew on him because he had been staying in a hotel and had “emerged from a cupboard naked, with a fire hose up his bottom”.

A fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

Fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

The 20-year-old man was said by his lawyer to be “truly ashamed of himself”. This sounds unlikely. He will presumably be bought free drinks by his friends for the next ten years.

The Metro report did not specify the exact law under which the man had been prosecuted. Can there really be a specific law prohibiting people being naked with a fire hose up their bottom?

Life is a constant mystery.

But one mystery has been cleared up.

Yesterday, I wrote that this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith had told me that her sister’s visit to Guatemala had resulted in three children and her (the sister) becoming an Anglican priest.

I wanted – I think not unreasonably – to know more details.

These have been forthcoming.

Anna tells me:

“Twenty five years ago, my sister met a cute Guatemalan refugee at Saigon Palace – a Vietnamese restaurant on Spadina Avenue in Toronto. They married and soon had three children. My Guatemalan in-laws were very happy when they found out I had been involved with British comedy – In particular, they were desperate to know if I had met ‘Benny Eel’.

“My new Guatemalan extended family also enjoyed visiting the Natural History Museum in Toronto. When we walked past the taxidermied displays of jungle animals, they said: Yummy Yummy… Remember when we ate that anteater in Rio Bravo?  and  Look – a sloth! Remember when Auntie cooked us some sloth stew?…

A sloth - highly regarded in Guatemala

A sloth – they are highly regarded by gourmets in Guatemala

“Then suddenly (well, after eight years at the UBC Theology School), my sister became an Anglican priest.

“She moved to a village high in the Guatemalan mountains. After years of being shot at during anti-mining demonstrations, she decided to return to Canada and has been installed in a church in New Westminster, close to where the recent Godzilla movie was filmed. She has recently completed a book about the evils of the Canadian mining industry in Guatemala and sat as a judge in some genocide trials.”

“Good heavens!” I said. “Genocide trials in Canada?”

“In Mexico City, I think,” replied Anna.”I will have to ask… She was a witness of a lot of exhumed bodies…”

Some answers just create more questions.

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In Vancouver: Godzilla, sex workers, a man in a surgical mask & red umbrellas

Godzilla 3D - coming to you in 2014

Godzilla 3D, now filming – coming to your city in 2014

The things I do not know about are many and varied, but I am always interested to hear about them.

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith reports that the newest Godzilla movie is being filmed in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster (up-river from Anna’s boat) and in Richmond (famous for the troubling potato thefts which have been mentioned in previous blogs).

Meanwhile, other suburbs of Vancouver (Surrey and Coquitlum) have been facing attacks by wild bears and Anna went on a demonstration last Saturday.

“Sex workers and their supporters,” she told me, “assembled downtown at Vancouver Art Gallery to rally in support of retired dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford and others in a case about to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday.”

Red protest included Anna Smith (right) Photo by Kerry Porth

Anna Smith (right) saw red at Saturday’s rally (Photo by Kerry Porth)

It is called the Bedford v Canada case.

Terri-Jean Bedford wants the Supreme Court to strike down laws that prohibit operating bawdy houses, making money from prostitution and communicating in public to sell sex. An Ontario Superior Court judge struck down all three laws in 2010, concluding that they violated the defendants’ constitutional rights to freedom of expression and security of the person. The Ontario Court of Appeal later upheld the street soliciting law, but agreed with the previous ruling on the laws regarding bawdy houses and living off the avails.

At Saturday’s rally, Anna tells me she wore a red costume and carried a sign which said FUCK THE NORDIC – a  reference to ‘The Nordic Model’ ….a term meaning the current Swedish method of attempting to decrease prostitution which involves criminalising the customers of prostitutes and sending the prostitutes themselves to counselling.

“A lone, middle-aged Norwegian man came up to me,” Anna told me yesterday “and angrily said I’m Nordic and told me he found my sign very offensive. He  stomped away before I could explain the meaning… I shouted after him: I’m Nordic too!”

The rally last Saturday, says Anna, was followed by a march through downtown Vancouver and past the seedy used bookstore area.

“Near Victory Square,” Anna told me, “we were joined by a group of First Nations sex workers who were very happy to take the lead.”

“First Nations?” I asked.

“It’s the proper way to say ‘Red Indian’ here,” Anna explained.

“Our route also took us through the DTES (downtown east side) area, which is Canada’s poorest postal code and infamous for its murders and drug addicts. It’s the area where serial killer Robert Pickton picked up his victims… aka The Missing Women… a case which affected everyone in British Columbia and which was the subject of a recent public inquiry.”

Former pig farmer Pickton was arrested in 2002 and convicted of murdering six sex workers though the remains of dozens were found on his farm and he boasted that he killed fifty prostitutes.

“Sex workers and their allies rallied in major cities across Canada last Saturday,” Anna told me, “wearing red costumes and carrying red umbrellas.”

“Red umbrellas?” I asked.

“The red umbrella is the international symbol of the sex worker,” explained Anna.

“Oh,” I said.

“A couple of other troubling incidents have occurred in the Vancouver region over the weekend,” said Anna.

“And they were?” I asked.

“Police are searching for a man dubbed “The Surgical Mask Bandit” who has been robbing banks wearing a surgical mask.”


“And the inhabitants of the large houseboat tied up behind my boat held a large house party on Saturday night. The combined weight of the guests nearly sank the houseboat. The guests bailed valiantly from all available portholes, but in vain. The fire department eventually arrived and, after much struggling with the laws of physics, they were able to stabilize the vessel and pump her to a safer altitude.”

Other people’s lives are a constant source of interest and wonder.

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