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|CRIME AND JUSTICE|
|Subject:||Examples of defence through wager of law|
|Original source:||Merchant gild roll, borough archives|
|Transcription in:||Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1899), vol.1, 66-67.|
Memorandum that on 10 December 1253 Henry Houhil brings a complaint against John Dodeman, that he unjustly, and despite [being of] the fellowship of the gild, withholds from him a black russet of 7 ells, with the result that he has unwillingly suffered embarrassment and damages to the value of 6s.8d. Pledges for Henry to prosecute: Peter Blund and Nicholas Burgess. John emphatically denies the accusation and wages his law; John's pledges: William Morker, William Baudewine. He has been assigned February 10 as the date on which to do his law.
That [doing of] law is delayed until the following Thursday; if in the meanwhile they come to terms, gild justice will be unnecessary.
John made his law with his own hand and with William Morker and William de Benewik; [consequently] Henry is in mercy.
[ .... ]
 William Sturdy brings a complaint against John Folebarbe, that to his damage and his embarrassment, and despite the gild [law], he refused him a lot [in a sale] of fish, whereby the community suffered damage. Regarding the contempt [of gild law], [he seeks] a cask of ale; and, because he unwillingly suffered damage and embarrassment, 5s.
John denied the whole thing, word for word, and waged his law; concerning which John left and, returning, sat between Nicholas fitz Humfrey and Geoffrey de Nottingham who might help him in doing his law. And John, not wishing to do his law, pledged a cask of ale; pledges: [2 named]. He pledged to William his craft; pledges [2 named].
These records of legal disputes tried before the gild authorities, who had some jurisdiction over the behaviour of their members, are each a series of entries recording the progress of the cases. That the defendants resorted to only a three-handed oath (i.e. the defendant swore to his innocence and his pledges then swore that he was telling the truth) reflects that the crimes were not serious. It may seem unfair that, Dodeman having successfully made his defence, the plaintiff was automatically condemned. However, the case of Sturdy vs. Folebarbe suggests that even a three-handed oath was not necessarily easy to achieve if, as may have been the situation here, either the defendant or his proposed compurgators (between whom he sat) was reluctant to take a false oath. For further background on this process, see the London custom.
"pledged to William his craft"
|Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 23, 2002||© Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003|