Crime and Punishment - Anglo-Saxon Period

About the Anglo Saxons for the crime and punishment edexcel paper

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Introduction

When the Roman Empire collapsed, so their law and order and Angles, Saxons and Joots (which were North German tribes), took over.

THEY HAD A MUCH MORE BASIC LIFESTYLE AND SMALL SCALE AND LOCAL SYSTEMS.

The kings imprtance grew in time --> so did the importance of local community, family and the Christian church --> Loyalty to family was highly prized.

No police force --> the victims punished the offender to take revenge.

People stuck in their families... leading to blood feuds, meaning families kept on taking revenge on one another (--> blood feuds ended by the 9th Century)

The Church had a big influence on crime and punishment

--> resulting in a reduced number of crime holding the death penalty

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Timeline of the court system:

  • By the year 1000 some legal system had been created on shires and hundreds containing 100 peasant farms;
  • Men belonged to a tithing (10 free males) --> they were all responsible for each other;
  • If one man commited a crime the tithing had to assure the man would arrive in court, pay fines etc...;
  • Tithings also had to alert people of crimes in their hundred by the method of hue and cry.

- The King was overall incharge of the law and had to keep the 'king's peace' meaning his poeple would travel without fear --> crimes such as robbery against the Kings peace were punished harshly.

King Alfred of Wessex (9th Century) drew up the most established laws/codes but weren't as enforced as the Romans as they were not written down --> based on customs.

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Wergeld (Wirgild)

  • Reduce blood feuds and violence;
  • Payment/compensation of money if one was killed;
  • Called Botgeld (botgild) for the injured;
  • Rates varied according to social rank or what was injured;
    • e.g.
    • Killing a labourer - 200 shillings
    • Killing a bishop - 1200 shillings
    • Killing a archishop - 3600 shillings

Examples of crimes and their punishments:

  • minor crimes (petty theft) - fines
  • major crimes (repeated offences) - fines, beating, confisation of property
  • stealing - removal of hands or feet
  • slander - removal of tongue
  • serious and most serious crimes (treason, murder) - execution
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The church had a big influence on crime and punishment --> resulting in a reduced number of crimes holding the death penalty

Guilt was decided by:

  • Trial by community
    • Whether someone was innocent or guilty was decided by a court full of local men who knew the poele involved.
  • Trial by ordeal
    • If the jury could not agree, G-ds judgement would be revealed to decide on the fate of the suspect.
      • This would happen by:
      • Plunging hands into boiling water or had to carry red hot iron whilst walking three paces --> a priest would inspect the persons hands after 3 days. If the hand was healing well they were innocent and vice versa.
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  • One was thrown, tied up, into water. If they sank they were innocent and vice versa (used for slaves)
  • For priests who were suspected of a crime they simply had to eat the holy bread without choking
    • Simplier tasks as they couldn't have many priests as criminals as it looks bad!

ANGLO-SAXONS WERE DELOCALISED

AND THE NORMANS TOOK OVER AND INVADED IN

1066

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