Saxon Crime and Punishment

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Most crime was theft of money, food and belongings.  The items were usually low in value.  Violent crimes were only a small minority of cases.


After the Romans left England, tribes from Germany came to settle.  They became the Saxons.  Early Saxon kings allowed victims of crime to punish the criminals themselves.  If someone was murdered, the family had the right to track down and kill the murderer.  This was known as blood feud.  Early Saxon kings used blood feud because they came from a warrior class where violence was acceptable. The kings didn't consider it their job to settle arguments between families.  The kings couldn't pay for a police force because there were no taxes.  Blood feud was meant to be so violent that it would deter people from committing crimes.  However, it only led to more bloodshed.  Families often banded together to take revenge for an attack, this led to another attack and a cycle of violence began.  

There was no police force in Saxon England.  By the tenth century, the kings had set up a different kind of system known as a tithing.  The Anglo-Saxons were warriors and farmers who valued loyalty - loyalty to your family and friends.  A tithing was a group of ten men over the age of twelve.  All people that fell into this demographic had to join a tithing.  Anyone accused of a crime had to pay a fine to the head of the tithing.  If a member of the tithing committed a crime, the other members had to bring him to court.  If they failed to do this, they would have to pay a fine.  Tithings worked on the basis of collective responsibility.  People didn't want to let their family and friends down and they didn't want to pay a fine for someone else's crime.

The final method of Saxon policing was the 'hue and cry'. This was where a victim of a crime raised the hue and cry by calling out for help.  The entire village would then have to stop what they were doing and join in the hunt for the criminal.  If the criminal wasn't stopped, the whole village would have to pay a fine to the local court.  The hue and cry was also based on loyalty to the village and the community. When the whole village were involved, it made the chances of catching the criminal greater.


If someone was accused of a crime, the local village would decide if the accused was guilty or innocent.  This was because…


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