Throughout history, civilisations have come up with some fairly unusual crimes and possibly even more unusual punishments. Of course, many of these are never, if ever prosecuted.
In a country like Australia, where there is an abundance of laws and regulations covering just about every aspect of our lives, it is only to be expected that some of these laws are largely ignored.
Did you know you can be caught out for driving furiously? According to the NSW Road Transport Act, driving a motor vehicle recklessly comes with a fine or even jail time. But what exactly does it mean to be “driving furiously”?
Not only is driving furiously not allowed, but neither is riding your bicycle furiously, and it is an offence to ride a horse furiously if you cause injury to another person.
It appears all these had their roots in English common law, which also retains similar offences. Driving furiously, which is a centuries-old offence, refers to the same behaviour that we would be more likely to categorise as reckless, or dangerous driving – which explains why in legislation “driving furiously” is listed right alongside recklessly and at a speed or manner dangerous to the public.
Even more bizarrely, this year in England, a pensioner has actually been found guilty of a 167 year old offence and one rarely prosecuted these days.
She was riding through the Surry countryside, “furiously”, and it was reported to police by witnesses who were incensed at her refusal to slow down as she neared others and the fact that she was yelling at her horse. The 65 year old pleaded guilty to the charges and got a fine.
Stealing library books
While its not surprising that stealing from libraries is not condoned by law, the fact that it has its own provision in the Crimes Act is quite interesting as are the unexpectedly severe penalties.
Stealing or damaging public library books could see you facing a fine of $1,100 on top of four times the value of the book. But more surprisingly, there is also a potential jail time attached – that’s right, stealing or damaging a library book has a maximum prison sentence of one year.
While this is not a commonly prosecuted offence but even so, the penalties are unexpectedly high.
When you are designing your next business card, make sure it isn’t a direct replica of Australian currency. Not only is that completely tacky, but it is also against the law. It is illegal to have a business card that resembles money if it is capable of deceiving people into thinking it is real.
And when it comes to cash, intentionally defacing, disfiguring, mutilating or destroying notes or coins are all offences.
But not only that, knowingly being in possession of such money is an offence. And the penalty is even steeper than stealing from a public library – according to the Crimes (Currency) Act, having defaced money in your possession is punishable by up to $5,000 for an individual and two years imprisonment.
In addition, according to the Royal Australian Mint, defacing money may also be a copyright infringement. The designs on our coins are protected by author’s rights of ‘integrity of authorship’ which means you can’t treat their work in a derogatory way.
That’s certainly something to think about the next time you are handed your change in the supermarket and you notice the notes are not up to scratch!
This one is technically not the law anymore, but until recent graffiti law changes, chalking a hopscotch grid on a footpath came under the definition of vandalism. This was an inadvertent effect of the drafting which no longer exists under the new legislation. While the new graffiti laws crack down on vandals in other ways, at least avid hopscotch players are now off the hook.