Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT
When the law is an ass
All at sea: Sark is being forced to modernise
For more than 400 years people on the tiny Channel Island of Sark have lived under rules drawn up by their ancestors.
But now pressures of modern society are exerting themselves on the community.
The Chief Pleas, Sark's ruling body, will agree next week to change the law to allow daughters to inherit property.
Until the change it was decreed that all land had to be left to the oldest son.
To many, it seems that the nether regions of the British Isles are often out of step with the times.
The people of the Isle of Man only managed to shrug off some outlandish laws at the beginning of this decade with the passing of a bill repealing 700 obsolete relics of legislation.
They included lifting the ban on crossbows, and Elizabeth I's edict that "Jesuits, Seminary Priests and other suchlike disobedient Persons" must be banished.
However, it would be wrong for mainlanders to point the finger at Sark and the Isle of Man and pat themselves on the back for being so modern.
But pity the poor taxi driver who, until 1976,. could be commanded by a policeman to reveal his or her bale of hay. If they did not have one in the boot, then they were clearly ill-treating their horse.
MPs taking a shine to wearing armour in Parliament are still barred from doing so under a statute of 1313.
And if visiting Burlington Arcade off Piccadilly, do not whistle or raise an umbrella as it may bring retribution from a uniformed beadle.
The Silver Cross pub in Whitehall is still the nation's only legal brothel - as far as can be established the licence granted by Charles I has never been revoked - although you can't even rent a room upstairs for a golf club dinner, let alone an orgy.
And under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 it is an offence (carrying a penalty of £200 or 14 days jail) to:
That did not stop street-wise Londoner Jef Smith, 60, wearing farmers' clothes and carrying a rake, leading his sheep across Tower Bridge earlier this year.
As a Freeman of London, he had every right to lead Clover, an eight-year-old Jacob's Cross, and Little Man, a six-month-old crossbreed over the bridge - whatever time of day.
Of course there are laws that are even beyond the reach of The Law Commission, but make the UK a brighter place for it.
Wimbledon Common Golf Club would need more than a change in the law to back down on insisting that all players wear a pillar-box red outfit - to warn pedestrians they are at risk from flying balls.