Norman Crime and Punishment

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William destroyed people's homes to make way for new castles and many Saxons suffered.  Some Saxons became angry with the Norman conquerors and fought back, so William ordered that if any Norman was murdered, all the people of the region had to pay a hefty fine known as the Murdrum fine.

However, William decided that athe laws of the Saxon kings should be retained.  This was because he wanted to show respect to them.  He kept Saxon trial by jury, tithings and the hue and cry.

Although the Normans also retained trial by ordeal, they added a new form - trial by combat.  This was where the accused fought the accuser until one was beaten or killed.  The loser was hanged because he had been found guilty by God.

William used the death penalty for serious crimes but used fines for lesser crimes.  He ordered that the fines should be paid to the king's officials because he saw all crime as an attempt to disrupt the king's peace.  

William also introduced the hated Forest Laws.  These decreed that trees could not be cut down for burning and people in the forests could not own dogs or bows and arrows.  The punishment for hunting the king's deer was to be blinded.  


Benefit of clergy - anyone who was a member of the Church had a right to be tried under the Church Laws.  The punishments were often more generous, such as being sent on a pilgrimage or being made to confess your sins and apologise at mass.  Benefit of clergy was often abused - you only had to be able to recite the 'neck verse' to prove that you were a member of the Church.  The neck verse was a verse from the Bible, and the Bible in those days was…



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