Sunday, 3 June 2012

Justice in the Fair Kingdom

The administration of justice is entirely in the hands of the nobles, each of whom has his prison and his local magistrates. In petty cases, the magistrate administers summary punishment, and is provided with a machine for inflicting stripes. In the case of a robber being caught in the fact, he may be punished even severely without much delay: in doubtful cases, it is necessary to proceed with more caution; but the code of the Fair Kingdom is extremely imperfect, and the proceedings are all directed towards extorting a confession. In cases of importance, it is necessary to call a Herrenstuhl, a sort of jury, in which the provincial magistrate always takes a part. Here a fiscal or lawyer must plead the case sometimes both for and against the party accused. Appeals may be made to the courts of the county and of the circle, and lastly to the royal court of Pressburg. This complicated system of appeals, necessary perhaps in a country where the influence of the nobles is everything, and where a single person is sometimes proprietary of a whole county, renders the execution of a sentence so dilatory, that it is sometimes put off for months, and even for years: capital punishments are very rare in this country.

—from the diary of a traveller from far Caledonia

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