Brehon law ‘victim-orientated’

Published in Features, Gaelic Ireland, Issue 2 (Summer 1995), News, Volume 3

At the second Burren Law School in Ballyvaughan, County Clare (31March-2 April 1995), on the theme Crime and punishment, Muireann NíBhrolcháin gave background information on the judicial system in theBrehon law period from the eighth to the twelfth centuries where theoffences common today also existed. She claimed the system was morevictim-orientated as monetary compensation was possible for any crime,including murder and rape. All ‘free’ men had an honour-price which waslost if they refused to pay the set compensation. The family was liableif the offender absconded and the criminal could be killed withimpunity by the victim’s family. As women were the possessions of menand had no independent honour-price of their own, compensation forcrimes committed against them were paid to their nearest living malerelative. However, certain women could not claim compensation forrape—a married woman alone in an ale- house, for example, or aprostitute.

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