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Courtroom dh

A wizarding courtroom

"All new wizards must accept that, in entering our world, they abide by our laws."
—The laws of wizarding society[src]

Magical law is the system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Magical law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or the wizarding community in general adhere to the will of the state.

Function

Once a witch or wizard enters the magical community they must abide by the preexisting laws that are already in place. These laws keep the peace and prevent anarchy, it also gives citizens a higher authority to refer too. Consequently, elaborate and complex legal systems have been developed, aimed at maintaining order and disincentivising antisocial behaviours. Also there are many striking parallels between the Muggle and wizarding legal frameworks, but there are just as many differences.[1]

Law structure

Punishments meted out are comparable in severity to the crimes to which they refer, discretion plays a part. Harry Potter correctly thought he was in for serious punishment for swelling Marjorie Dursley, yet was reassured by Cornelius Fudge that the powers-that-be "don’t send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts". This was of course only because Cornelius had an interest in Harry being free. By contrast, when Dolores Umbridge sought to neutralise the young wizard, she used her discretion to try and punish him most harshly and send him to prison.[1]

This application of discretion need not be sneaky, or even serve the greater good.For example, when Igor Karkaroff was in the frame for his crimes as a Death Eater he managed to reduce the severity of his sentence by volunteering the names of his associates. In Muggle legalese, this kind of legal activity is known as ‘plea-bargaining’.[1]

Curiously, while a witch or wizard on trial at the Wizengamot can nominate a third party to represent them, there do not appear to be lawyers in the Muggle sense, just a panel who vote in a simple majority (as seen when Ludo Bagman was acquitted by the court by virtue of his status as a popular Quidditch hero). Perhaps the law isn’t seen as a particularly desirable career choice, as Hermione Granger acidly observed when asked by Rufus Scrimgeour if she sought a career in Magical Law.[1]

Crimes

Tumblr n29413O6t71rzvuwqo6 r1 250

Harry Potter preforming underage magic in front of a muggle

Any young witch or wizard that tries to perform spells at home before the age of 17 will run afoul of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery (1875). The intention of this statute was presumably two-fold: to keep potentially dangerous or hazardous magic out of inexperienced hands prior to their proper education (policed by a Trace detection spell which automatically expires when the young witch or wizard turns 17), and also to prevent Muggles coming into contact with magic, as per the International Statute of Secrecy (1692).[1]

Although in the wizarding world, a lot of accidental underage magic tends to just result in a slapped wrist. Harry Potter received a mere letter for his early transgressions.[1]

In the field of animal law: Aberforth Dumbledore’s brush with the law for "using inappropriate charms on a goat" needs little elaboration. It is interesting to note stringent controls on the trade of dragon eggs, the creating of Basilisks, ‘experimental breeding’ in general and a statute banning the poaching of the Ramora fish, a magical native of the Indian Ocean.[1]

Taken most seriously, in both legal jurisdictions, are laws which pertain to crimes against the person. The most obvious examples are those laws which refer to murder or grievous bodily harm. A wizarding defendant can expect the harshest sentences for the Darkest magic — the Unforgivable Curses.[1]

Punishment

"They don't need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they're trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most go mad within weeks."
—Description of Azkaban prison[src]
Azkaban concept art

Azkaban

Minor infractions are settled with fines — such as when Arthur Weasley was penalised 50 Galleons for ‘bewitching a Muggle car’. Custodial sentences are also doled out, but it probably goes without saying that Muggle jails are not fit to restrain wizarding kind — as demonstrated by mischievous witch Lisette de Lapin, who broke out of a Parisian cell in 1422, much to the frustration of her would-be executioners. Azkaban is a highest-security prison (bringing even the doughty Rubeus Hagrid to tears), especially when patrolled by the soul-sucking Dementors.[1]

For another example of archaic punishment worth looking at happened in the United States of America In 1926 New YorkPorpentina Goldstein was suspended in a chair above the death potion, a method of execution hideously reminiscent of the medieval Muggle use of the cucking stool to dunk those accused of crimes in the water, sometimes until they drowned.Executions, in regards to people do not seem to happen in Great Britain.[1]

Miscarriages of justice

While the legal system performs a vital function maintaining order, the wizarding world seems rather prone to mistakes and iffy outcomes. Sometimes this is a result of an unfairly weighted system, as when Buckbeak was sentenced to death for scratching a member of the politically influential Malfoy family. Also consider when Sirius Black was dispatched to Azkaban for Peter Pettigrew’s crime, though he was later exonerated.[1]

It’s worth taking heart from the idea that the law, while imperfect, is flexible. Even rule sticklers, like Percy Weasley saw room for improvement in the system, and Hermione’s tireless championing of house-elf rights reflected a noble tradition of fighting for justice.[1]

Corruption

While the law exists to carry out justice, sometimes it is outright undermined by officials who are corrupted by money, status and public opinion, far beyond a simple miscarriage. Ministers of Magic Cornelius Fudge and his successor Rufus Scrimgeour were more worried about the Ministry's reputation than actual security, thus they abused their authorities to manipulate the media, creating cover up stories, and knowingly arresting the wrong people to give the facade of progress. Other high-ranking officials are also known to engage in corrupt law-enforcement, such as Dolores Umbridge, who solicited bribes, bargained with petty criminals, and utilised outright illegal methods to achieve her goals such as ordering a Dementor attack or attempting to use the Cruciatus Curse for interrogation.[2]

When the Death Eaters took over the Ministry in 1998, corruption in the law system became outright evident, to the point of blatantly declaring evil as the new justice. Criminals were falsely cleared and given high-ranking positions in the Ministry, which includes maintaining the law that they would be changing and inventing; innocent people were being imprisoned, pursued, or even killed under false pretences. Even children were being trained in illegal Dark Arts (which has been legalised and even encouraged to be used openly) and prejudiced hatred towards Muggles.[3]

Courtroom procedure

Wizengamot 

Wizengamot seal

Wizengamot seal

The Wizengamot is the high court of wizarding law in Britain. The head of the Wizengamot is called the Chief Warlock, an old-fashioned title that denotes “particular skill or achievements” similar to a Muggle knighthood.[2]

Dumbledore held that post for years, but was temporarily removed from the post during the summer of 1995. He was reinstated in June of 1996. Those who preside over a hearing or a trial are called the Interrogators. A Court Scribe takes notes of the proceedings. Wizengamot members wear plum-coloured robes with an elaborate silver "W" on the left side. Other members of the Wizengamot include a dumpy wizard with a large black moustache and a frizzy-haired witch, both allied with Fudge against Dumbledore and Harry, and two elderly witches who were apparently friendly to Dumbledore.[2]

The full Wizengamot sat in judgement of Harry Potter on August 12, 1995. The hearing took place in Courtroom Ten , which is located on Level 10 of the Ministry of Magic. This courtroom is identical to (and may very well be the same one as) that which Harry saw in the Pensieve when he "attended" several proceedings from Dumbledore's memory. The walls of Courtroom Ten are dark stone, dimly lit by torches.[2]

In the centre of the room is a chair with magical chains on it where the accused sits. The court members, of which there are about fifty, sit above overlooking the chair in the judge's balcony. When Harry was being accused, Amelia Bones herself presided. She sat to the left of Cornelius Fudge. Umbridge sat to Fudge's right.[2]

According to the Wizengamot Charter of Rights, the accused is allowed to call witnesses in his or her defence and to be represented by another person. Harry was represented by Dumbledore, much to his surprise, and Mrs Figg was called as a witness for the defence.[2]

Council of Magical Law

"Ludo Bagman, you have been brought here in front of the Council of Magical Law to answer charges relating to the activities of the Death Eaters."
—Bagman's trail before the council[src]
B4C30M1 Wizengamot trial Pensieve memory

Council of Magical Law

The high Wizard court of law, held in a dungeon. In court, the accused is magically bound to a chair in the centre of the room. A jury sits on the right of the prosecutor who states the case against the accused and eventually asks for a verdict.

The courtrooms are located on the tenth level of the Ministry of Magic. During the Voldemort years, prisoners are escorted and guarded by groups of Dementors.

The members of the Wizengamot, of which there are about fifty, wear plum-covered robes with elaborate silver initials on them (the letter 'W').

Harry Potter, looking in the Pensieve, saw Council of Magical Law trials taking place for Igor Karkaroff and Ludo Bagman, as well the sentencing of the Death Eaters (the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr) who had used the Cruciatus Curse on Alice and Frank Longbottom

Trials

Trials appear to be brief and concise. The accused may present witnesses to be questioned by the Wizengamot. A third-party with legal knowledge may speak on behalf of a defendant, fulfilling a similar role to that of a modern barrister. However, no wizarding lawyers seem to exist, and the practise of having a spokesperson on behalf of a defendant appears to be rare.

Law enforcement

Department of Magical Law Enforcement logo

The Department of Magical Law Enforcement is in the British Ministry of Magic, which is the wizarding equivalent of both the Muggle police force and the judiciary. It is roughly the equivalent to the Home Office of Muggle Britain and all other departments are answerable to this one, with the exception of the Department of Mysteries.[4] It is also the largest of the departments in the Ministry of Magic.

Minister for Magic Ulick Gamp 's greatest legacy was to found the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Wizengamot and Council of Magical Law are subdivisions of this department.

There are several different subdivisions located in the this department such as, the Auror Office, Improper Use of Magic Office, Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, and many others.

MACUSA also has its own version of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

Existing laws

There are numerous preexisting law in the wizarding world, ranging from relatively important to the up most importance.

Ban on Experimental Breeding

The Ban on Experimental Breeding is a rule that forbids the creation of new, dangerous magical creatures in Britain. It was designed by Newt Scamander, who thinks it the greatest achievement of his career, and passed in 1965.[4] The creation of new breeds of magical creatures is now subject to close control by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.[5]

Rubeus Hagrid probably acted in defiance of the Ban on Experimental Breeding when he cross bred Fire Crab with Manticores to create Blast-Ended Skrewts.[5]

On the day of Harry Potter's hearing in front of the Wizengamot, he and Arthur Weasley meet Bob, a Ministry employee who carries a cardboard box containing a fire-breathing chicken. Bob is certain that the chicken constitutes a serious breach of the Ban on Experimental Breeding.[2]

Code of Wand Use

The Code of Wand Use is a law in the wizarding world that regulates the use of wands. Clause three of the Code of Wand Use states that "no non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand". Its precursor is presumably the Wand Ban of 1631, which also forbade the possession of wands by non-human magical beings.[6]

Amos Diggory accuses Winky of breaking clause three of the Code of Wand Use when he finds her holding the wand Barty Crouch, Jr. used to conjure the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup of 1994.[5]

Decree for Justifiable Confiscation

The Decree for Justifiable Confiscation is a wizarding law that allows the Ministry of Magic the authority to confiscate the contents of any will in case they suspect of it being an illegal item. The Ministry can keep the possessions for investigation for 31 days.

Rufus Scrimgeour uses that Decree to investigate some of the possessions that Dumbledore left to Harry PotterRon Weasley, and Hermione Granger.[3] 

Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery

The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery was written in 1875 by the Ministry of Magic.[7] This law forbids the use of underage magic outside of school, and is enforced by the Improper Use of Magic Office. Warnings are given for violation under paragraph C knowingly, deliberately, in full awareness of illegality, to do magic in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle.  

More than one offence may cause a student to be expelled from Hogwarts and their wand broken.Clause 7 magic may be used before Muggles in exceptional circumstances, which include situations that include the life of the wizard or witch himself, or witches, wizards, or Muggles present.[2]

Young wizards are also exempt from this rule because they have little control over what magic comes out of them, and they do not own a wand. Their magic is rarely dangerous to others, and usually accidental, such as when Harry flew onto the school roof while being chased by Dudley's gang, or made his hair grow after Petunia cut it. Even when Harry made the glass in the Reptile House disappear and released the boa constrictor, it was not counted against him.[8] 

Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans

The Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans are an official Ministry of Magic document that provides rules for the treatment of part-human magical creatures such as vampires by wizards. Paragraph twelve contains regulations for vampire hunting. We do not know to which other part-human creatures the guidelines apply; possible candidates include centaurs, merpeoplehags and Veela. The wand ban also affects goblins.[3] so it can be assumed that house-elves and goblins are considered "non-human" instead of "part-human". 

In a Daily Prophet article published a week before the final match of the Quidditch World Cup of 1994, Rita Skeeter complains that the Ministry employees waste time arguing over cauldron thickness when they should be "stamping out vampires"Percy Weasley angrily rejects the criticism and points out that paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans clearly forbids such a policy.[5]

International Ban on Duelling 

The International Ban on Duelling is a ban that, seen as it is international, probably was passed by the International Confederation of Wizards after 1994. During the Winter of 1994, the British Ministry of Magic seems to have accepted it and attempted to convince other wizarding governments to do the same, as they were trying to convince other countries to agree to this Ban. 

International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy

The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy is a wizarding law which was instituted in 1689 and put into effect in 1692 in order to hide the existence of witches and wizards from the Muggles who persecuted them. This law was probably a direct outcome of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93 in Massachusetts Colony of North America. 1692 was also the same year that the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA) was founded with the main goal of hunting down the Scourers who turned over witches and wizards to the Puritan judges.[1]

In 1692, the International Confederation of Wizards held a summit. It was established that each Ministry of Magic would be responsible for magical sports in their own country. This led to the formation of the Department of Magical Games and Sports in Britain.[9] Twenty-seven species of magical beasts, beings, and spirits were to be hidden from Muggle knowledge.[4]

In 1750, Clause 73 was added to the Statute, which stated that each Ministry would be responsible for the concealment of magical creatures within its territory or face sanction from the International Confederation of Wizards.[4]

The Statute also includes guidelines for dress, which state what wizards should wear in order to avoid discovery.[1]

Muggle Protection Act 

The Muggle Protection Act is the reason why the Ministry conducted raids; forcing Lucius Malfoy to go to Borgin and Burkes and sell some family items, poisons among them. He thinks Arthur may be behind it, whilst Arthur was somewhat pleased to hear that Lucius was apprehensive.[7]

Rappaport’s Law

Rappaport's Law was instituted by Emily Rappaport, the 15th President of MACUSA, in 1790. The law completely segregated the No-Maj and magical communities in the United States following one of the most serious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy of all time.[1]

Rappaport's Law banned marriage ander even friendship between Wizards and No-Maj. Interaction was only allowed for everyday activities.[1]

Due to the law, students from Ilvermorny School were not allowed wands before they entered the school, nor to take them home during vacations.[1]

By the 1920's, MACUSA had several special offices responsible for enforcing Rappaport's Law. Among these were a sub-division focusing on No-Maj fraternisation and an office that issued and verified wand permits for every witch and wizard in the United States.[1]

Rappaport's Law was repealed in 1965.[1]

Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects

The Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects presumably lists the artefacts that can be used in a magical way by the wizarding world.[5] The broomstick, for example, is presumably on the list.

Werewolf Code of Conduct

An ultimately unsuccessful rule framework developed by the Ministry of Magic in 1637 for the control of Werewolves.[1]

The Werewolf Code of Conduct of 1637 was meant to give Werewolves a framework for coexisting safely and legally within the wizarding world. Werewolves were required to sign a copy of the Code and promise to refrain from attacking and biting non-werewolves. They were also supposed to lock themselves away during their wolf transformation periods.[1]

As no undeclared werewolf wanted to go into the Ministry and admit to being one, none ever signed up to the Code.[1]

Wizengamot Charter of Rights

The accused has the right to present witnesses for his or her case.[2]

All wizards and witches of school age or older are kept track of on a register of their places of residence, so that the Wizengamot know that as of his disciplinary hearing, he’s the only one of either in Little Whinging. However, they do not keep track of squibs, and may not keep track of Muggle-born wizards and witches too young to enter Hogwarts.[2]

All Animagi must be registered with the Ministry of Magic.

There is legislation about what you can conjure and what you cannot .

The use of Veritaserum is closely controlled by Ministry guidelines.[5]

You must have a license to Apparate from the Department of Magical Transportation.[5]

You must clip the distinctive forked tail of a crup to hide it from Muggle notice.[4]

Law practitioners

Heads of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Wizengamot members

Other

Law in literature

There have been numerous book written under the subject of the law and it can be safely assumed that these books are available to Magical Law Enforcement personal. These books might also play an important part in law proceedings and might prove useful for those who pursue a career in magical law. Some books include:

Appearances

Notes and references

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