5 Surprising Things I’ve Learned Whilst Studying Law
If you don’t know by now, I’m a law student. While there is a lot of reading, I really do find the law very interesting. Some of the things I have learned have really shocked me – here’s some examples!
(1) If you trespass for long enough, the land becomes yours!
There is a fascinating concept within property law called ‘adverse possession’. Essentially, if you ‘adversely’ (without permission) possess someone else’s land for a certain period of time, you may be able to gain legal title over it! Of course, there are a lot of legal requirements and processes behind this concept, but if you ever notice a piece of land that seems unoccupied, maybe stick around!
(2) You can’t consent to serious harm
If you think that you ‘own’ your own body, you’re actually not entirely correct. As per the well-known case of R v Brown, we are unable to consent to any harm amounting to grievous (serious) bodily harm. There are some exceptions, such as body modifications and surgery, but for the most part you cannot consent to being seriously harmed!
(3) Professionals are held to very high standards – even if it’s their first day on the job!
In a tort law case, Wilsher v Essex AHA, a junior doctor negligently gave too much oxygen to a woman in labour, resulting in the baby being born with deformities. Although he was an inexperienced junior doctor and didn’t know any better, it was held that a junior doctor must be held to the same standard of care as a reasonably skilled and experienced doctor. Similarly, learner drivers have the same responsibility on the roads as any other drivers as per Nettleship v Weston. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just ‘do your best’ – if you get wound up in a tort lawsuit, you will be held to the standard of the ‘reasonable man’!
(4) You can commit a crime without actually doing anything…
Omissions are a particularly controversial area of criminal law. How can you be punished for not doing something? In fact, there are several situations in which you can be found criminally liable for not acting – notably, if you create a dangerous situation, if you assume responsibility, or if you have a recognized ‘special’ relationship. One example of this is the case Stone v Dobinson, in which a couple with a very low IQ and some mental impairments ‘assumed responsibility’ of the husband’s niece who was diagnosed with anorexia, by allowing her to live with them. As they failed to adequately care for her, she died. The couple were found liable for manslaughter (by gross negligence).
(5) You can have legal rights over someone else’s land
While you may think that owning land means you have complete rights over it, this is not actually the case. Your neighbours can have “easements” which are legal rights held over someone else’s land! For example, if your neighbour has no way of accessing the local highway without walking directly over your land, the law will allow them to do so via a right of way and you can’t stop them!