Friday, June 03, 2005

True story of the day

Currently, I am researching for an elaborate essay on the rule of law. A related subject of the RoL, as I like to call it, is the maxim nulla poena sine lege. Here is an interesting story I came across:

Sir Charles Sedley (a dramatist and poet in the court of Charles II) was charged for public indecency in 1663 England. He got drunk, went to a balcony, and did his "business" (ie. crapped) off the balcony near a crowd below. He was arrested. There was a court case.

The judge in this case, not impressed with this Sedley fellow, proceeded to sentence Sedley with a charge never before created: public indecency. Thus, the judge created this new crime from thin air. Sedley was fined for the affair (but interestingly goes down in history because of the judge's decision, and not the actual act).

Here is a quote from Wood's Life and Times about the incedent:

Sir Charles Sedley being fined 500 pounds, he made answer, that he thought he was the first man that paid for shitting.

And he must have paid well. Five hundred pounds in 1663 must have been a mega amount of money, for er, "shitting." It still is. It adds a new spin to the modern cliche: "when you gotta go, you gotta go."

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