Blogging the Magna Carta #16

by Phyllis Irene Radford


Policemen and courts are supposed to be above corruption.  Aren’t they? (this was written before the massive protests of spring and summer of 2020)  We know that Hollywood takes liberties with police shows and depicts rogue cops faking evidence to bring low a criminal who didn’t commit that crime but did commit others which can’t be proven.  Or how about the DA who has a grudge against his ex-wife’s new boyfriend and invents a case against him?

All fiction, of course.  Isn’t it?

We can pretend this doesn’t happen and didn’t have a long standing precedent that King John and his barons tried to correct.  Did they succeed?

38. No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint, put any one to his “law,” without credible witnesses brought for this purpose.

You have to have evidence that a crime was committed and evidence or credible testimony that the accused committed the crime.  That’s the way the system is supposed to work.


This is tied to the previous clause.

39. No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

A few weeks ago in episode #14 we discussed William de Briouze whose only crime seemed to be earning the king’s displeasure.  He went into exile and lost everything.  His wife and son disappeared, probably into an oubliette.

Imprisonment and forfeiture without formal charges and speedy trial are not supposed to happen today either.  A lot of people are pretending that Guantanamo doesn’t exist.  How many prisoners have been there 10 years or more without a trial?


40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

Our constitution also grants the right to a speedy trial.  Today, trial delays are often manufactured ( over and above backlog) so that potential jurors can forget the media frenzy around the crime.  It works both ways.


For the entire Magna Carta, you may go here:

For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life:


Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café.  She first became interested in the Magna Carta while researching her master work series “Merlin’s Descendants.”  Book View Café is proud to reissue these five volumes in a variety of DRM free e-book formats.  You can read more about the author on her her bookshelf:

The first book in the series, “Guardian of the Balance” can be found here: and the final volume “Guardian of the Freedom” is new to the bookstore



About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Blogging the Magna Carta #16 — 3 Comments

  1. A. P. Herbert’s “Rex v. Haddock (Is Magna Carta Law?)” makes an amusing companion to this section.

    “If a man has no money at all he can get justice for nothing: but if he has any money he will have to buy justice, and even then may have to go without right (for the two expressions are not always synonymous). Indeed, there is something to be said for selling, denying and delaying some sorts of justice. The thoughtful observer will distinguish between litigation which is a genuine pursuit of justice, such as a prosecution for embezzlement or murder, and the litigation which is a mere luxury, hobby, disease, profession, or species of blackmail, such as are many libel actions and nearly all suits for breach of promise of marriage.”

  2. The Rulers want to be able to trust *their* public servants.

    But we need to be able to trust *all* public servants. When the rulers keep secrets from us, we don’t have democracy.