Origins of Mercian Law
The history of legal procedure is a mechanism that stems back to the age of Zeal. The fate of Zeal henceforth developed the progression for noble justice and feudal law for the beginning of Mercia. In the current age of the Federation, the establishment of the royal justice system is of great significance. The age of Greycastle has prioritized uniform laws that serve to localized customs, administering efficient justice in the age of the House of Sky. These seats are claimed by high members of society who participate within the distribution of power acknowledged by the King himself.
The concept of felony and crimes against the king undertook a revolution primarily in the age of baronial revolt. The cultivation for respect and order was deeply overshadowed by a slow process of receipt of royal writ, assembly of jury, and procedure of the royal court. The application of ‘amercement’ by the high ruling house was sabotaged by nobility who found themselves more than capable to administer retribution upon an offender than to allow them more time to prepare a scheme for false evidence and testimony. It is clear in hindsight that the failures before House Vorlorn were due to unclear boundaries with freemen and nobility alike, and many were taking lawful execution into their own hands. The procedures of Mercia that pre-date Greycastle have been categorized below as some may still partake in traditional procedures and be commended for their orderly conduct:
The majority of cases are heard informally by a single noble or officer who will listen to the arguments and render his verdict. However, any freeman may demand a sworn inquest by obtaining a royal writ.
-The Sworn Inquest
The basic form for the sworn inquest is for the presiding officer to appoint a sworn jury, usually of prominent neighbors or town aldermen (jurors) to whom specific questions of fact are put. Witnesses may be called, obliged to testify under oath. The jurors’ answer (the verdict) may be from personal knowledge, or from local gossip, but will at least be based on some kind of evidence rather than superstition or raw power.
-Trial By Ordeal
Ordeal was formerly in common use at all levels of justice but is now quite rare. The exception is in temple courts where is is still the most common form of trial; ordeal relies heavily on a belief in divine intervention. There are a huge variety of methods used; each temple has its own traditions.
-Trial By Combat
A vestige of the vendetta system is the right of the accused to meet the plaintiff in fair combat. It is generally only the nobility, those trained in arms, who attempt to exercise this right. The right to this form of trial is often denied.
The Federation Completed
Greycastle completed then, the establishment of written statutes that pertain directly to offenses against the king which oversee the common law within the jurisdiction of noble-claimed estates and towns of the Federation. Small common law disputes within localized territories were settled by civil discourse deemed appropriate by the officiating noble house. Large disputes and matters complex worthy of the King’s appeal called for adjudication of royal court. The latter however, has become nearly non existent in recent times, which is not to blame on fear on behalf of freemen admitting to not being strong enough to handle their civil disputes. Instead, the noble houses began to approve the highly efficient practice of ‘branding the malcontent’ in line with the extradition of criminals to Portcross. Since Portcross had fallen from the King’s grace, the common law branding adopted itself to ‘noble justice,’ which has been approved by the King as a more ‘suitable alternative to methods of torture onto the Godsworn amongst us.’
The become branded, is to be seared with a hot iron on a visible part of the body an image that specifically pertains to the nature of the offense committed. This is typically preceded by issued warrant of arrest by the town’s ruler or a private collector. The condemnation by the prosecuting party must be confirmed by the royal house. After the branding is complete, the royal house may also declare outlawry of the criminal, provided that Portcross be the alternative destination.
Appendix: Crimes and Punishments against states of the Federation
The following crimes concern actions against the sovereign, and are deemed the most serious of all crimes. In some jurisdictions, they are the only laws that are enforced against nobles, and are all felonies.
Obstructing royal privilege, action detrimental to the crown, sabotage of crown property, membership in a treasonable or seditious organization. Treason can only be committed by citizens of the country; foreign nationals are prosecuted under sedition or espionage laws.
Verbal treason. Encouraging others to commit treason, disputing the authority of the crown.
- Penalties: banishment, death by various means.
Sabotage of crown property, spying, etc.
- Penalties: death by various means.
Taking up arms against a lawful liege or denying his rights or privileges.
- Penalties: loss of title, banishment, death by various means.
Killing or attempting to kill a member of the royal family.
- Penalties: torture, death
Murder or attempted murder of a noble or lawfully appointed official.
- Penalties: restitution, death
Godsworn branding: Broken crown, sword and crown
The following crimes concern the abuse or usurpery of some kind of privilege, obligation or right, an offense against the social order. Many of these are considered felonies; those that are not require an accusation to be brought by the offended party.
Breach of the Privilege of Rank
Bearing chivalric or heraldic symbols without lawful right thereto, impersonation of a noble, ursurpery of the customary or lawful rights of a noble, lack of proper respect for a person of noble birth or rank, or for a lawfully appointed official, and laying hands on such a person in a disrespectful manner or without permission.
- Penalties: flogging, branding, imprisonment,
Abuse of Trust
Any crime involving abuse of office or position including graft, embezzlement, accepting bribes, failure to properly execute customary or legal obligation, dereliction of duty, etc. Where a royal official is concerned, this is considered a felony.
- Penalties: loss of office, title, property and privilege, imprisonment, banishment, death by various means.
Perjury (lying under oath) or oathbreaking, breach of contract, etc.
- Penalties: fine, restitution, confiscation of property, loss of privilege, title, scolding.
Obstruction of Justice
Hindering an officer/noble in the performance of his duty. If other felonies are involved or if the obstructed officer is a royal official, this is deemed a felony.
- Penalties: fine, imprisonment, pillory, hanging.
Godsworn Branding: Petty Copper Coins, Swirling Tongue, Hands in Chains
The following crimes are tried under temple law in religious courts. Only crimes against the recognized Houses of Virtue are dealt with under temple law. Temple courts must obtain secular consent to any branding or fine. The penalties handed out by temple courts will vary from appointed temple authorities of each house.
Breach of Temple Privilege
Impersonation of a priest/cleric, ursurpery of temple rights.
- Penalties: scolding, flogging, banishment, burning (at the stake), impalement.
Desecration of Church Property
Disrespect for, or theft of, the property of a lawfully recognized church or the relics/artifacts of a lawful deity.
- Penalties: flogging, mutilation, burning, impalement.
Lack of respect for a lawfully recognized deity.
- Penalties: scolding, removal of the tongue.
Denial of a lawful church’s status as arbiter of its deity’s will, denial of the authority of a temple or cleric, disputing church doctrine.
- Penalties: scolding, removal of the tongue, mutilation, burning, impalement.
Unsanctioned use of the arcane. Practicing magery without written approval of Blackmount, conjuring or consorting with demons, disposing of souls, casting harmful spells etc., for the purpose of unlawful personal gain.
- Penalties: scolding, removal of the tongue, drowning, burning.
Godsworn Branding: Pentagram,
These are generally crimes of violence against commoners. As a rule, only common folk will suffer the more severe penalties given below; a noble’s liability is usually limited to restitution in coin or collateral, if even. Some are felonies, others require actions by the injured party.
Common assault, attacking a person causing injury.
- Penalties: restitution, pillory, flogging.
Sexual assault of a maiden. This is a borderline felony.
- Penalties: flogging, restitution, imprisonment, castration, death by stoning.
Godsworn Branding: Genitalia
Killing or attempting to kill a commoner without due cause or provocation. This is generally considered a felony.
- Penalties: death by hanging, restitution, fine, slavery to the family of the deceased
Godsworn Branding: Sword
The accidental slaying of a commoner. This is generally considered a felony.
- Penalties: restitution, fine, imprisonment.
Refusing to comply with legal action, summons of a noble person, or desecration of a house or name by inciting riots
Godsworn Branding: Ass
Accessory to a Crime
Aiding in the commission or concealment of a crime, e.g. by assisting in planning or encouraging another to commit a crime (an accessory before the fact) or by helping another escape arrest or punishment (an accessory after the fact). An accessory to a crime, unlike an accomplice, does not typically participate in the actual commission of the crime.
- Penalties: Fine, imprisonment, extradition
Accomplice to a Crime
Knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally giveing assistance to another in (or in some cases fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime. An accomplice is criminally liable to the same extent as the principal. An accomplice, unlike an accessory, is typically present when the crime is committed.
- Penalties: Equal sanctions to the main accomplice of the crime
Godsworn Branding: Shackles
Eating or skinning human bodies. Generally deemed a felony. Penalties: death by starvation or being thrown to wild dogs, burning at the stake.
Godsworn Branding: Fork and Knife
Detention of a person against his will, without good or lawful cause. Sometimes considered a felony.
- Penalties: restitution, fine, imprisonment, mutilation.
Godsworn Branding: Blindfold
Engaged in some prescribed and immoral act such as prostitution, indecent exposure, etc.
- Penalties: fine, pillory, imprisonment.
False accusation, malicious gossip, etc.
- Penalties: scolding, removal of the tongue, restitution, flogging
Consorting with Skaven
The intention of association, communication with, or sheltering of skaven against the safety of the Federation.
- Penalties: restitution, fine, imprisonment
Godsworn Branding: Rat
The following are secular crimes that cause only economic harm. With some exceptions, actions must be initiated by the injured party. Most are not deemed felonies.
Breach of Guild Privilege
Usurpery of the customary or lawful rights of a guild or guildsman, impersonating a guildsman, violation of guild monopoly.
- Penalties: confiscation of property, fine, restitution, banishment.
- Penalties: pillory, restitution, fine, flogging.
Major theft. Generally when the amount stolen is the equivalent of 1000 copper.
- Penalties: pillory, restitution, fine, flogging, mutilation, hanging.
Godsworn Branding: Bag and knife
Usually applies only to warhorses, otherwise considered a larceny.
- Penalties: death by hanging.
Godsworn Branding: Horse Head
Most serious when the act is on royal lands, when it is considered a felony.
- Penalties: restitution, fine, flogging, severing of the hand, banishment, death.
Hoarding food in time of famine, violation of any rationing laws that may be in effect.
- Penalties: flogging, death by starvation.
Godsworn Branding: Grain
Avoiding payment of any lawful toll or tax. A felony.
- Penalties: restitution, fine, pillory, flogging.
Counterfeiting coins or forging documents, possession of same, or obtaining benefits by misrepresentation. A felony, if royal privilege is involved.
- Penalties: fine, restitution, pillory, loss of property, privilege and office, severing of the hand, imprisonment.
Engaged in transporting, selling, or in possession of, any proscribed or contraband good. Considered a felony.
- Penalties: fine, imprisonment, pillory, hanging.
Piracy, Highway robbery
Self-explanatory. A felony.
- Penalties: fine, pillory, imprisonment, hanging