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Law Enforcement and Court Officers

Who were the people who were responsible for keeping order in the court. There are some positions that would be familiar to us today. But when we are talking about these jobs, keep in mind that all of them were filled by men in the community. They were expected to perform these duties for a certain amount of time, and they would not be paid. It was expected that they would volunteer their time for the good of the community.

Sheriffs were appointed annually by the king. They were prominent members of the community, and this job required that they arrested people, brought the accused to court, and in rare cases carry out death sentences. They would also serve legal papers and collect fines. Because of they amount of work involved, it was not an office that people wanted to hold. But sheriffs were an important go between in helping the central government control far flung counties. The sheriff would often have a right hand man know as an undersheriff that would help with all of the paperwork.

Another position that was also filled by prominent men in the community was that of Justice of the Peace. This job was critical to the court system, as they would examine witnesses, send people to prison, and regulate marketplaces. They were also in charge of checking infrastructure, such as roads.

Constables were one of the few paid law enforcement positions. He would execute writs and warrants. A subordinate of his, called a petty constable, would help keep the peace at a local level. Bailiffs, another unpaid position, would be elected during the court leet. They would keep order during these proceedings.

How has the system of maintaining law and order changed since then? Can you think of any issues with relying on so many unpaid officials?

Image Courtesy of Wikicommons


Agecroft Teachers Notes, Robert Hicks

Local Government in a Small Town: A Medieval Leet Jury and Its Constituents- Anne Reiber DeWindt. Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies





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