Published on November 19, 2007
Crime and Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England Britons – ‘Welsh’ Germanic Tribes – Angles, Saxons, Jutes Gaels - Irish + Scots
What became known as ‘England’ (Angle-Land) was divided up into seven kingdoms (the ‘heptarchy’). Each kingdom had their own laws. Laws covered crimes such as theft, violence, murder etc.
Wergild ‘ Blood Price’ Relatives of a victim could claim compensation called wergild. The value of wergild depended upon the status of the victim If a freeman is killed, 100 shillings wergild to be paid. 300 shillings for a rich nobleman. Only 20 for a slave. Ethelbert, King of Kent
Problems: Blood Feuds often resulted as families tried to compensate themselves. The wergild system was therefore developed. Broken tooth – 1 shilling Nose broken – 6 shillings Lost finger – 10 shillings Lost thumb – 20 shillings Lost foot – 50 shillings Kentish Law c.603AD
Tithings English communities were divided up into tithings – app. 10 or 12 men, who were collectively responsible for each other. If a man committed a crime, the rest of the tithing would bring him to court, after he had paid a sum of money ‘bohr’ to the head of the tithing. THIS IS LIKE BAIL TODAY.
Summary of Anglo-Saxon Law + Order No police force Tithings organised to instill collective responsibility Criminals hunted by villagers ‘hue and cry’ Wergild compensation paid to victims Death penalty for treason and serious murder Trials – by community first at folk moots – oath-helpers used – judge and jury to decide If no decision – TRIAL BY ORDEAL – cold water, hot iron/water or trial by bread.
No police force
Tithings organised to instill collective responsibility
Criminals hunted by villagers ‘hue and cry’
Wergild compensation paid to victims
Death penalty for treason and serious murder
Trials – by community first at folk moots – oath-helpers used – judge and jury to decide
If no decision – TRIAL BY ORDEAL – cold water, hot iron/water or trial by bread.
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