Crime And Punishment In Anglo Saxon England

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  • England was invaded by German tribes called Anglo,Saxons & Jutes,after the Romans left in 500AD!
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  • 1. Crime and Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England Britons – ‘Welsh’ Germanic Tribes – Angles, Saxons, Jutes Gaels - Irish + Scots
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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
  • 4. 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
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. 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.