Pre-Cataclysmic law in Southron lands is thought to have been quite enlightened, with the priests of Tyr as judges. However, like all pre-Cataclysmic history, even this is shaded in doubt. After the Cataclysm justice and laws degenerated as the social order broke down. Likewise the barbaric practice of trial by element, in which the accused was usually thrown into a river with his hands tied, set unarmed into a den of goblins, thrown in a pit of snakes, etc. is now part of the distant past. If the accused survived, he was proclaimed innocent. Such was the level to which justice sank in the desperate, superstitious years after the Cataclysm.
The next major change in the justice system came with the Videssian Occupation. When Southold achieved independence, and Athelstan declared Tyr as the country's patron, the priests of that deity once again became the judges of the Southron nation. Their system of law is rather enlightened compared to others in Arik (though it still lags behind the Videssian and Minoan systems, when these systems are not corrupt). It is based on the Code of Athelstan, a large volume of laws, procedures, and punishments. The clerics of Tyr regard this Code as almost holy; after all it was written by Athelstan, the manifestation of Tyr on Grund. The Code fills a sizable book which all priests of Tyr carry for guidance and most have memorized.
Though criticized by some of the rising intelligentsia of the cities and the few academic institutions as overly rigid, the Code has served well, making Southold's one of the most progressive justice systems in Arik. True, punishments for serious crimes are quite harsh, with the death penalty being common. Yet such practices as torture to obtain confessions and corruption among the judges are unknown. Note that the Code is only maintained where there are priests of Tyr, as they are the only judges in Southold. Thus one does not need to press charges (though this is a common means of bringing a crime to a priest's attention), for if a priest of Tyr sees a crime committed, he will bring that case to trial. Even adventuring clerics of Tyr are expected prosecute any criminal acts they witness (if they are far from a court, they must render a decision there after the proper court procedures). The following is a brief summary of the major crimes and punishments detailed with the Code of Athelstan.
These most vile of crimes are all subject to the death penalty. Lesser punishments or exceptions are possible at the judge's discretion, however. The typical means of execution in Southold is beheading by axe.
Arson - This is defined as setting a fire which causes the loss of life or property. Exceptions are made for those fires which are set accidentally, but not those set purposefully and get out of hand.
Conspiracy - This includes any attempts to make plans against the king or local lord. It includes plotting an assassination, making ready to stage a coup, but not simple verbal criticism of a ruler, this is but a minor offense. Nevertheless, this class of crime is open to interpretation, and its definition changes over the years.
Desecration - Desecration of a tomb or burial area is viewed as a grave offense and is listed in the Code as a violent crime. As adventurers often find themselves in such places, some exceptions have been made in recent years, providing sufficient justification is offered. Lenient sentences are often offered, and these usually benefit the Church of Tyr in some way.
Drawing a Weapon - This law is enforced in two ways; the more severe is Drawing a Weapon on Nobility. This includes any threatening use of a weapon against a noble or knight. The second aspect of this law is intended to protect the commoners from attack by trained warriors. Anyone trained in fighting who uses such skills against someone without such training is breaking a major tenet of Chivalry, which has greatly influenced the Code of Athelstan. Because it is considered very improper to use superior weapons against a defenseless serf, this is also a death offense. In both cases, however, self-defence is considered to be an exception.
Espionage - Technically, this law applies to all persons who act in a covert manner to obtain the secrets of the realm. However, it is seldom used against such internal spies as the Black Sashes, that keep an eye on the dukes and lords of the realm in King Edmund's name. Yet when agents of another kingdom are caught spying, they are often officially pardoned by the King in order that they may be swapped for imprisoned Southolder spies abroad. It is important to distinguish this from treason, which involves not a foreigner, but a native betraying his country.
Major Assault - This group of laws is a sort of catch all for law breakers who use force in their actions. In short, major assault refers to any use of violence in which the life of the victim may have been in jeopardy. Further, any attack with a weapon of any sort falls into this category, as does rape. Of course there are many exceptions, and, as with other such laws, self defense is not a crime. This law is often not enforced as severely as the other capital offenses detailed here. Indeed, ritual duelling is exempted entirely if conducted correctly (with seconds and a cleric nearby.)
Murder - This crime, often considered as the ultimate violation of Tyr's precepts, includes any act which causes loss of life. It is applied in matters where criminal intent was involved, but it is also used to prosecute people who have caused a death by extreme carelessness. As with Major Assault, duelling is exempt.
Perjury - Since one of the most important tools of the court's is personal testimony, any lying is a capital offense. Distortion or withholding of facts is likewise usually a capital offense.
Rebellion - One of the most serious crimes in Southold's feudal society is that of taking arms against one's lord. This threatens to disrupt the intricate web of trusts and dependence that keep the system functioning. As befitting the enormity of the crime, the punishment for rebellion is drawing and quartering.
Treason - Treason is regarded as one of the lowest acts which any criminal can undertake. In most cases, even hardened thieves are loyal to the Crown and would turn such traitors in to the local constabulary. Treason is defined as selling one's own nation's secrets to another power. It is important that it is delineated from espionage.
Crimes of Theft
These crimes are all considered to be of a non-violent nature. Unless otherwise noted, the following punishments have a graduated scale of punishments. The first offense results in 10-60 lashes for the criminal. A second conviction results in branding and 20-120 lashes. A third conviction results in death by flogging.
Burglary - Despite its name, this crime does not include theft of any object. A person can be charged with burglary merely for breaking into a home, shop, or other building without permission.
Theft - Any act which deprives a person of their rightful property is considered theft. It can include shop-lifting or a clever swindle. In addition to the penalties detailed above, the thief is expected to return the stolen objects, or if that is not possible, reimburse the owner for their value.
Minor Assault - Any act of violence is considered to be at least minor assault. A fist fight or beating is the most common offense, but physical restraint of a victim during a robbery is also considered to be minor assault. In any case where a weapon is involved, though, the charge is elevated to major assault. Only self defense is justification for using force against another person.
Poaching - The crime of poaching is defined as hunting on another's land without permission. As a rule, the severity of the punishment is determined by the success of the poacher. In cases involving poaching in the King's Woods, the penalty for poaching is death.
Crimes of this sort are usually applied to dishonest merchants or traders. As a rule, even dishonest businessmen will not cheat those who live in their town, as they must deal with these neighbors on a daily basis. Thus travellers and strangers are victimized. However this trend has changed with the rise of the huge cities, for now familiarity with all the inhabitants is gone.
Breach of Contract - Contracts in Southold are far less exacting than those most people think of. As a rule, a contract is assumed to include any agreement by two parties, whether written or verbal, that can be verified by a third party. In cases where the third party presents a false account of the transaction, he or she may well be tried for Perjury. Once a court rules on a breach of contract, the losing party is expected to live up to their part of the bargain and pay a penalty to the opposing side in the case. This penalty will be decided by the magnitude of the contract and the offender's violation of it.
Excessive Debt - Anyone unable to pay their debts to a merchant or tax collector may find themselves tried for the crime of indebtedness. A conviction in such cases results in the violator being required to sell off any personal belongings which they have to pay their debts. If they are unable to raise the money they need, they may be ordered into service for a period of time. The length of such service is determined by the amount of the debt.
Fraud & Forgery - These two crimes cover a broad range of violations which includes any attempt to obtain money, favors, or the like by false representations or trickery. Possible examples include the use of incorrect scales in weighing goods, use of low grade materials in construction, inept labor, or the outright falsification of legal documents (including coinage). The greater the money involved, the greater the penalty. Persons who are convicted more than once face the possibility of execution. In all cases, a criminal must repay the money lost by his victims (if possible) in addition to the rest of his sentence.
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