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pleas of the crown

pleas of the crown. The notion of the pleas of the crown can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times to describe those wrongs which were the particular concern of the king and for which the king was entitled to take a fine (wite). Later under the Norman kings and their successors the term came to mean those pleas or cases which concerned the king as distinct from pleas between subjects—common pleas. Although these pleas were principally what we would now regard as crimes, some were to develop as torts (civil wrongs), notably trespass, which was a plea of the crown because the writ alleged that it was a wrong ‘vi et armis et contra pacem regis’ (‘by force of arms and against the king's peace’). Increasingly the pleas of the crown became the substance of the criminal law—indeed the great classic of the criminal law was Hale's Pleas of the Crown.

Maureen Mulholland

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