We have ways of making sure you respect English law

The whole point of the law is to be so baffling and mysterious that no one knows much about it

HOW MUCH do you know about the law? The answer, of course, is not that much. Nobody knows much about the law. That's the whole point of the law - to be so baffling and mysterious that not even top judges and lawyers know much about it. If small gatherings of law lords can't agree on anything, what chance have we got?

So, starting today, I am going to bring you a series of tests on the state of English law. This is not to teach you about the law, but to point out how very little you do know and to increase your respect for the majesty and unknowability of the law. The first set of test questions is all about animals and the law, and is based on three recent court cases. Here we go.

1) Mr Threlfall of Willesden had a long-running dispute with his neighbour, Mr Jacobs. The cause of the dispute is immaterial; what matters is the mode of revenge chosen by Mr Jacobs. Knowing that Mr Threlfall disliked dogs, and was even quite scared of the bigger kinds, Mr Jacobs proceeded on a campaign of capturing a series of stray dogs, then putting collars on them and releasing them again. These collars all had one thing in common; they bore a metal tag on which was written a made-up name for the dog and Mr Threlfall's very real name and address. The result was that whenever one of these stray dogs was caught and brought in, it was returned to Mr Threlfall.

The constant stream of unknown dogs being brought to his door was more than he could stand, and he might well have gone mad had he not suspected that Mr Jacobs was involved in this stray dog campaign.

He soon found a local pet shop which had sold an unexpectedly high quantity of dog collars recently.

"Do you know who bought them?" he asked.

"Yes, a Mr Threlfall," said the pet shop man. "I know that was his name, because he also had a large quantity of tags engraved with his name and address."

"What did this Mr Threlfall look like?" asked Mr Threlfall.

The pet shop man gave an accurate description of Mr Jacobs, and soon Mr Threlfall had instructed his solicitor to lay charges against Mr Jacobs. But with which of the following could Mr Jacobs be charged?

a) Falsely imprisoning a stray dog

b) Cruelty to neighbours

c) Conspiring to give false information to a registered animal shop

d) Falsely uttering another man's address as his own

e) Giving a dog a bad name

2. Mr Ieuan Williams, a small-time Welsh burglar, was caught in his house with the proceeds of a burglary he had committed the night before, including a rare parrot. The parrot was produced in court at Cardiff as evidence, and the owner identified the parrot as his, based on the fact that it could utter several identifiable phrases, including "Rhodri Morgan was cheated!"

The defence argued in favour of Mr Williams, the accused burglar, that all evidence in the court had to be given in either Welsh or English, on request, and they therefore demanded that the parrot also parade his vocabulary in Welsh. As the parrot was unable to do this, they claimed a mistrial.

Can an animal be required to give his evidence in Welsh? And can he be sued by Tony Blair for uttering malicious and libellous comments on the election of a Welsh boss figure?

3. Mr Whistler, a Cumberland farmer, was out with his gun one day looking for rabbits when he spotted a fox and shot it. Unfortunately, it was a tame fox belonging to a Mr Kidwelly, who was out for a walk with it; the fox had been trained not to attack sheep or poultry, and to walk off the lead. Mr Kidwelly was determined to sue Mr Whistler for shooting his pet. His solicitor, however, was of the opinion that he would never persuade the court that anyone should assume that a fox was a pet.

"I have an alternative line of thought," he told his client. "I have inspected the site of the unfortunate shooting and I have noticed that although Mr Whistler was standing on his own land at the time, and the fox was also on his land, he in fact shot across territory belonging to someone else. If we can prove that the bullet passed through air space not belonging to him, I think we can get him on all sorts of gun infringements."

Was there any truth in this? Or was it just the usual sort of hot air talked by lawyers when they're up against it?

I'd like to give you the correct answers to these three. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "correct" answer in English law. That's what English law is all about!

If you're beginning to get the idea, we'll have another test paper soon.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea