Bad Santa: How many laws does Santa break at Christmas?

A handcuffed santa
Image: Shutterstock

Father Christmas. Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. Saint Nick. Papa Noël. Call him what you will, he’s the face of Christmas (sorry Jesus, but it’s true). A kindly and selfless man who works tirelessly while dedicating his life to rewarding good little boys and girls the world over with. What a guy!

Come, Christmas Eve, Santa Claus will be combing his big white beard and donning one of his famous - and freshly-ironed - red suits. He’s been flying around the world and dishing out gifts for so long now, we kind of take him for granted, don’t we? We never really step back and appreciate just how much work Father Christmas puts in. Or, for that matter, just how many laws he’s prepared to break to achieve his goal. Think about it. The man commits several - not insignificant crimes - each and every year.

Look, we’re not going to grass the man up. We’re happy for law enforcement across the world to continue giving Santa a pass. But it’s worth a quick sift through his various law-breaking exploits. Y’know, just for reference.

Here are just some of the crimes that Father Christmas consistently commits at this time of year:

Offence: Trespassing

Potential punishment: Up to a year in prison and a potentially unlimited fine

Let’s start with the most obvious one: Trespassing. We’ll stop short of using the term ‘burglary’. Why? Well, if anything, Santa’s guilty of the opposite. He leaves the kiddies gifts, he doesn’t nick their PlayStations.

In British law, 'trespass to land' is described thusly: 'unjustifiable interference with land which is in the immediate and exclusive possession of another'. Now, Father Christmas’ solicitors may argue that his interference is justified, but it would be up to the courts to decide.

Offence: Drink driving

Potential punishment: Up to six months custodial sentence, a potentially unlimited fine, and a minimum year’s driving ban

Okay, so Father Christmas doesn’t technically drive on Christmas Eve. He is still in charge of a vehicle, though. Albeit a magical flying sleigh pulled by a load of reindeer. Still, his fondness for the tipples left for him in homes across the world could well put him in danger of being over the UK legal limit.

Sure, he’s a big lad and can handle his drink. But still… In Britain, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol for every 100ml of blood, some 35mg per 100ml of breath, and 107mg per every 100ml of urine. Surely it won’t take too many nips of sherry to get him over the legal limit.

Offence: Various breaches of the Animal Welfare Act

Potential punishment: Six months to five years jail time, unlimited fine

To keep in accordance with the UK’s Animal Welfare Act of 2006, Santa will need to make sure that his reindeer have a suitable diet and environment, exhibit normal behaviour patterns and are fully protected from pain, suffering and injury.

Okay, so the carrots are fine. But is the right environment for a reindeer flying a thousand feet up in the air? Pulling a magical sleigh for millions of miles in a night certainly isn’t ‘normal behaviour’. It’s a lot of work for Rudolf & Co. Can they manage all of it without injury? Well, Santa better hope so.

Offence: Smuggling

Potential punishment: Up to seven years in prison

Now, unless he has some sort of agreement with the world’s governments making him exempt from customs checks and excise laws, the carrying of unchecked and unregistered items across multiple countries could cause a serious legal headache for Mr Claus. Should his centuries of international gift-giving catch up with him, then duty must be paid on all commercial goods entering the UK. Unless, as we say, Father Christmas has been made exempt by the HMRC.

Offence: Data Protection Act breaches

Potential punishment: A maximum fine of £17.5 million is payable in the most extreme cases

‘He knows if you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness’ sake…’. However, Santa gathers up all his information on the world’s kids. In Britain, he better make sure he adheres to the 2018 Data Protection Act. If it turns out that strict rules called the ‘data protection principles’ aren’t followed, then data on children on both the naughty and nice list is at risk of being snaffled up by organised crime, fraudsters and hackers.

Offence: Employees’ rights violations

Potential punishment: 5 years’ jail and an unlimited fine

With anywhere up to a billion presents to come up with, it’s no surprise Santa must make sure his elf workforce is firing on all cylinders as winter approaches. Granted, his workshop is in Lapland, and workers’ rights may differ up there. But were he to decide one day to relocate his toy-making facilities to the UK, employees’ rights must be followed at all times.

The UK legal limit for working is set at a maximum of 48 hours per week, with humans and elves given the right to both daily and weekly rest breaks. These include a daily rest period of a minimum of 20 minutes if the working day is over six hours. Failure to comply and Santa and his HR team could be in serious trouble.

It’d take a pretty harsh judge to send The Big Man down for any of these crimes. They’re worth remembering, though. Just in case you catch Saint Nick stuffing your stocking full of coal this Christmas Eve, maybe remind him of some of his misdemeanours and he might be forced to upgrade your gift.

Now you’re guilty of blackmail. See? Breaking the law’s easier than you might think. So, let’s cut Father Christmas a little slack, eh?