Wednesday, 3 September 2014

One thousands years of criminal justice

Yesterday the Keep held one of its lunch time talks; this one was given by Christopher Wittick and was looking a thousand years of criminal justice in Sussex.

Chris looked at the history of our justice system from trial by battle in the post Conquest period through to Henry II's Assize of Clarendon which saw the start of trial by jury and eventually the development of the Quarter Sessions and the Assizes.

It was only a short talk so there was little time to go into any detail but it was interesting  for me to see that early on crime was seen as affecting only the person against whom the crime was committed (and his/her immediate family), it was only in the 12th century that people began to feel that crime affected all of society.  

As always it is the gruesome details which stick in one's memory; hanging was always the more generally accepted method of execution but in the Cinque Ports, including Hastings, they had a far more locality based method - they threw people off the cliff!  Also for a short period in the 16th century poisoners could be executed by boiling - apparently it was first used in 1531 after the Bishop of Rochester was served poisoned porridge!

It was an excellent talk and I look forward to their next one.  None appear to be scheduled at present but keep an eye on their events website.