IT HAS recently been suggested that Britons fighting for the Taliban or radical Islamic preachers could be charged with treason. Believe it or not, the original Treason Act dates from 1351 and this Act and its successors have been debated more in the early 21st century than they ever were used for actual prosecutions.

The law against treason has produced some bizarre anomalies. Did you know for example that it is treason to place a stamp bearing the Queen’s image upside down on a letter. This is in fact a play on the actual law which states that defaming, defacing or mocking the Monarch’s portrait is treason and therefore punishable by law.

It is also still an offence, to publish any writing advocating the abolition of the Monarchy. This was introduced in 1848 at the height of the Rebellion from Chartists and Irish Radicals and the law is still in force.

The 1313 Statute (Coming Armed to Parliament) Act and the Treason Act of 1351 forbids the wearing of armour by Members of Parliament when attending the House and it has never been repealed.

You might also be surprised to note that the category of offence of High Treason punishable by death included not only conspiring to overthrow the King, but also coinage – which was effectively producing counterfeit money. That penalty was only abolished in the late 19th century.

The last trial for treason in this country happened less than 70 years ago. It was William Joyce, whose nightly Germany Calling broadcast as Lord Haw Haw were designed to undermine national morale during the Second World War. He was tried and executed in 1946.

The death penalty for high treason was only abolished in the Crime & Disorder Act 1988. Since then, the maximum sentence for treason in the UK has been life imprisonment. There are a number of other older statutes which as they have not been repealed are technically still the law of the land.

It is for example unlawful to die in the House of Commons. The reason for that is that anyone who dies in Parliament is technically entitled to a State Funeral and the law is there to ensure that this does not happen. It is illegal to jump the queue in a Tube Ticket Hall under the TFL Railway Bylaws. Try nabbing a police officer to enforce that one. It is still illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances (Salmon Act 1986).

It is reassuring to know that it is still illegal to beat a carpet on the street, carry a plank along the pavement, fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling, flag down a taxi while suffering from the plague, let your house alarm go off without nominating a key holder to gain entry when you are away.

Something I did not know is that it is illegal for an employer to give you a bad reference. It is for that reason that unhappy employers give either neutral or no reference at all. However the remedy is not arrest. It is to sue for libel or slander and the employer would have a complete defence if the bad reference was justified.

Some of the more bizarre statutes have thankfully been repealed. One of these made it illegal to stand within 100 yards of the reigning Monarch without wearing socks. This was repealed by James I.