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Jul 08

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A common misconception

Something that’s been bubbling up for a while that I haven’t had time to sit down and type up. Probably not if interest unless you’re in to weird laws.

Despite what many “weird laws” websites claim, it is not illegal to die in the House of Commons, at least in the sense that doing so is not prohibited by any statute law or regulation. There are places in the world that it is illegal to die, but none of them are in the UK, where – unusually for our overly-regulated society – you are perfectly free to drop dead wherever you wish.

it is true, however, that should you be unfortunate enough to expire whilst within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, your death will instead be recorded as having occurred at St. Thomas’ Hospital, which is on the South Bank of the river immediately opposite Parliament. There is no actual law that says this must be the case, it’s a matter of custom.

It is also true that the reason this legal fiction is maintained is to avoid complications that arise out of the fact that the Palace of Westminster is, as its name suggests, still technically a Royal Palace. It is not the case, as many of the websites that proclaim the illegality of parliamentary death claim, that dying in a Royal palace entitles you to a state funeral. Except for the death of the Monarch, state funerals require both Lizzie’s permission and a vote in the House of Commons to be held, there hasn’t been one since Winston Churchill in 1965 (no, not even the Queen Mum got one).

The true situation is simply that, for historical reasons, deaths within Royal Palaces fall with in the jurisdiction of the Coroner of the Queen’s Household (more poetically known as “The Coroner of the Verge”) rather than the general coroner of the surrounding county. This creates all sorts of practical problems, particularly if there needs to be a formal inquest. Section 46 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 would solve this by abolishing the office, but it has not yet been brought into effect – and until it is, of to St. Thomas’ you go.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.goldeneyes.org.uk/braindump/2014/07/a-common-misconception/

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