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Today we tend to think of the Middle Ages as a time when laws were cruel and unjust. There were times and places of the Middle Ages when this was true, but there were also many times and places where it was not. The legal codes of the Early Middle Ages were very often based on the concept of compensation for the victim, so a thief might be required to repay the value of the thing stolen three times over. In fact, in Wales there were laws to the effect that if a person was caught with stolen food, but could show that he had unsuccessfully begged for food at a number of houses, he would not be prosecuted.

There were times when an adequate defense for an accused crime that was not absolutely proven was swearing an oath of innocence and finding a dozen people who would swear they believed you.

In most places, during the Middle Ages, the clergy were not tried in secular courts, but in Church courts. The question of who was clergy was a bit complicated, because monks were not ordained. Eventually it was decided that anyone who could read was to be tried in a Church court. The Church did not allow torture, gave lenient sentences to those who confessed their sins, and provided better prisons than the secular system did.

In most places, a fugitive could appeal to a church or monastery for asylum. Though asylum was often granted only for a limited time if a person was accused of a serious crime, there were abbeys whose charters said that no one could be removed for any reason, even by agents of the King. Isabella of Angoulême, who had formed a conspiracy to murder King Louis IX of France, escaped to a Fontevraud Abbey, where she had permanent sanctuary and later died of natural causes.

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13y ago
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11y ago

Justice included judges, lawyers, trials and juries.

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12y ago

no

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Q: Could you get justice in the Middle Ages and how?
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