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Friday, January 23, 2009

Timber washing ashore still private property

Rules of law can sometimes be pretty strange. Imagine walking down to the seashore, picking up some wood, and then be told that you are doing something illegal (and in fact the wood that washed ashore remains private property). Well, this is something that people in the United Kingdom had to face recently when a huge amount of timber fell from a Russian cargo ship in the English Channel and started washing ashore:

The sight of wooden planks littering the shoreline in Kent has drawn stares from curious residents, but others have shown up to take some of the wood for themselves. "I've got a leaking roof and I think it might be really good for that job," said Rex Hope, who drove off with planks of wood in the back of his truck.
But by Friday, authorities had to warn off scavengers after the timber washed up on beaches between the towns of Ramsgate and Broadstairs, on the tip of the Kent coastline in southeastern England. "This cargo remains the property of the original owner, and to steal it is not only foolhardy, but also a criminal offense," said John Molloy, chief superintendent in East Kent. Under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995, it is an offense to keep cargo from a wreck or refuse to give it to the receiver. Violators face a fine of up to 2,500 pounds ($3,400).

Bet most people did not know about this, and one wonders whether a lot of people would really care !

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