Essay on The Earliest Form Of British Common Law

2524 Words Apr 16th, 2016 11 Pages
The earliest form of British Common Law originated during the Anglo-Saxon period. During the time of King Aetherlberht I of Kent, about 600 A.D., law was beginning to be written down. As these laws became common-knowledge, it became a lot easier to convict someone of a crime. There were many ways to convict a person of a crime, and have them be punished for it. Sometimes, a person would be forced to pay per body part that was removed, or remove their own. Other times, the convicted would be forced to be put through a test. These tests made up a majority of Medieval Britain’s judicial system, and were called ‘trials by ordeal.’ Depending on the crime and social status of the convicted, their trial would likely be one of the three most common trials: trial by hot iron, hot water, or cold water. Trials by ordeal were a way for English common folk and aristocracy alike to convict and persecute those accused of breaking the law.
Trial by ordeal is said to originate from the Pagan practices of the Germanic tribes that once ruled Britain. These methods were used in the twelfth-century, when no legal means existed to challenge any type of legal decision made by the courts . Trial by ordeal’s methods of finding innocence are more commonly referred to as methods of finding proof, rather than being able to prove innocence or guilt. This is because these types of trials relied on “supernatural proofs, and the oaths which [the trials] tested were absolute and inscrutable; no legal…

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