Publication / General practice law

Toothbrush law?!

Toothbrush law?!

28-06-2014

Not as obvious as standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom brushing my teeth, but just sitting behind my desk in my study at home, my thoughts wander off to the correlation between toothbrushes and the law. 

It is generally accepted that in ancient China in 1498 the first toothbrushes were made from  hog’s bristles on a stalk of bone or bamboo. It would take until 1938 before use was made of nylon for toothbrushes. In 1850, the first toothpaste was produced by the American Washington Wentworth Sheffield. He developed toothpaste, aptly named 'Dr. Sheffields cream’, which was made of soap and lime and initially sold in a glass jar. Only in 1892 did the toothpaste tube originate in the factory established by the same Sheffield.

I believe that it is inevitable that at times a toothbrush plays a role in the rule of law. An exhaustive search yielded the following results.

A thief who was caught in the drugstore Kruitvat in Breda on 24 November 2008 with an electric toothbrush in her purse, devised a trick once she found herself standing before the courts. She supposedly had not stolen the toothbrush in the Kruidvat store where she was caught, but had bought it in another branch of Kruidvat. However, she did not have a receipt while the electrical protection, with which all products in Kruidvat are protected, had not been deactivated on the article found on her. Such electrical protection works, declared the assistant branch manager who was heard as a witness at the hearing, when passing through the electronic gates at the store, both when entering and leaving the store. As the alarm at the gates did not beep when the apparently light-fingered lady entered the Kruidvat affiliate – together with the fact that the accused did not have a sales receipt – the Court in Den Bosch found that there were sufficient grounds to label her story as implausible and convicted her of theft to a fine of € 130. ECLI:NL:GHSHE:2010:BL4077].  

In the American city of Baltimore in June 1997, the 34-year-old Jeffrey M. was accused of 'attempted murder'. He had allegedly armed with a semi-automatic rifle well aimed fired at his 41 year old brother Thomas. Thomas was admitted to the local hospital in critical condition. From the statements of the younger brother it could soon be concluded that Thomas was angry with his younger brother because Thomas could not find his toothbrush. After having locked himself in his bedroom with a chair against the doorknob Jeffrey decided to shoot at Thomas when he kicked in the bedroom door. Unfortunately it is not known how the story, which was described in detail in the local newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, ended.    

Where in the foregoing the toothbrush was subject of a dispute that had gone out of hand, in pre-war Romania in 1936 a bizarre incident occurred whereby a toothbrush was not so much the issue, but rather the means by which the offence was committed. The obscure medium The Tuscaloosa News, the daily newspaper of the same city in the state of Alabama in the United States of America, reported on a ‘toothbrush murder’ in Romania. Tita Cristecu, in 1935 as the most beautiful in the country elected Miss Romania, was found dead under suspicious circumstances. Initially it was thought that the beauty had taken her own life but diligent investigators, including a chemist, found poison in her blood, and after a thorough investigation, soon concluded that her toothbrush had been dipped in poison, which ultimately proved to be fatal.

A new judicial phenomenon ‘toothbrush counting’ has currently been introduced as a result of the Dutch government’s mania for regulation. The bill ‘House call for lawful benefit', which was adopted by the Senate in early October 2012, granted more powers to social welfare agencies such as the Social Insurance Bank SVB and municipalities to 'look behind the front door’ and check the housing situation through a home visit. In the Netherlands the total social welfare pay-out to two social welfare grantees who live separately, is higher  than if the two social welfare grantees live together at one address. The social welfare agencies thus have an interest in counting the toothbrushes in order to be able to determine whether two social welfare grantees really live separately or despite two separate official addresses actually just shack up and wrongfully reap higher social welfare pay-out.

In 2011 the Central Board of Appeal found a reduction in social assistance by 10 percent correct, now that it appeared that the beneficiary parents had wrongly stated that their son was not living with them. It turned out that during the home visit at the address specified they came across the son at that address while no personal matters of him were present other than his coat and his keyboard. This, while it turned out that the son at that address did not have 'an own room, bed or toothbrush’ [ECLI: NL: CRVB: 2011: BT7499]. In March 2014, the same board also deemed the fact that only one set of clothes and a toothbrush had been found sufficient to reduce the social welfare benefit [ECLI: NL: CRVB: 2014:873]. It is clear that in spite of the low intrinsic weight of the toothbrush itself judicially great weight is attached to the absence or for that matter precisely the presence of a toothbrush.

In 2008, electronics giant Philips and consumer products giant Procter & Gamble ended up in the Court of Amsterdam with a dispute about electric toothbrushes. Reason for the proceedings was the claim in advertisements that the FlexCare of Philips removed more plaque than Oral-B Vitality of Proctor & Gamble. In detailed terms, the Court argues why Philips in its advertising statements wrongly gives the impression that its electronic toothbrush works better as it supposedly removed more plaque, while in fact this had not been proven. Hence Philips is by adjudication forbidden to mention this in its advertisements. [ECLI:NL:GHAMS:2008:BG1054].

Well, given the fact that I've not taken into consideration the toothbrush used by law as an outstanding tool for DNA recognition in criminal matters and ancestry procedures, you certainly had not expected that the correlation between toothbrushes and the law could be so clear and dazzling!

General practice law Publications

Read more publications