While it is true that in the highest courts of France this rule against the revelation of depositions obtained in criminal trials, it was not true of ordinary civil trials; similarly, publication was more common in the pays de droit ecrit, than in the pays coutumiers, and generally it might be said practice varied from place to place and from time to time.This becomes more evident when we examine the laws of particular courts and customary law. For example, at the Chatelet de Paris in the fourteenth century the names only of the witnesses were revealed and not the deposition, for fear that the accused either might attempt to elude trial or might try to harm or kill the deponents.

So far as customary law was concerned, the great commentator on the Coutumes de Beauvaisis states that it is precisely the secret procedure that characterizes lay justice. In the lay courts, whose procedure Beaumanoir has recorded so extensively, not only were witnesses heard in secret, but their depositions were not even communicated to the accused….After Beaumanoir, evidence of this lay procedure multiplies, and in the fourteenth century in the greatest part of the pays de droit coutumier the depositions were not communicated to the accused at all.

Albert Shannon, “The Secrecy of Witnesses in Inquisitorial Tribunals and in Contemporary Secular Criminal Trials”, Essays in Medieval Life and Thought: Presented in Honor of Austin Patterson Evans (1965)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s