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Site last updated
26 June, 2013

2nd Statute of Winchester
(8 October 1285)

Whereas every day robbery, homicide, and arson are committed more frequently than used to be the case, and felonies escape presentment by the oaths of jurors who would see the felonies committed on strangers pass unpunished rather than accuse the offenders, many of whom are persons of the same country ...: [therefore] our lord the king, in order to abate the power of felons, has established a penalty in such cases; so that henceforth, through fear of the penalty rather than of the oath, no one will be spared and no felony will be concealed....

Accordingly, inquests shall be held when necessary in a vill by him who is lord of the vill, and afterwards in hundreds, franchises, and counties sometimes in two, three, or four counties, in cases where felonies are committed on the borders of counties so that the offenders may be brought to justice. And if the country will not answer for criminals in this way, the penalty shall be such that each country that is to say, the people living in the country shall be responsible for the robberies committed and the damages [thus incurred]....

And for better assuring the peace, the king has commanded that in great towns which are walled the gates shall be closed from sunset to sunrise; and that no man shall be lodged in the suburbs, or in the outskirts of the town, except in the daytime nor even in the daytime unless his host will be responsible for him. And the bailiffs of towns each week, or at least every fortnight, shall make investigation concerning men lodged in the suburbs or in the outskirts of the towns; and if they find anybody harbouring or otherwise lodging persons suspected of being in any respect violators of the peace, the bailiffs shall have justice done in the matter. And the king has commanded that henceforth all watches shall be kept according to the ancient custom....

Furthermore, it is commanded that highways from one trading town to another shall be enlarged wherever there are woods, hedges, or ditches; so that there shall be neither ditches, underbrush, nor bushes for two hundred feet on the one side and two hundred feet on the other, where men can hide near the road with evil intent; yet so that this statute shall not apply to oaks or to any great trees, so long as they are cleared underneath....

Moreover, it is commanded that every man shall have in his house arms for keeping the peace according to the ancient assize....

Given at Winchester, October 8, in the thirteenth year of the king's reign.
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