Law

From Breaking Worlds

Arginese law is set out by the Royal Council in the interests of maintaining an orderly society. It is based not on precedent but on statute and principles - each case is considered on its own merits.

Officers of the law

The law is applied by the magistrates or reeves, officials who are present in every town and city as well as making circuits of the countryside; they wear the symbol of an open eye as a mark of their position. They are selected by the Crown and are known to be scrupulously impartial.

Many places - including Fiveways - have a watch who are authorised to enforce the law and to bring suspects before the magistrates. These people are organised locally and usually not trained to such a high standard.

The Watch in Fiveways can be recognised by their red and dark blue quartered uniforms, typically tabards or sashes.

Trials

Both criminal and civil trials are conducted by the magistrates.

Criminal trials

At the start of a trial the accuser (who may be a watch officer or the magistrate themselves) reads the charges against the accused. The accused then has the option to plead guilty or not guilty; if the former, a lighter sentence is often (though not always) applied, and if the latter, the magistrate will begin questioning to determine guilt.

The accused is expected to speak for themselves, and has no right to silence. The magistrate will take the statements of the accused into account, and may also call and question witnesses and request other forms of evidence. The accused may be found guilty of a lesser offence (for example, a murder trial may result in the accused being found guilty of manslaughter or assault).

It should be noted that threatening to take any action is not a crime initself - but is likely to be considered evidence of guilt.

List of offences

Arginese law recognises the following as criminal offences:

  • Treason - Aiding or engaging in hostilities against the nation or the Crown.
  • Sacrilege - Deliberately destroying, damaging, or trapping a soul.
  • Murder - Deliberately causing the death of another person.
  • Manslaughter - Causing the death of another person without intent to kill.
  • Assault - Unlawfully striking another person. (Striking in self-defence or in a consensual duel is considered lawful.)
  • Poisoning - Introducing a substance or effect to another person with intent to harm them.
  • Slavery - Unlawfully depriving another person of their liberty.
  • Theft - Taking the property of another person without permission or intention to return it.
  • Handling stolen goods - Receiving or disposing of goods with the knowledge or belief that they are stolen.
  • Counterfeiting - Falsifying or unlawfully creating or changing legal documents or tender.
  • Criminal damage - Unlawfully damaging or destroying the property of another person.
  • Contempt of court - Disrupting the operation of the law.

List of punishments

A number of sentences may be given by the magistrates. Note that any punishment may be applied for any crime.

  • Fine - A payment of money to the victim, the court, or both.
  • Bonded service - Undertaking a period of service, under specific conditions, to the victim or the court.
  • Maiming - Branding or amputating a body part, sometimes with limits imposed on regenerating it.
  • Execution - The ultimate penalty, only used for very serious crimes.
  • Imprisonment - This is very rarely used except for short periods; the current state of emergency caused by the Breaking means that keeping people idle in gaol is considered wasteful.

Civil trials

People who have a disagreement and are unable to resolve it may call for a magistrate to judge the issue. Trivial cases may be dismissed by the court - instead this option is used for serious matters such as fraud or disputes over contracts and feudal duties.

The plaintiff and defendant are given a short space of time by the magistrate to argue their cases and present evidence. The presiding magistrate will then issue a judgement (unless they explicitly choose to reserve judgement) and may give an order that is legally binding on both parties.

Unresolved legal issues

Until recently the only statute specifically dealing with ancestors and other spirits was the crime of sacrilege. However, the Breaking has led to ancestors returning as revenants and to the physical manifestation of spirits in the mortal world. Are these entities persons under Arginese law? So far no ruling has been made, and different groups continue to agitate for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from the Royal Council.

The Noble Houses have a particular interest in this matter as their traditions of inheritance have been thrown into disarray with the dead returning to life. More than a few families have already become divided over this matter of jurisprudence...