Fact or Fable?

04 December 2013

With more people in the UK experiencing bladder and bowel symptoms having public conveniences available for use is imperative. However there has been a widespread closure of public toilets resulting in many individuals being reluctant to go out and access essential services. Four out of ten public toilets have closed in the last ten years and only 8 remain open in Glasgow. Further research concludes that this is happening across the UK as a means of saving money for local councils.

So if you are ‘desperate to go’ or are faced with the indignity of passing urine in public, is it actually legal to pass urine in public? After some delving I found a document produced by the Law Commission’s Statute Law Repeals team who answer actual queries about alleged old laws. Some of the ‘interesting’ queries are seen in the table below:

Alleged law

In force?


It is legal for a pregnant woman to relieve herself anywhere she likes, including in a policeman’s helmet.


There is no generally applicable offence of urinating in public, although it is often an offence under local byelaws. Local authorities are expected to exercise discretion in deciding whether to prosecute, based on, for example, the nature of the locality and the availability of public toilets nearby. There does not appear to be a specific exemption for pregnant women, but discretion not to charge might be exercised if a pregnant woman were caught short in public. However, it does seem unlikely that a police officer would offer his helmet for the purpose.

It is legal for a man to urinate in public, as long it is against the rear offside wheel of his motor vehicle and his right hand is on the vehicle.


See above on urinating in public. It has been suggested that the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 contains a provision along these lines for the benefit of taxi drivers, but this is not so.


On a more serious note it is vital that the closing of public toilets is continues to be addressed by the British Toilet Association to prevent individuals becoming ‘prisoners in their own home’.

And with the festive season almost upon us I came across another bizarre query:

It is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day.


The only Christmas Day on which eating mince pies was illegal was in 1644, as 25 December that year fell on a legally-mandated day of fasting.

 However, mince pies themselves were never banned, although they were strongly disapproved of as a symbol of the immoral excesses of the festive season. Further legislation was proposed in 1656 to clamp down on illicit Christmas celebrations, but it was never enacted.


To learn more on legal curiosities please visit http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/Legal_Oddities.pdf

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