Infangthief and outfangthief

Infangthief and outfangthief (also spelled infangtheof and outfangtheof) were privileges originally granted to landowners in Anglo-Saxon law. With the granting of these privileges by the Crown, they were able to execute summary justice on thieves within the borders of their own estates.[1]

Infangthief (meaning literally "in-taken-thief") applied to thieves captured within a landowner's estate; outfangthief ("out-taken-thief") applied to thieves who had committed a crime on a landowner's estate but were captured elsewhere, permitting the landowner to transfer such a person to his own court for summary justice.[2] The thief's captor was given a choice between summarily executing him – the usual fate for the poor – or ransoming him for a fine set according to his rank.[3]

Such privileges had several advantages: they were profitable, helped to maintain discipline on the estate and identified the privilege-holder as a figure of authority.[1] They remained in use after the Norman Conquest as a standard right given to local lords and did not finally fall into disuse until the time of Edward III, and even then it continued to be asserted for a considerable time afterwards in Halifax, West Yorkshire.[3]

See also


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