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Itinerant Justices.

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Itinerant Justices The importance of the itinerant justices lies in the fact that they sought to harmonise the customs of the various parts of England so that they ended up with one common law (i.e. a law that was common to the whole of England) rather than remain with conflicting local customs. They also enabled the King to attain a large measure of centralised justice, eroding the power of the local courts. The practice began, after the Conquest (1066), of sending Royal Commissioners (they were given the royal commissions as evidence that they had the royal authority to act in the way they did) round the country to enquire into matters relating to the occupation of land. This was regarded by the King as being of vital importance, since, in a land-based economy, the King's principal sources of income were the income from his own land and the income, derived from the feudal system, from the lands he had granted to others. ...read more.


(The word 'eyre' is universally accepted as having been derived from the Latin word 'iter' meaning 'journey' though a more natural derivation would seem to be from the old French 'oyer' meaning 'to hear'.) These articles consisted of a long list of questions which had to be answered by representatives of the hundreds within the counties where the eyre was held. They related to the royal revenues: what property had been forfeited, what property had escheated to the Crown; what rights of wardship, marriage etc. accrued to the Crown. In addition they were to enquire into what serious crimes (known as 'pleas of the crown') had been committed because those resulted in fines being payable to the Crown. In addition, the justices were empowered to enquire into the infringement of royal rights. The eyre was, in effect, a full meeting of the people who would normally have assembled for the county court: in Anglo-Saxon times: archbishop, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knight, freeholders of the county, four men and the reeve from each township, twelve men from each borough and anyone else summoned to attend. ...read more.


(Holdsworth - History of English Law, volume 1). Under the Assizes of Clarendon (1166) and Northampton (1176) ('Assize' simply means a 'sitting' and the word was used as a title of early legislation, made at a sitting of the curia regis. Later it became applied to the sittings of judges as they proceeded on their circuits), the reporting of serious crimes to the royal commissioners by juries of 12 men, became a regular and permanent feature of the administration of justice. The type of jury described is a Grand Jury (i.e. an accusing jury. Thus there became two methods of accusing a criminal. One was by appeal of felony, which was an accusation by a person wronged by the crime, e.g. a person whose goods had been stolen. This was tried by combat between the accuser and the accused. Secondly there was the indictment by a jury. The accused was then tried by ordeal or compurgation. (Maitland - Constitutional History of England). Eventually both types of accusation became triable by a jury called the petty (i.e. small) jury. ?? 2 ...read more.

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