16 most Googled ‘laws’ and whether they’re really illegal
Is it really illegal to park on the pavement and can you actually drive in flip flops?
From driving attire to growing hemp and vaping indoors – millions of people seem to be baffled by what they are and are not legally allowed to do.
In fact, they’re amongst the most confused ‘laws’ in the UK – the questions we so desperately want to know if we can get away with.
But now the answers are in. A report by security firm Onlinespyshop has revealed the UK’s most misunderstood laws.
By analysing data from Google, they’ve been able to calculate which searches relating to UK law are most frequently made in the UK.
The study found that some of the queries were for legal – but questionable – behaviour, such as driving barefoot and parking on the pavement. Others were for patently illegal activity, like smoking ‘weed’ and shooting pigeon.
The most common query made by UK Google users relating to the law was “is it legal to record a conversation?”
Recording a conversation is entirely legal, even if one or more parties are unaware they’re being recorded. But it’s what happens once the recording is made that could get you in trouble.
"In the vast majority of situations, it’s not illegal to record a conversation or a phone call as an individual," explained surveillance and security expert Steve Roberts.
"But you must get consent to share or distribute to recording, which is where a lot of people encounter legal trouble. There are privacy and data protection implications of sharing recordings without consent and in most cases, it’ll be against the law to do it."
1. "Is it legal to record a conversation?"
Yes, provided it’s for private use. It may be illegal under privacy and/or data protection legislation to share or distribute the recording.
2. "Is it legal to drive barefoot/wearing flip flops?"
Yes, provided it doesn’t impede operation of the pedals.
3. "Is it legal to drink in public?"
Yes, unless otherwise indicated such as on certain public transport. Belfast has different laws and public drinking is predominantly not permitted.
4. "Is it legal to marry your cousin?"
Yes. It’s legal in the UK to marry your first cousin. It is illegal other parts of the world however, including in 24 of America’s 50 states.
5. "Is it legal to record a phone call?"
Yes, but it may be illegal to share or distribute the recording.
6. "Is it legal to drive with one eye?"
Yes, although you may need a note from your doctor to prove to the DVLA that the sight in your other eye is sufficient.
7. "Is it legal to park on pavement?"
Yes, it’s generally legal, unless in contravention of local authority notices or if the car is causing an obstruction to pedestrians. However, it is illegal to park on the pavement in London in almost all circumstances.
8. "Is it legal to cycle on the pavement?"
No, it’s illegal. Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 clearly prohibits ‘wilfully riding’ on footpaths.
9. "Is it legal to smoke weed?"
No. It is still illegal to smoke cannabis in the UK.
10. "Is it legal to smoke in your car?"
Yes, assuming there are no children in the car and the car is not considered a workplace, such as a taxi.
11. "Is it legal to eat and drive?"
Yes, it’s legal, provided it doesn’t lead to a distraction, which could be deemed as driving without due care and attention or even dangerous driving.
12. "Is it legal to charge for carrier bags?"
Yes, this is completely legal. In fact, retailers with more than 250 employees are legally obliged to charge for single-use carrier bags.
13. "Is it legal to cold call?"
Yes, provided all regulations are observed and the call doesn’t constitute nuisance or harassment.
14. "Is it legal to vape inside?"
Yes, e-cigarettes are not covered by the laws that cover smoking. Although businesses may ban vaping on their premises.
15. "Is it legal to swear in public?"
Yes, it’s not a crime to swear in public. Although persistent swearing or swearing accompanied by other behaviour may constitute a public order offence.
16. "Is it legal to not register to vote?"
No, not any more. The law around voter registration changed a few years ago when the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill passed.
It’s now an offence to not respond to an electoral canvas or to refuse to give details to an electoral registration officer and punishable with a fine. This doesn’t mean it’s illegal not to vote.
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