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Documentary notes

Episode 1
Rochester in Kent - the first anglo saxon kingdom
Rochester book (textus refensus)
Person payment - monetary value ascribed to a mans life for compensation
Ethelbert - first English king to become a Christian
The rank (King, aristocracy, ordinary free man, slaves) of the victim determines the amount
of compensation theyre entitled to
Responsibility of enforcing laws was on society rather than from the top. The law served as
the base for negotiation. Families go to the accused to claim their compensation.
Defenses of the accused depended on how many people can testify to your innocence
under oath - called oaths in trials known as Hundreds or Shire courts
Although seemingly susceptible to abuse, this was a time of unwavering reverence to
religion. So people might not be as keen to testify for you if they see you as a liability

By the 10th century, England had a legal system unmatched in Europe with capital in
As monarchies grew, kings continued issuing law codes that now included punishment
and death. Kings started to take over administration of justice to increase laws effectiveness.
Even before you were sentenced to death, the trial itself is already an ordeal. Judiciam dei
- trial of God. A mode of proof. God will come to the aid of those innocent, absent to those guilty.
This ensured the Church a central role in dispensing of justice.
Ex. The priest blesses the smouldering iron bar.The accused is to hold the iron, wake a few
paces, then bandages. After three days, if the wound was clean (no infections, puss, etc.), he is
deemed innocent.
Duke William of Normandy invaded the Anglo-Saxon kings but theyre laws continued to
exist. He invaded England because he believed he has right to the throne so he preserved its legal
A key innovation introduced was their favourite method of ordeal - trial by combat. God
grants victory to the innocent.
Norman rule allowed the people to exercise Anglo-Saxon law in the context of a strong

1135, Stephen usurped the throne and the country fell apart from civil war.
For 2 decades, England suffered "the Anarchy" / "The 19-year Winter". A breakdown in law
and order and the collapse of the king's authority.
Stephen's cousin, Henry II, in 1154, aged 21, used law to sort out the problem to an extent
that hes now known as the Father of the English Common Law.
He said the laws must be common and consistent in implementation
In 1166, He established a system to roving out royal justices. They represented new level of
royal intervention in English law. they travel the country to ensure implementation of law.
As justices did their job, some colonies had close to 0 felonies. Henry then decreed a single
set of legal procedures to be followed throughout England. He standardized the legal process.
Members of the public then played a crucial role in the process. Juries of presentment
became common practice. They are to report under oath crimes committed in are and name
those responsible. A key precursor to todays jury. they presented their reports to the justices
The justices were becoming a powerful body in the Shires and the capitol.
There is now a central court to which they set out and returned. It was the legal
A body of judges (the early judiciary) was emerging, serving both at Westminster and the
shires. They used the exchange of stories to shape their subsequent rulings. They established a
method of making judgments based on precedent.
Although for a fee, judges could hear the case. Henry did not charge significant amounts
to ensure justice was affordable for commoners. He oriented the monarchy to become an
institution deserving the support of the subjects because it provides justice for them.
The common law didnt discriminate in theory. Henrys attempt to equalize the Church,
because they enjoyed Canon law, became the defining moment of his legacy. The biggest
challenge to his implementation of Common law.
No matter the crime, clergymen would be absolved by purchasing sins. A layman may
hanged unless they claim:
Benefit of clergy - biggest loophole in English legal history. It "removes your sanctified soul from the
grasp of secular authorities. Could be claimed by reciting first verse of Psalm 51: Have mercy
upon me, Oh God. According to thy loving kindness. According unto the multitude of thy tender
mercies, blot out my transgressions.

Henry appointed his close friend, Beckett, as archbishop in hopes of evening the clergy with the
crown. Beckett turned native and Henry was unamused because of arbitrary exercise of his power
to absolve heinous crimes.

"Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?

Whilst praying, 4 knights loyal to Henry struck Becket down.

Becket became a martyr and people rallied behind the Church. Henry II had given the kingdom a
lasting legacy even if the Church remained untouchable.

Although, they underestimated the people in realizing that justice was a right rather than the kings

In 1215
John, Henrys son, was going to put his seal on a document forced upon him by his subjects -
Magna Carta - brought by his repeated demands for money for his failed French wars. It is
recognition that English people had rights.
Pope Innocent III banned priests from blessing ordeals by water and fire. Gods judgment
wasnt at the beck and call of mortals - withdrawal of Church from legal process
England had to decide whether to follow methods of proof dating back to Roman law where
authorities try to extract confessions (through torture if necessary) or to continue with trials
by jury

Alice, condemned for murder, accused 5 others for criminality. They submitted to the judgment
of their neighbours. They decided that one was lawful but the other 4 were thieves. They
were sent to the noose.
they came to a decision based on their own knowledge or belief. Such power was
revolutionary. Your peers have been given the authority that before was Gods - the jury.

Episode 2

- The end of torture was brought by one of the greatest battles between arbitrary state
power and the law the Civil War
- Any trial has to be held:
o In a court open to the public
o Before an independent jury
o By a judge beholden to no master other than the law
- In the years leading up to the Civil War, England had a two-tier legal system
o The common law
o A system under the royal prerogative
Allowed torture
Enabled the King to do as he saw fit
Its court was held in the Star Chamber
Today, a byword for justice and oppression, but was the opposite
in its inception
Was developed by the Crown outside the common law to
suppress corruption and contract killings by Nobles that ran their
territories like Mafia bosses (English Mafia)
Had no jury that could be bribed
Errant aristocrats were interrogated and judged by members of
the government
- Edward Coke
o The most accomplished lawyer to practice in the Star Chamber
State prosecutor for 13 years
Chief prosecutor of Catholic conspirators and the Gunpowder Plotters
o Influence came second only to the Kings
o Been described as one of the most disagreeable people in English history
o Believed that torture should be used on those who had admitted their guilt, in
order to get information about co-conspirators
o His arch-rival was Francis Bacon
Steered the King into more clashes with Coke culminating in his sacking as
Chief Justice
Began to consistently obstruct the kings will by pursuing matters of law
which irritated the King
From an establishment figure to an anti-establishment figure
o After his judicial career was over, reinvented himself as a champion of common
o Became a very prominent figure in the opposition to Charles I in the 1620s
When Charles Is reign is starting to be seen as a tyranny
Started using the Star Chamber to punish those who opposed his
Star Chamber became a threat to anyone who upset the King
When the Parliament refused to implement crippling taxes to pay
for weapons and soldiers, Charles let his army invade England
o Soldiers forcibly garrisoned in your home and you were
forced to pay for their food also
He asked for what he called loans from his richer subjects with
little hope of repayment. (A no would be a ticket to the Star
o 5 knights were imprisoned w/o trial for not paying. Jailers
refused to release them as they were on the Kings
The King became the law, even the judges buckled
- The Parliament championed Edward Coke (76 years old) to oppose the King
o One-issue Parliament (The Commons v. The King) discussed the money Charles I
wanted to get from the Parliament
The liberty of all Englishmen was at take
Both sides claim to defend the status quo and invoked history in their aid
The Commons made their stance on Magna Carta
The King said he was loyal to what he called the old laws and customs of
the realm
The divine right
When Coke spoke (after other MPs could not), everyone rallied behind
Coke would force the King to sign a royal restraining order. In exchange
for money, he would enshrine in law rights for all Englishmen The Petition
of Right
Contained therein was that no man should be compelled to pay
taxes without parliamentary authority and no man would be
imprisoned without cause
Anyone jailed could demand that their jailer legally justify their
actions habeas corpus
Edward Coke brought Englishmen liberties by tempting Charles with cash
- After Charles got his cash, he bypassed the Petition of Right, dissolved Parliament, and
ruled alone enforcing his will through the court of the Star Chamber
o Victims of the Star Chamber were even those who had religious and political
dissent, and those bold enough to openly oppose the King
o The Rack was used for mainly treason (for threatening the status quo or the
An instrument of torture that would stretch an individuals limbs in pursuit
of a confession or information
- After a decade, Charles was forced to recall Parliament because he needed money
- MPs then aimed to destroy the hated institutions of Charles rule
o Torture warrants were made illegal
o Victims of the Star Chamber were called to rein in the symbol of royal absolutism
- A year later, Charles was forced to sign the Star Chamber out of existence, common law
and liberties had won
o Star Chamber is now a reception room in a hotel on the Wirral
- The Civil War came because of Charles refusal to accept that he did not have a divine
right to dictate the law of the land
o Split the country in two
o 80,000 soldiers died
o Parliament had emerged triumphant
- The Parliament then used the courts to ensure Charles would never be a problem again
o A tall demand because prosecuting the divinely anointed King will subject you to
public disapproval and even assassination
o John Cook was delivered the brief to prosecute Charles
He had a dilemma:
In England, the source of the law is the king. How could he then
be prosecuted by the law?
Rex v. Rex?
He then solved it:
The King was an office, not an individual
The holder of the office had to govern by the laws of the land
and not otherwise
o The risk of rescue by his supporters and assassination by his enemies caused
Charles to be brought intro Westminster Hall in the guise of a funeral barge
o When he told his guards that he felt no remorse for the deaths of the Englishmen in
the Civil War, the judges realized he has no regrets for the wars and gave him a
death sentence.

- In 1649, there was a fear that England merely swapped one tyrannical regime for another
o Oliver Cromwell was stamping down on dissenters (religious or political)
- John Lilburne
o Believed rights were not bestowed by government or the law, but that they were
the birthright of all Englishmen
o Exploited power of the printing press to propagate his views and energize
o He was repeatedly locked up but habeas corpus was his way out
Habeas corpus is a remedy against arbitrary arrest and unlawful
o Parliament created a new law that made it treasonable to call the government
tyrannical or unlawful in print (to counter John Lilburnes use of the habeas corpus
to escape imprisonment)
o A mutiny occurred that prompted Cromwell to put Lilburne on trial under the new
treason law
Lilburne represented himself and proved to be the greatest amateur
advocate ever to set foot in an English court
He chipped away the courts standing
Addressed the judge as mister
Requested a chamber pot to urinate on during the trial
o He won his trial and also important rights:
The right to a vigorous self defense
The right to challenge seeming unfairness in court procedures
And to take comfort breaks
o Cromwell then needed a way to deal with him outside the confines of the legal
Before Lilburne could issue a writ of habeas corpus, he was shipped across
the English Channel to Jersey (Mont Orgueil Castle), beyond the reach of
the law
Cromwells Guantanamo Bay
Was offered freedom if he stops agitating the government, but he refused
He died in the age of 42
o MPs were showing disquiet of this island-sized loophole in the Petition of Right, and
eventually, a habeas corpus bill was drawn up and passed for prevention of
imprisonment beyond the seas
- Cromwell died and the heir of Charles I was restored to the throne
o Religious prosecution was restored
o The Conventicle Act
Targeted religions outside the Church of England
Prohibited assembly of more than 5 non-Anglicans
Those found guilty were imprisoned or transported
- William Mead and William Penn
o Were addressing a crowd of hundreds when they were arrested
o Luckily for them, four people, headed by Edward Bushel, who thought that the law
was immoral was on the jury
o The verdict was not guilty
The judge then shut them up without food, drink, tobacco to reconsider
their decision
Bushel managed to get a writ of habeas corpus heard before Chief Justice
The latter made it clear that that was the end of any possibility of
a juryman being jailed for his verdict
The jury was freed after several weeks

- 1771, the Thames Docks.

o A writ of habeas corpus is raced to a ship about to set sail
o It required the captain to produce his cargo (a slave named James Somerset)
before the Chief Justice
The ship captain became the jailer when he put Somerset in chains
answerable to law
o The legality of slave trade is going to be tested in court
- James Somerset
o Kidnapped boy taken to Virginia
o 10 years later, his master, Charles Stewart, brought him to London
o He escaped, met some abolitionists led by Granville Sharp, and sought refuge in
Londons black community
o Stewart eventually caught him.
- Granville challenged the legality of slave trade and the case went to the very top, to Lord
Mansfield (Somerset v. Stewart)
- Both sides were well represented
o Abolitionists says that there was no law legalizing slavery
o Traders say that the contracts for the sale of slaves were recognized in English law
- Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery was illegal
o Mansfield had a nephew, Captain John Lindsay, whose daughter was Dido Bell
(whose mother was an African slave)
o Dido grew up at Kenwood under Mansfields care
o Mansfield said that the state of slavery is of such nature so odious that English
common law could never accept it
- One writ of habeas corpus liberated 15,000 slaves then in England