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For A More Civilized Age

That Time A UK Court Denied A Man’s Wish For Trial By Combat And Ruined All Our Fun

Over what infraction did one man ask a court for trial by combat? Click ahead to find out!

“A minor motoring offense” according to The Telegraph. Back in 2002 (pardon us, we just heard about this story and couldn’t resist sharing), 60-year-old Leon Humphreys decided instead of paying a $40 fine, he’d ask for trial by combat. He claims he was ready to fight the chosen champion of their motor vehicle department. Methinks someone was reading too much A Song of Ice and Fire.

“Leon Humphreys remained adamant yesterday that his right to fight a champion nominated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) was still valid under European human rights legislation. He said it would have been a ‘reasonable’ way to settle the matter,” writes Telegraph. Yes…reasonable. “Humphreys, an unemployed mechanic, was taken to court after refusing to pay the original £25 fixed penalty for failing to notify the DVLA that his Suzuki motorcycle was off the road.”

He went so far as to inform the court just how he would fight their champion, with “samurai swords, Ghurka knives or heavy hammers.”

According to the wikipedia page on trial by combat, it’s been retired for a while: “Wager of battle, as the trial by combat was called in English, appears to have been introduced into the common law of the Kingdom of England following the Norman conquest and remained in use for the duration of the High and Late Middle Ages. The last certain trial by battle in England occurred in 1446: a servant accused his master of treason, and the master drank too much wine before the battle and was slain by the servant.”

Did we also mention Humphreys intended this to be a fight to the death? He was denied and was fined £200 with an additional £100 in court costs.

(via Telegraph)

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  • According2Robyn

    This puts a new spin on my family’s long list of contempt of court incidents. Maybe they were just requesting trial by combat.

    Forcefully requesting.

  • locuas

    Wasn’t this a ST TOS episode?(and i don’t mean AMok Time)

  • Aashyma Never Would

    Are you thinking of the Squire of Gothos,where said Squire challenged Kirk to a duel of honour and later accepted Kirk’s offer to hunt him (Kirk) down instead of hanging him directly?

  • Travis

    I think the DMV totally needs a chosen champion. Would certainly make the wait in line more interesting.

  • Benny Bass

    Aw yeeeahh… Strax lives!!

  • Anonymous

    I would have asked for Trail by Stone.

  • A Kaleberg

    While reading an old issue of Scribner’s Magazine I came across an article on how to slander someone without doing anything legally actionable which had a curious footnote regarding the abolition of the right of trial by combat:

    “I once heard a lawyer from Massachusetts relate a curious instance of the authority of the common law in his state. He said that he once advised a client, who had the reputation of being a fighting man, to plead the right of wager of battle. Now, wager of battle is a trial by combat and was formerly allowed by the common law. By it the defendant had the right to fight with the plaintiff, the result of the conflict proving whether he was guilty or innocent. My friend argued to the court that the common law, as it was at the Revolution, had been adopted in Massachusetts, and when adopted,, a defendant in England had the legal right to wage his battle, and the law never having been abolished by statute in Massachusetts the defendant still had that right, although the law had been abolished in England. The court held the plea to be a good one. I have examined the Massachusetts Digest, but I find no reported case to the above effect. Perhaps the story is mythical. It may have been suggested by the celebrated case of Ashford vs. Thornton, I Barn. & Ald. 405, decided in 1818 in England. In this case the defendant did plead his right to wage battle, and the court allowed it. This case called the attention of Parliament to the fact that this anomaly, this relic of another age, was still a part of the common law of England, and the next year it was abolished.”

    It’s a pretty funny article, so if you follow the link below to check the footnote, go back a few pages and read the whole thing.

    (Some Precepts for Slandering Safely, Scribner’s Monthly, December 1877, Volume XV, No. 2);cc=scmo;rgn=full%20text;idno=scmo0015-2;didno=scmo0015-2;view=image;seq=228;node=scmo0015-2%3A1;page=root;size=100

  • locuas

    wolf in the fold, actually, where the planet of the week plans execute scotty for a crime by killing him with slow torture, despite the fact that they did not use it in a long time just because it was never changed.

  • Jake Mertz

    Trial by combat, fight to the death, who will be the one to take their last breath?! Sword or knife, hammer or fist, what weapons will they take from the list?!
    Slashing and stabbing, whirling around, which warrior will fall to the ground?!
    Oh, wait, what?
    Sorry folks, the battle’s off, nothing to see here, everybody go home!

  • Anonymous

    My Uncle Nolan just got metallic Lexus NX 200t
    SUV by working online at home. look at here now B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Lien

    I’ll leave this here. LET THE CLAW-PLACH BEGINS!