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Anarch Half-Hoare

Does common law apply to nobility?

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Question is in the title.

Say for example:

1. Lord Arryn stabs a commoner in King's Landing after a dispute (without it being self-defense)
2. Lord Arryn stabs Lord Hornwood in King's Landing
3. Lord Arryn stabs one of his own bannerlords in King's Landing
4. Lord Arryn stabs one of his own bannerlords in King's Landing after the latter publicly declares sedition against his liege

What do you envision the consequences would be for those outlined scenarios? Would the law of King's Landing come down on the man? Did he even break any laws to begin with? In know that in the feudal ages it was described that nobility was not subject to any laws, and that for example violence and feuds were a part of their noble rights.

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Difficult to say. The impression we get is that the nobles - especially the lords - are pretty much above the law, at least, effectively, if not de iure.

We see this when Pate wonders about the dangers that could come from provoking/quarreling with Leo Tyrell.

And in TSS we see that injuring some peasant on Lady Webber's land (done by Ser Bennis) doesn't really result in this man having any rights to press charges, etc. on his own volition. The Lady of Coldmoat takes the matter in her own hands, and she decides how this thing is going to be handled, not the person who was actually harmed.

That would likely mean that a man like Lord Arryn in your example would only have to suffer consequences if the authorities in KL dealing with the cases (possibly the Master of Laws, after the Goldcloaks brought the matter to his attention through the Lord Commander) would actually see benefit in pursuing the matter.

Which might be possible in the case of the commoner if the powers in KL had issues with Lord Arryn. If not, they would most likely not trouble such a highborn and powerful man with your first example. The matter would just disappear. Especially if the king heard of it and happened to a buddy of this Lord Arryn.

The second case would be a more severe issue. Here the king himself would most likely be involved, and there would likely be a trial and some form of judgment.

The fourth case shouldn't be an issue at all, the third one could also draw the attention of the king. After all, we do know that the great lords are dispensing justice in the name of the king. They are not judges in their own right. Which should mean that a bannerman having issues with his liege should be able to call upon the king. Especially if he is injured or killed by the man

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9 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Difficult to say. The impression we get is that the nobles - especially the lords - are pretty much above the law, at least, effectively, if not de iure.

We see this when Pate wonders about the dangers that could come from provoking/quarreling with Leo Tyrell.

And in TSS we see that injuring some peasant on Lady Webber's land (done by Ser Bennis) doesn't really result in this man having any rights to press charges, etc. on his own volition. The Lady of Coldmoat takes the matter in her own hands, and she decides how this thing is going to be handled, not the person who was actually harmed.

That would likely mean that a man like Lord Arryn in your example would only have to suffer consequences if the authorities in KL dealing with the cases (possibly the Master of Laws, after the Goldcloaks brought the matter to his attention through the Lord Commander) would actually see benefit in pursuing the matter.

Which might be possible in the case of the commoner if the powers in KL had issues with Lord Arryn. If not, they would most likely not trouble such a highborn and powerful man with your first example. The matter would just disappear. Especially if the king heard of it and happened to a buddy of this Lord Arryn.

The second case would be a more severe issue. Here the king himself would most likely be involved, and there would likely be a trial and some form of judgment.

The fourth case shouldn't be an issue at all, the third one could also draw the attention of the king. After all, we do know that the great lords are dispensing justice in the name of the king. They are not judges in their own right. Which should mean that a bannerman having issues with his liege should be able to call upon the king. Especially if he is injured or killed by the man

i think that's right.  Especially the fact that a common man might obtain redress against a lord, but only if someone of high status took up his cause.  So, the relatives of poachers sold into slavery can expect Ser Jorah to be punished, but only because Ned Stark cares about such things.  If the Lord Paramount didn't care, they'd just have to suck it up.

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42 minutes ago, SeanF said:

i think that's right.  Especially the fact that a common man might obtain redress against a lord, but only if someone of high status took up his cause.  So, the relatives of poachers sold into slavery can expect Ser Jorah to be punished, but only because Ned Stark cares about such things.  If the Lord Paramount didn't care, they'd just have to suck it up.

Yeah, that's another example. Or think of the Rivermen attacked by Gregor's men in AGoT who had to be dragged to court as witnesses by the Riverlords - in a sense it is also about them and their grievances, but they have already become pawns in the hands of the nobility. And if they didn't care about what happened there, then those men wouldn't even get the meager justice they got.

Roose Bolton also is pretty efficient at preventing Winterfell or KL to hear about things that are going on in his lands (e.g. the rape of Ramsay's mother).

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Here we go again. The "law" is a bit of a myth in Westeros. It comes down to the interests and desires of the lord who has the power.

Roose didn't want Eddard to find out about his transgressions, because Eddard would act against it. If an amoral or indifferent Lord Stark happened to be ruling Winterfell, Roose would not have to care.

Basically, the commoner appeals to the goodwill of his local lord. If he does nothing, the commoner can probably appeal to that lord's liege lord and so on and so forth. And in each case, rather than some Maester reading out the "law" to the lord in question, it is the choice of the lord whether he wants to act on the matter or not. And that choice will be influenced by his interests, his morals, the politics of the time, and the power and interest that his liege lord may have in the matter.

In short, it is a bit of a free for all in Westeros. There is no court of law, or even a book of laws. Just power influenced by custom.

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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they idea that there is no law at all is not true, we actually hear of a unified code of law introduced by jaehaerys I.

The World of Ice and Fire - The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I

Where his grandsire, King Aegon, had left the laws of the Seven Kingdoms to the vagaries of local tradition and custom, Jaehaerys created the first unified code, so that from the North to the Dornish Marches, the realm shared a single rule of law.

Now how faithfully it was executed by the Lords of the realm that is a different matter, and here i agree that there is a lot of room for the Lords to maneuver.

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51 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

Basically, the commoner appeals to the goodwill of his local lord. If he does nothing, the commoner can probably appeal to that lord's liege lord and so on and so forth.

Actually, that's not really all that likely. The problem of distance as well as the problem of financing a journey to the liege lord of your lord makes this pretty much a moot point.

We see in AGoT that the Rivermen addressing Eddard do not even know who he is. They have no idea about their rights, assuming they even have any (which isn't all that likely). They are, after all, merely witnesses in case certain Riverlords lay before the Iron Throne. They are not making a case on their own.

Crimes, if they are persecuted, have more to do with breaking the King's Peace and injuring the property or levies of noblemen (e.g. the TSS case, which you likely don't know in detail since you haven't read Dunk & Egg ;-)).

One should also keep in mind that there are clearly class differences between the commoners - there are merchants in the cities richer than quite a few lords who likely can become as dangerous as the average if they are crossed or attacked since they are likely able to buy the justice they want.

But even on a lesser scale - the miller's wife Roose raped clearly from a different class than the farmhands and peasants we meet in TSS. A miller would be a pretty well-to-do guy in his area, interacting with quite a few people of equal or higher rank. It is therefore not unlikely that the entire Ramsay affair could have traveled to Winterfell eventually.

51 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

And in each case, rather than some Maester reading out the "law" to the lord in question, it is the choice of the lord whether he wants to act on the matter or not. And that choice will be influenced by his interests, his morals, the politics of the time, and the power and interest that his liege lord may have in the matter.

That isn't all that clear. We have lords - and even kings - having their maesters around when dispensing justice. That's usually how it is done. Some would care more about that kind of counsel, others less, but it is quite clear that lords and kings are usually not making up punishments, etc. on the fly.

51 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

In short, it is a bit of a free for all in Westeros. There is no court of law, or even a book of laws. Just power influenced by custom.

That is also not really true. There would be law books, etc. gathering all the precedents, etc., and there certainly would be some kind of huge codex containing the unified law Jaehaerys I gave the Seven Kingdoms.

It should be pretty clear what's the sentence for murder, thievery, robbery, rape, etc. although lords and kings certainly are free to interpret the facts in their own way, coming up or inventing reasons as to why a defendant isn't punished with the full power of the law or why he has to suffer more than he should as per the lay (e.g. Tarly deciding that a thief in Maidenpool would lose seven fingers because had stolen from the gods).

The idea that the Seven Kingdoms are basically a lawless country makes really no sense in light of the emphasis Stannis puts on the law.

The fact that there are no clear succession laws doesn't mean there are no clear criminal laws, laws on minting and coinage, laws on taxation, etc.

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18 minutes ago, direpupy said:

Now how faithfully it was executed by the Lords of the realm that is a different matter, and here i agree that there is a lot of room for the Lords to maneuver.

One assumes that this law was pretty much followed everywhere by the time of the Dunk & Egg stories - and even more so by the time of the main series. I mean, sure, some lords in the North might still practice the First Night occasionally, but that doesn't mean they still - I'm making an example up to illustrated the point - skin a traitor alive if Jaehaerys I's unified law stipulated that traitors are hanged (which nobles usually getting a (clean) beheading instead).

The First Night thing affects a privilege of the lords. There one can see a motivation as to why they might want to continue with it. But how they deal with criminals of this or that sort, what the standard of the new coinage was (it might have taken some time until the gold dragon and the silver stag, etc. were the only accepted coinage in the Seven Kingdoms), what kind of measurements and weights were used on markets, etc. should have been pretty much unified all across the Realm.

Nobody gives any indication that the Northern miles and leagues are different from those in the Reach.

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21 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

One assumes that this law was pretty much followed everywhere by the time of the Dunk & Egg stories - and even more so by the time of the main series. I mean, sure, some lords in the North might still practice the First Night occasionally, but that doesn't mean they still - I'm making an example up to illustrated the point - skin a traitor alive if Jaehaerys I's unified law stipulated that traitors are hanged (which nobles usually getting a (clean) beheading instead).

The First Night thing affects a privilege of the lords. There one can see a motivation as to why they might want to continue with it. But how they deal with criminals of this or that sort, what the standard of the new coinage was (it might have taken some time until the gold dragon and the silver stag, etc. were the only accepted coinage in the Seven Kingdoms), what kind of measurements and weights were used on markets, etc. should have been pretty much unified all across the Realm.

Nobody gives any indication that the Northern miles and leagues are different from those in the Reach.

Even in liberal democracies, judges have considerable discretion over sentencing, and if you can afford a good lawyer, you're more likely to get a lenient sentence than if you can't.

I don't know if there's a professional class of lawyers in Westeros, but certainly, the Defendant's status, wealth, relationship with the lord trying the case, the power and influence of the lord that the Defendant is sworn to, would all have a bearing on his sentence.  

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I accept that Jaeharys established some kind of law. In theory. In practice, do we see any evidence of it being implemented? When Randly Tarly is executing justice in Feast, he issues a number of judgments:

"It is customary to take a finger from a thief," Lord Tarly replied in a hard voice, "but a man who steals from a sept is stealing from the gods." He turned to his captain of guards. "Seven fingers. Leave his thumbs."

The next man was a baker, accused of mixing sawdust in his flour. Lord Randyll fined him fifty silver stags. When the baker swore he did not have that much silver, his lordship declared that he could have a lash for every stag that he was short. He was followed by a haggard grey-faced whore, accused of giving the pox to four of Tarly's soldiers. "Wash out her private parts with lye and throw her in a dungeon," Tarly commanded.

A sailor off the galleas came next. His accuser was an archer of Lord Mooton's garrison, with a bandaged hand and a salmon on his breast. "If it please m'lord, this bastid put his dagger through my hand. He said I was cheating him at dice."

Lord Tarly took his gaze away from Brienne to consider the men before him. "Were you?"

"No, m'lord. I never."
"For theft, I will take a finger. Lie to me and I will hang you. Shall I ask to see these dice?"
"The dice?" The archer looked to Mooton, but his lordship was gazing at the fishing boats. The bowman swallowed. "Might be I . . . them dice, they're lucky for me, 's true, but I . . ."
Tarly had heard enough. "Take his little finger. He can choose which hand. A nail through the palm for the other." He stood. "We're done. March the rest of them back to the dungeon, I'll deal with them on the morrow."
 
So, these judgments seem pretty random, entirely at Tarly's whim. Is there any evidence that "Jaeharys's codex of law" is used for any prescribed sentences here? Not by my reading. Tarly even refers to the fact that it is "customary to take a finger for stealing". Clearly custom indeed plays a big part in the justice system, rather than some codified law.
Similarly, Tarly goes from simply taking a finger for cheating at dice, to threatening to hang the cheater for lying. A rather large jump, surely not prescribed by any written law.
 
It would seem to me that the whims of the Lord largely decides what crimes get punished and what the sentence for each would be.
Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Difficult to say. The impression we get is that the nobles - especially the lords - are pretty much above the law, at least, effectively, if not de iure.

We see this when Pate wonders about the dangers that could come from provoking/quarreling with Leo Tyrell.

And in TSS we see that injuring some peasant on Lady Webber's land (done by Ser Bennis) doesn't really result in this man having any rights to press charges, etc. on his own volition. The Lady of Coldmoat takes the matter in her own hands, and she decides how this thing is going to be handled, not the person who was actually harmed.

That would likely mean that a man like Lord Arryn in your example would only have to suffer consequences if the authorities in KL dealing with the cases (possibly the Master of Laws, after the Goldcloaks brought the matter to his attention through the Lord Commander) would actually see benefit in pursuing the matter.

Which might be possible in the case of the commoner if the powers in KL had issues with Lord Arryn. If not, they would most likely not trouble such a highborn and powerful man with your first example. The matter would just disappear. Especially if the king heard of it and happened to a buddy of this Lord Arryn.

The second case would be a more severe issue. Here the king himself would most likely be involved, and there would likely be a trial and some form of judgment.

The fourth case shouldn't be an issue at all, the third one could also draw the attention of the king. After all, we do know that the great lords are dispensing justice in the name of the king. They are not judges in their own right. Which should mean that a bannerman having issues with his liege should be able to call upon the king. Especially if he is injured or killed by the man

This is what makes Ned's ruling from the IT following Clegane's incursion into the Riverlands so interesting. While it may seem that Ned is reacting to the brutality that was visited on the small folk (and in his mind, he probably was), the fact is that the real crime was that Clegane committed these acts not only outside his own lands but outside the domain of Casterly Rock as well.

The ruling to send Beric after Clegane to either kill him or bring him the King's Landing, and have Tywin answer for his bannerman as well, is more couched in the idea that Clegane violated the rights of the river lords, namely Piper and Darry, as well as the Tullys, not the small folk who were actually killed and dispossessed of their homes.

If Clegane had done this to his own small folk, there probably wouldn't have been any blowback at all, just like there were no repercussions for the rape of the innkeeper's daughter.

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5 hours ago, SeanF said:

Even in liberal democracies, judges have considerable discretion over sentencing, and if you can afford a good lawyer, you're more likely to get a lenient sentence than if you can't.

Certainly. Perhaps my example wasn't all that well chosen (we tend to focus on capital punishment and criminal cases a lot, since those are the things that tend to come up in the novels).

I don't think any collection of laws would precisely define what crime deserved what punishment. However, with severe cases there would be certain standards and likely also different types of execution for different crimes. When dealing with milder cases a judge most likely would have a lot of leeway.

We also have pretty much no idea what the unification of the laws meant in practice. We don't know how the laws of the Seven Kingdoms differed prior to the Conquest, nor whether Jaehaerys I radically changed certain laws by abolishing laws and practices that were common in some regions, whether he created new standards, or whether he establishing a standard by taking a law from, say, the Reach and extended it to all of the Seven Kingdoms (which could very well be from where the 'a daughter come before an uncle' thing comes from; after all, in the Reach there was at least one Queen Regnant).

5 hours ago, SeanF said:

I don't know if there's a professional class of lawyers in Westeros, but certainly, the Defendant's status, wealth, relationship with the lord trying the case, the power and influence of the lord that the Defendant is sworn to, would all have a bearing on his sentence.  

It doesn't seem to be that there are lawyers in Westeros. In fact, the way things go seems to resemble the legal practice of the Romans (albeit without an actual lawyer). There is only a crime and a trial when there is an accuser and a defendant. The accuser must lay his grievance before the judge, and he then weighs the various testimonies and whatever evidence there might be, and then there is a verdict. But the Iron Throne or the lords don't go around and actively look for criminals. Far to the contrary, actually.

The only exception would be cities, where there are the City Guards. But they aren't really a police force. They are more armored thugs who keep order - which means they ensure the rabble behaves, doesn't molest decent folk, etc. KL is a pretty seedy environment in certain places, and the powers that be don't really care what happens in Flea Bottom as long as it happens only in Flea Bottom.

But I guess if you live at the top of the Street of Steel or some other fancy address, and you have been robbed, you can ask the City Watch for help to catch the thief. Whether they will turn him up is another matter entirely. But it is not the case that you can go to some authority when you have been the victim of a crime and don't have any idea who did it. If you can't point the finger at anyone nobody is going to help you.

2 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So, these judgments seem pretty random, entirely at Tarly's whim.

Tarly seems to be a special case there. This is a post-war scenario, and Tarly has actually seized power in a town where the lord was technically part of Robb's rebellion (although the man never raised so much as a finger against Kings Joffrey and Tommen). Technically Mooton should have had a voice in the matter along with, presumably, the maester of the castle and perhaps even another judge.

Tywin chooses Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martell as his co-judges when he conducts his trial against Tyrion, and when the king (or rather the Hand) sit in judgment over Gregor Clegane the members of the Small Council are there, giving their opinion. Daenerys also has her advisors give her counsel when she dispenses justice in Meereen, etc.

In that sense we cannot really argue that Tarly is representative for how justice is dispensed in the Seven Kingdoms.

However, it seems quite likely that the most of the common defendants (and perhaps even lesser knights - I'm thinking of hedge knights and sworn swords here, not knights with an actual name) have pretty much no way to actually trouble the liege lord (let alone the king) with their affairs if they are not happy with a judgment given them by their lord.

Only people with money and connections are likely going to be able to do that. We see that kind of thing in effect when Podrick Payne's name saves him from certain death. And while I'm at that - this thing also hammers home the fact that crimes are treated differently depending on who the wronged party is. If you steal from the gods you lose seven fingers (I don't think Tarly was the first to give that judgment) and if you steal from Lord Tywin's personal stores you don't lose any fingers at all - you simply hang. Just as you lose a hand when you strike a prince of the blood and you don't lose your hand when you strike some nobleman or knight.

1 hour ago, John Suburbs said:

This is what makes Ned's ruling from the IT following Clegane's incursion into the Riverlands so interesting. While it may seem that Ned is reacting to the brutality that was visited on the small folk (and in his mind, he probably was), the fact is that the real crime was that Clegane committed these acts not only outside his own lands but outside the domain of Casterly Rock as well.

The ruling to send Beric after Clegane to either kill him or bring him the King's Landing, and have Tywin answer for his bannerman as well, is more couched in the idea that Clegane violated the rights of the river lords, namely Piper and Darry, as well as the Tullys, not the small folk who were actually killed and dispossessed of their homes.

If Clegane had done this to his own small folk, there probably wouldn't have been any blowback at all, just like there were no repercussions for the rape of the innkeeper's daughter.

That seems to be about right.

Although one imagines that Gregor doing the things he did outside of his own lands but within the domains of House Lannister could also have caused some Westermen to bring the matter to the attention of the Iron Throne. That is what seems to have happened during Tytos' misrule in the West. When Aegon V sent his knights to restore order in the West, some Westermen must have brought their grievances before king first.

And I think that's pretty much the point where Aegon V's reforms would come into play, if we speculate about them. One imagines one of his main reforms would have been to establish a justice system where the commoners could directly petition the king, rather than having to go through their lords to get justice. He is going to see again and again the way this system is misused and misapplied by the lords, beginning with the Webber-Osgrey quarrel.

If you think about the whole thing, the world George has created is very fucked up. I don't think he did that intentionally but he succeeded to create a world where the nobility and the royals have all the power and the common men have pretty much none. And pretty much no chance to ever get some.

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15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

One assumes that this law was pretty much followed everywhere by the time of the Dunk & Egg stories - and even more so by the time of the main series. I mean, sure, some lords in the North might still practice the First Night occasionally, but that doesn't mean they still - I'm making an example up to illustrated the point - skin a traitor alive if Jaehaerys I's unified law stipulated that traitors are hanged (which nobles usually getting a (clean) beheading instead).

The First Night thing affects a privilege of the lords. There one can see a motivation as to why they might want to continue with it. But how they deal with criminals of this or that sort, what the standard of the new coinage was (it might have taken some time until the gold dragon and the silver stag, etc. were the only accepted coinage in the Seven Kingdoms), what kind of measurements and weights were used on markets, etc. should have been pretty much unified all across the Realm.

Nobody gives any indication that the Northern miles and leagues are different from those in the Reach.

A code of law can leave a lot of wiggle room, really it depends on how extensive it is it might just say what is and what is not a crime and not much more then that.

Alternatively it might give what punishment goes with what crime.

Or just make a suggestion on what a proper punishment might mean.

In @Free Northman Reborn his example of Tarly he seems to base his punishments on what is the custom punishment, so going on that the code of law only seems to stipulate what is and what is not a crime and not much more.

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3 hours ago, direpupy said:

A code of law can leave a lot of wiggle room, really it depends on how extensive it is it might just say what is and what is not a crime and not much more then that.

Alternatively it might give what punishment goes with what crime.

Or just make a suggestion on what a proper punishment might mean.

In @Free Northman Reborn his example of Tarly he seems to base his punishments on what is the custom punishment, so going on that the code of law only seems to stipulate what is and what is not a crime and not much more.

Could very well be. But then - we really don't know what the Jaehaerys' unified law said on criminal law. And one also assumes that men like Tarly - men trained to act as a lord from a very early age on - were actually informed about the laws of the land throughout their entire childhood and youth. Both from the maester of the castle as well as from their own father or grandfather who had them attend them when they were dispensing justice, etc.

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2 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Could very well be. But then - we really don't know what the Jaehaerys' unified law said on criminal law. And one also assumes that men like Tarly - men trained to act as a lord from a very early age on - were actually informed about the laws of the land throughout their entire childhood and youth. Both from the maester of the castle as well as from their own father or grandfather who had them attend them when they were dispensing justice, etc.

Agreed we know very little of they actual laws, but the wiggle room for Lords within the law is evident from the examples we have, such as taking 7 fingers instead of the customary 1 just because someone stole from a sept.

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17 minutes ago, direpupy said:

Agreed we know very little of they actual laws, but the wiggle room for Lords within the law is evident from the examples we have, such as taking 7 fingers instead of the customary 1 just because someone stole from a sept.

Yeah, but I'd actually be surprised if Tarly invented this thing here. I mean, we do know that the punishment you get for a specific crime depends who the wronged party actually is. If you strike a peasant in anger you don't lose your hand. But you do lose your hand if you strike a royal prince.

In that sense, it might actually be not uncommon to punish thieves who steal from a sept or septry more severely than a person who steals from a peasant.

Just as I outlined above that stealing from Lord Tywin's personal stocks doesn't mean you lose any fingers, either. You are hanged. Podrick Payne's name saved him from that fate - which proves again that noblemen are simply better than others.

The other proof for that is there being the custom that nobles are imprisoned and then ransomed while commoner men-at-arms are simply slain. 

This also hammers home the fact that no authority in this world is under any legal obligation to actually persecute a crime. If nobody complains about a lord or king being too lenient then you can allow murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. to go free. And that's precisely what Robert does after the Sack, for example. Jaime gets his pardon, along with Aerys' other surviving goons (Pycelle, Varys) but the murders of Elia and the royal children are never even properly investigated. Robert could have pardoned Clegane and Lorch, too, but he simply didn't want to concern himself with the entire affair.

Things only get dangerous to the authorities if somebody with a name, property, and influence is harmed. Then not punishing the offender/criminal can reflect ill on the authority in charge, weaken their public image, undermining order, etc. That is basically what happened during the period of lawlessness in the West, 'under the rule' of Lord Tytos.

Collectively, there would be a considerable power bloc of commoners among the merchants, craftsmen, etc. in the large cities. Those people demand stuff from their rulers (like order, a stable currency, the protection of private property and business, etc.) and they seem to be getting that. If they no longer do, things no longer look all that well for the rulers.

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4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Could very well be. But then - we really don't know what the Jaehaerys' unified law said on criminal law. And one also assumes that men like Tarly - men trained to act as a lord from a very early age on - were actually informed about the laws of the land throughout their entire childhood and youth. Both from the maester of the castle as well as from their own father or grandfather who had them attend them when they were dispensing justice, etc.

I expect Tarly has been given a very free hand to act as he sees fit.  He's basically the military dictator of the area in question.

Another thing that interests me is that punishing some common men could cause difficulties for a lord.  Say, one of the smallfolk murders another in a tavern brawl, the penalty is murder or being sent to the Wall.  The local lord should have no problem imposing such a penalty.  But what if it turns out that the man in question is the valet, or bodyguard of a neighbouring lord?  The latter may find the man useful, and might take his execution as a slight on his honour.  Does the lord trying the case want to make a potential enemy of the defendant's employer?  Does imposing a lesser punishment show to the latter that he's easily intimidated?  In such a case, there are political ramifications that need to be considered.

Edited by SeanF

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

Yeah, but I'd actually be surprised if Tarly invented this thing here. I mean, we do know that the punishment you get for a specific crime depends who the wronged party actually is. If you strike a peasant in anger you don't lose your hand. But you do lose your hand if you strike a royal prince.

In that sense, it might actually be not uncommon to punish thieves who steal from a sept or septry more severely than a person who steals from a peasant.

Just as I outlined above that stealing from Lord Tywin's personal stocks doesn't mean you lose any fingers, either. You are hanged. Podrick Payne's name saved him from that fate - which proves again that noblemen are simply better than others.

The other proof for that is there being the custom that nobles are imprisoned and then ransomed while commoner men-at-arms are simply slain. 

This also hammers home the fact that no authority in this world is under any legal obligation to actually persecute a crime. If nobody complains about a lord or king being too lenient then you can allow murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. to go free. And that's precisely what Robert does after the Sack, for example. Jaime gets his pardon, along with Aerys' other surviving goons (Pycelle, Varys) but the murders of Elia and the royal children are never even properly investigated. Robert could have pardoned Clegane and Lorch, too, but he simply didn't want to concern himself with the entire affair.

Things only get dangerous to the authorities if somebody with a name, property, and influence is harmed. Then not punishing the offender/criminal can reflect ill on the authority in charge, weaken their public image, undermining order, etc. That is basically what happened during the period of lawlessness in the West, 'under the rule' of Lord Tytos.

Collectively, there would be a considerable power bloc of commoners among the merchants, craftsmen, etc. in the large cities. Those people demand stuff from their rulers (like order, a stable currency, the protection of private property and business, etc.) and they seem to be getting that. If they no longer do, things no longer look all that well for the rulers.

All you are saying just confirms the wiggle room i was talking about, if and how a Lord deals with crime is left up to them the code just says what is and is not considered a crime. so i am really not getting why you are making such a fuss with this lengthy post if we agree that things are not set in stone, and a lot depends on who is actually holding the court and who the aggrieved party is.

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A important part in this is the enforcement or lack of enforcement that goes behind actually making sure those who break the law are held accountable. 

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19 minutes ago, direpupy said:

All you are saying just confirms the wiggle room i was talking about, if and how a Lord deals with crime is left up to them the code just says what is and is not considered a crime. so i am really not getting why you are making such a fuss with this lengthy post if we agree that things are not set in stone, and a lot depends on who is actually holding the court and who the aggrieved party is.

The set up of Westeros differs from medieval England, where, from quite an early stage, there was a fairly centralised legal system (at least by the standard of its time and place) and judges were appointed by the King.  Most manorial lords actually didn't have the power to impose death sentences, (although some manorial courts could execute thieves) and capital cases were generally tried by County or Borough courts by professional judges, before juries.   That doesn't mean that the system was not highly partial towards the rich and powerful, and nor did it prevent the rich and powerful from taking the law into their own hands, but conceptually, it was quite different from the system in Westeros, where every lord is judge and jury in his own land.

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