A HORSE can be a bird - in a legal sense at least. That's the effect of a legal ruling in Regina v Ojibway, a case carried in the Canadian Criminal Law Quarterly and dug out for us by Allan Roger of the Legal Department. Those solicitors who hoped to cash in on our offer of a free colour advert for whoever found the case will be disappointed - Allan had it on our desk at 10 am. 'The 'judgement' is, of course, satire, but like all good satire, there are close analogies to real cases,' says Allan. The case concerns a Native American called Mr Ojibway riding a pony through a park, who could not afford a saddle so used a down pillow. His luck got even worse when the pony broke a leg, and in line with his ethnic custom he shot it. He was charged under the Small Birds Act which says anyone 'maiming injuring or killing a small bird commits an offence and is subject to a fine not exceeding $200'. The imaginary Small Birds Act defined a bird as 'a two-legged animal covered with feathers' and the poor chap ended up losing his appeal. The imaginary judge stated that 'the legislative intent is to make two legs merely the minimum requirement'. He said that 'a horse with feathers on its back must be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be a bird, and therefore a pony with feathers on its back is a small bird.' The accused's barrister fielded an expert witness who pointed out that the animal in question was not a bird but a pony. 'We are not interested in whether the animal in question is a bird or not in fact, but whether it is one in law,' the judge said. 'Statutory interpretation has forced many a horse to eat birdseed for the rest of its life.' Although the case is imaginary, the process of reasoning is realistic. It's supposed to install those drafting laws with the realisation that if they don't do their job properly, their endeavours could go badly wrong. Purple prose WE had a call yesterday from a reader named Jenny Ho, clearly annoyed, who had an unusual complaint about parcels firm DHL. Jenny works at the Keung Kee Feathers Manufactory in Fanling and had an order from a customer in Malaysia, with an urgent need for 150 purple ostrich feathers, each 55 cm. She'd packed them up and sent them, and somehow DHL lost them. There's two intriguing aspects to this. First is that in some corner of some far-flung airport shed somewhere, there must be a parcel of 150 purple ostrich feathers - that's assuming they haven't been blown up in a controlled explosion. The second is that when she filled in the form for DHL, she put $150 on the value part, as instructed by her customer. In fact, this would not buy even eight ostrich feathers, never mind 150 of them. They are expensive objects, imported all the way from South Africa. Sometimes, customers request that items carry specified values in an attempt to speed their way through customs. But if the parcel goes astray, it's the supplier who finds that the carriers' insurance won't pay up the full cost. Broken spell ON A related theme to our first item, yesterday's Government Gazette - Hong Kong's answer to China Daily but without the crossword - contained official notification of lots of typographical errors in laws. We particularly liked the one illustrated in the excerpt above. Believe it or not, every six months the government has to tidy up mistakes such as this. About a year ago they found an error in the Disposal of Uncollected Goods Ordinance which actually reversed the meaning of one of the clauses. First time VIRGIN Atlantic is never short of innovative marketing ideas. Now they are offering a special deal for gays and lesbians. They can fly to London cheap, and Virgin will arrange three nights accommodation, free admission to select gay clubs, walking tours of London's gay clubs and - don't ask us why - a walking tour of East Sussex. Virgin announced this on Thursday for those living in New York, who are being offered the whole trip for US$679. Sadly, when we rang Virgin's office here they'd never heard of it, which we presume means it's not on offer for gays and lesbians in Hong Kong. We've written before about how Hong Kong people always seem to have to pay more for their air fares than those elsewhere. Isn't this another form of discrimination? Jest reality THERE are no April Fool articles in today's column - for the following reason. Last April 1 we reported that during the World Vision Hong Kong 30-hour fast, owners of the corporate hospitality boxes at the Stadium were being offered an all-you-can eat buffet, so they could entertain clients while watching the fast. The menu at $357 a head included pate campagnard with sauce cumberland, snow fungus soup, sliced breast of duck with sweet ginger, and other delights. No one believed it because we ran the story on April 1. Unfortunately, it was also completely true. So, no more April 1 spoofs. We can't compete with real life.