Due to the influence of Sacred Holy Empire, the law in the Old Continent is established following very modern legislative principles. Which is why, in the majority of countries the same laws apply to both nobles and plebs, which creates a certain theoretical equality between the different classes. Naturally, legal practice tends to be very different, since each site has its own court and, generally, the aristocrats receive many more procedural privileges. At any rate, each country traditionally will dictate its own laws within its capacity whenever it can, as long as it doesn’t abandon the principles of Abel. Sometimes this makes the legal differences between the territories more than just notable. Nobody expects that in the frozen wastelands of Goldar, where the law barely exists, somebody understands the idea of a court such as it is in Abel.
The most advanced legal principle of the Old Continent is probably the fact that everyone has the right to be judged for his crimes. That does not mean in the slightest that people are innocent until proven guilty, but that, at least, they will be able to be heard before a judge so that he evaluates the weight of his crime and he emits a just sentence. Often, this rule is not even upheld in the heart of the Empire, and some misdemeanors are punished immediately by the authorities. Nowadays, nobody expects the guards to bother themselves with detaining a petty crook that has robbed some apples and bring him before the judge. It is more likely that they resort to giving him a good scare instead (or even a few blows if he is a repeat offender), before making the busy magistrates waste their time.
Another element that demonstrates an advanced legal system states that in the great majority of territories pertaining to the Sacred Holy Empire, as well as in the principalities with a similar culture, all defendants for crimes whose punishment may be greater than six months in jail have the right to a pro-bono public lawyer who defends them. Unfortunately, these public defenders are forced to take hundreds of cases, which is why they can only dedicate a very small amount of time to them.
Generally, the word of the authorities is considered more than sufficient proof everywhere, which is why if any person is caught in the act of committing a crime, it’s possible the trial is little more than a mere formality to arrive at a fast sentence. Indeed; criminal investigations are very infrequent, and are limited to crimes of certain relevance. Even so, the majority of culturally advanced countries have sections dedicated to the investigation and elucidation of the most important crimes.
Punishments and Penalties
Much as the law varies from one territory to another, the punishments and penalties do so as well. What in one location a crime can be sanctioned as a misdemeanor, another can reach places where it is considered a terrible insult against the established power.
For smaller thefts or unsuitable language there are the stockades and public whipping. Jail is reserved for most crimes of a certain importance, like robbery or contraband. It is important to note that prison is not seen as an act of redemption nor does it try to reinstate the delinquent into society; it is nothing more than a punishment that tries to discourage people from committing more crimes. The deprivation of freedom usually entails some type of forced labor, making the captives earn their meals. A long time ago Abel prohibited the use of physical torture, but there are still countries like Stygia or Togarini that continue to use it as punishment. Lastly, the death sentence is carried out only as a result of very serious crimes, like high treason, murder or crimes of great gravity.
As a general rule, all crimes entail some kind of pecuniary fine, disregarding its nature. Thus, a person condemned to prison can see himself forced to pay strong economic sanctions as much to the court as to the victims of his acts.
The Alkavian Church has its own law and courts that function in a parallel way to governmental law. If a person fails to fulfill an ecclesiastic law, the Church can persecute him by its own means or ask the official authorities to detain him. Normally ecclesiastic law is more permissive and lenient than the layman, but the punishments are much more terrible, since in no way do they contemplate prison. The penalties can carry terrible consequences, like being stoned, whipped or other much worse things. The division of the Inquisition is particularly known for judging witches, whose most common punishment usually is death by bonfire.