In the Beginning of Law
The earliest writings of law were destroyed during the Dark Ages, so the concept of crime and punishment and where it all began starts in the year 500 AD. It was governed mostly by superstition and local laws and stayed pretty much the same up to the year 1000 AD. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, common law started to develop and helped standardize law and justice. Until then the legal system among the early English or Anglo-Saxons and everywhere else in Europe during that time, was decentralized. Each county was known as a shire and was divided into units called hundreds, which entailed groups of 100 families, each of those were further divided into groups of 10 families called tithings. The reeve was the head of all law enforcement officials in the shire, (This is how the word sheriff got its’ name, shire + reeve = shirereeve aka sheriff), but within these smaller groups, the tithings were responsible for maintaining order among themselves and dealing with minor disturbances such as fires, wild animals, etc. The earliest law enforcement organized along the lines of the tithing, hundred, and the shire. To an extent, criminal law was considered to provide reasonable solutions to what were previously considered private disputes. Before the Norman Conquest, crime was viewed as a violation of the victim’s personal rights and therefore was compensated for such wrongs by the people who committed the crimes. If some type of payment could not be made or agreed upon, the victim’s family would try to collect damages by force or seek revenge, and the families would start a blood feud. The crimes committed that would cause such an action were basically the same as today. Treason, homicide, rape, property theft, assault, and battery were all crimes, and the punishments were very harsh. If one committed treason, then he or she could be put to death. A thief would be made into slavery and depending what was stolen, his...
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