In much earlier times, it was very cut and dry, if you were a witch (whether it could be proven or not) you were executed. Period. But in 1735, the attitudes changed regarding witchcraft, sorcery and such. Hence, the Witchcraft Act of 1735. In this act the official opinion, according to Wikipedia, individuals would no longer be executed for witchcraft because witchcraft was no longer considered possible. Yes, that’s right, anyone proclaiming to have special powers was considered to be nothing more than a con artist and would be subjected to fines and imprisonment. Well, at least they weren’t being tortured and executed anymore.
In 1944 Helen Duncan was gaoled under this act because it was believed she could summon spirits. I know what you’re thinking. What in the heck is gaoled? Well, according to www.dictionary.com it’s just fancy for jailed. Why the heck didn’t they just spell it like that?
Conspiracy theorists think that Ms. Duncan was actually jailed because military intelligence was afraid she would divulge secret information pertaining to D-Day. Well, we can’t have that now can we?
Wikipedia also provided an article regarding the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951. The purpose of this act was to repeal the Witchcraft act of 1735. It prohibited any person from making a profit by use of their psychic abilities unless they provided a disclaimer stating that it was for “entertainment purposes only”.
Between 1980 and 1995 there were five prosecutions under this act, all of which resulted in convictions.
However, in 2008 this law was repealed and replaced with the new Consumer Protection Regulations.
A Reuters article written by Peter Griffiths (No. Not the Family Guy) documented outrage by the local psychic community. Many genuine mediums feared civil suits as a result of these new regulations. In court, they might face the possibility of being forced to demonstrate their abilities and feel this is unfair because other religions and faiths are not being called into question in the same way.
An associated press article on MSNBC took it one step further by documenting that while the Fraudulent Mediums Act carried a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine, the new Consumer Protection Regulations “provide for a range of civil and criminal penalties, including two years in prison for the most serious cases.”
Really all the Consumer Protection Regulations is calling for is for psychics, mediums and spiritualists to provide a disclaimer to their clients noting that their readings should be considered entertainment only. However individuals interviewed in both the MSNBC article as well as Reuters state that in doing so they might as well be telling their clients, “I don’t believe in my powers, you shouldn’t either.”
I can certainly see their side of the argument. Guess it’s tough love for psychics and such living in the U.K.
I’d like to conclude this research by saying the following:
To the legislators in the U.K. – it must be nice to have a cushy desk job where you sit around all day long coming up with these crazy laws. On the other hand – at least there’s a recourse for people who feel they’ve been duped.