Law and justice
Lords have judicial power in cases arising in their domains. While landed knights are sometimes Lords in all but name, only the Lords are given the right to administer the high justice for capital penalty.
It is a lord's duty to keep the peace, hear petitions, and mete out justice and punishments, all in the name of his lord, and ultimately, in the name of the king. The lords may entrust tasks to their sworn lords, landed knights, and bailiffs, to help them keep the peace, perform local judgements and oversee executions. If the lord is unable to give sentencing, it is up to the lord of the great house holding dominion in that area and eventually the king to give sentencing, as the final authority.
The lord or his officers would hold local courts, listen to petitions and accusations and rule based on the evidence and law. Although the Seven Kingdoms has a master of laws, which suggest some form of statutory law, it is largely based on local custom and wisdom rather than justice. As such, it is sometimes wise to look the other way to keep the peace.
The notion of justice depends greatly on the social class to which the defendant belongs. While most Houses has laws that protect the local commoners from abuse or mistreatment, to one degree or another, in some cases even from the nobility. These enforced by various degree depending on the disposition of the local lord or the status of the accused. Since most wrongs could be atoned for by the payment of a fine, the conduct of justice is different for common people and those rich noble, especially if they of high status and command influence and power, in which case overlooking their excess of exuberance, is sometimes in the best interest of the local lord.
Additionally, highborn such as lords and nobles are afforded more rights by law: they cannot be denied trials and are allowed more leniency in their conduct.
An accused highborn may demand trial by combat or the less used trial of seven and let the gods give judgement. "Taking the black", to join the Night's Watch, is an alternative to criminal punishment. By taking the black, one’s crimes are forgiven and he is exiled to the wall severing all previous ties. Women are not allowed to take the black. Only a knight of the Kingsguard can champion a queen in a trial by battle if she has been accused of treason.
The legal majority for men and women is 16. Trials, at least among the nobility, often begin with a prayer from a septon beseeching the Father Above to guide them towards justice. The accused and witness are sworn to honesty before he gives testimony at a trial. Of old, the High Septons might appoint seven judges to try a case, and if a woman was accused, three of them might be women, representing maidens, mothers, and crones.
The punishment for treason and oathbreaking is death. Poachers and thieves may lose a hand. Various mutilations for assault, castration for rape, and floggings for minor offences are usual.
Executions are usually carried out by hanging or beheading. For harsher crimes the "crow cage" is used, in which the victim is imprisoned without food or water until death. Its name comes from the crows who often end up feasting on the criminal's flesh.
Flogging is the common punishment for members of the lower social classes, its severity determined by both the number of strokes.
References and Notes
- ↑ The Sworn Sword, p.127
- ↑ SSM: Knights and Lords
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 22, Arya.
- ↑ The Hedge Knight p.507
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 38, Tyrion.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 43, Cersei.
- ↑ SSM: Age of Majority
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 1, Bran.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 13, Tyrion.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords p.328, 329
- ↑ The Hedge Knight p.79