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Four types of justice exist, as follows:
Low Justice is the purview of any noble landholder, including knights, who can judge any case less critical than murder, rape, or other capital crime. Knights can deliver justice to commoners, up to and including imprisonment and the cutting off of hands, ears, and other body parts. They cannot judge capital crimes or deliver a sentence of death, or judge other nobles or members of the clergy.
High Justice is reserved for higher nobles, usually only kings. They make rulings on capital crimes, which are anything that may be rewarded with the death penalty. This includes treason, rape, murder, and theft of the lord’s goods.
King’s Justice is a humanitarian system of rules inaugurated by the King to pacify his lands and keep the peasants happy and whole. The ideals of the knighthood can be extended not just to the noble class, but also to all of humanity. Thus, a peasant may not be murdered for cursing at a knight who has trampled his crops and carried off his daughter if the place is protected by the Laws of the king. Thus, as a king's bold fellowship conquers the island, the reign of peace grows, and fair (if not exactly equal) justice is available to all.
Church Justice, or Ecclesiastical Law, is applicable only to members of the clergy, and it is determined only by higher-ranking members of the clergy. Further, it applies also (though not exclusively) to matters of the Church and its properties. Thus monks, friars, nuns, and priests alike are generally tried under this justice, and bishops and abbots claim the right to try anyone who harms their properties under this rule.
Knights are often captured and held in various states of arrest. Sometimes they are maintained according to their station, sitting at their captor’s table and making no attempt to escape since they have given their word of surrender. Often, though, they languish shamefully in dark dungeons, dirty and unfed. Surprisingly, even enemies of the worst kind do not kill their enemies. Hated murderers languish away in prison rather than being hung or killed. A knight may occasionally spend years in prison this way.
The answer lies in the fact that most knights and lords do not have the right to life and death over their prisoners. This is determined by the division of Justice into High and Low, as mentioned above. Most lords have the rights only to Low Justice, which allows them to enforce most laws except those of capital crimes. Any crime that warrants the death of the culprit is a matter of High Justice, enforceable only by a king. To execute a criminal would be unusual and illegal, drawing the lord’s attention and wrath significantly enough that the knight might lose his station for disobedience to his rightful office.
Remember, most knights are law-abiding in their own realm and sworn to uphold their king’s justice. Thus, instead of killing his foe, a knight will simply throw the offender into jail, a thing that is well within the rights of his office.
Knights can be punished for disobeying their lord’s laws or the customs of the land. Usually, the punishment is a fine. A more severe penalty is banishment: The knight must depart all of his lord’s holdings for the term of the banishment, which is typically a year and a day for the first such offense. The banished knight is considered an enemy of the lord during this time, even unto being killed without his kin justly claiming revenge. During his absence, the lord controls all the lands and obtains all income and benefits therefrom.
More serious offenses can be punished by outlawry, which is permanent banishment and is usually accompanied by the knight’s family’s forfeiture of all lands and titles to the lord.
Finally, degradation is the ultimate punishment, for the knight is stripped of his title and his right to his rank. This ceremony is a public humiliation, and the effect is permanent so that another lord cannot re-bestow knighthood.