Video makes misleading claims about birth certificates and the law

25 August 2021
What was claimed

Your name, as registered at birth, is a fictional legal entity which you can choose whether or not to use. Obligations such as attending court are optional if you disregard what is described as the fictional legal entity.

Our verdict

These beliefs have previously failed as a defence in UK courts. All births in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be registered within 42 days of the child being born. In Scotland a birth must be registered within 21 days.

A video on Facebook, seen thousands of times, claims that signing a birth certificate and registering a birth means a child has been signed over to the state and creates a “fictitious legal entity”. 

The video goes on to claim that the “legal entity” can be separated from the “flesh and blood” person, meaning obligations such as attending court when summoned are optional. Full Fact could find no example of this defence ever being successful in a UK court.

Part of the video appears to be taken from the 2013 documentary which focuses on the “strawman” theory. 

The strawman theory has often been invoked by people who describe themselves as “freemen-on-the-land” (or “freemen-of-the-land”). 

The strawman theory, in this context, describes a separation between a “real” person (that is, the physical person) and their legal or corporate identity, which some people claim can be denied. 

Adherents to this theory believe that the roots of this secondary legal identity can be traced back to the birth certificate or official birth registration

All births in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be registered within 42 days of the child being born. This can either be done in the hospital after the birth, or at a local registry office. In Scotland a birth must be registered within 21 days

It is a permanent record of a child’s existence and means the government recognises a child’s identity, which helps authorities dedicate the right resources to public services such as education and health. Having (and registering) a child could also potentially impact your tax, benefits and services run by your local council. 

In June 2019 a man who refused to register his son’s birth because he did not want him to be “controlled by the state” lost a high court case.

The judge involved in the case ruled the council had the right to step in as the child’s “institutional parent” to register the birth “in order that he may be recognised as a citizen and entitled to the benefits of such citizenship”.

There have been a number of UK court cases in which defendants have attempted to represent themselves as freemen-of-the-land. In 2017 a Somerset man was sent to the court cells for contempt for refusing to confirm his identity during a sentencing hearing after being convicted of breaching a planning order, while in 2018 a man was ejected from Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court after refusing to stand for the magistrates.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the video makes misleading claims about legal responsibility, which have not worked as defences in court cases.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.