Kerry Underwood


with 6 comments

As we gear up for the whiplash tariff under the Civil Liability Act 2018, it is worth remembering that this is not the first personal injury tariff in this country, and indeed the concept goes back nearly 1,500 years.

I am grateful to Lord Justice Irwin for the idea for this piece and to Harvard University for much of the information.

King Aethelberht of Kent, who reigned from 560 to 616 created an extremely extensive tariff for damages for personal injuries, and some of the examples below show the prevalence of knife, or sword, crime at the time.

Under Section 37 of the code “if a shoulder becomes lamed, let him pay 30 shillings.”

In 7 th Century Kent a shilling was a measure of 1.3 grams of gold.

Currently gold is valued at around £22 a gram, so a shilling was worth around £29.

Thus 30 shillings is around £870, the equivalent under the proposed Civil Liability Act 2018 whiplash tariff to a 9-12 month injury.


Other awards included:

Stabs To The Thighs

  • one to two inches deep 1 shilling;

  • two to three inches deep 2 shillings;

  • three inches deep 3 shillings;

  • loss of little finger 11 shillings;

  • loss of four front teeth 6 shillings;

  • piercing through a generative organ 6 shillings;

  • any injury requiring medical treatment 30 shillings;

  • eye-gouging 50 shillings;

  • broken jaw bone 20 shillings;

  • broken arm 6 shillings

Toes, other than the big toe, attracted an award of half the compensation for the corresponding finger.

Bruises were compensated differently depending on whether they were visible outside ordinary clothing, so vanity clearly paid a part in awards, even in the 6th Century.

Indeed there was a specific award for minor disfigurement of appearance, and that was 3 shillings, with 6 shillings being the appropriate sum for greater disfigurement of appearance.
The amount to be paid for the death of a person was also standardised and depended upon the status or inherited rank of the deceased, and could be as high as 1,200 shillings.

Under King Alfred of Wessex, who reigned from 871 to 899, the law accommodated Britons that is Celts not Saxons, who were all referred to as Welshmen and the tariff for a Welshman who died, with no land, was 60 shillings.
Kind Alfred’s code also provided for staged payments.

Aethelberht’s code is believed to be the first example of law being written down in this country and it is thought that a fixed tariff was promulgated to avoid haggling and bargaining between quarrelling families and the fixed financial compensation was introduced as an alternative to retaliation and feud.

Under Aethelberht’s code there was also compulsory arbitration in certain cases, so under Section 65 1 “if he becomes lame, then friends must arbitrate.”

One Way Cost Shifting was not introduced until 1277, by the Statute of Gloucester, but that subject is for another day.

There really is very little new under the sun.


Written by kerryunderwood

January 11, 2019 at 7:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. They got more those days than they will under the current proposed Civil Liability Act tariff.

    What has this Country come to when someone with a soft tissue injury lasting 3 months will get less than someone who has been delayed by a flight of over 3 hours.

    Justice in this Country is falling to its knee’s on all fronts I’m afraid to say. Sad state of affairs.

    Richard Walton

    January 11, 2019 at 7:56 am

    • Agree with all of that.


      January 11, 2019 at 3:21 pm

      • Beware the slippy slope! You’ll be joining special interest groups on Anglo Saxon history and growing a beard! Short step to attending conferences with a bloke who was once on time team. Been there and love it! Great article!

        Jaime Valles

        January 15, 2019 at 8:54 pm

      • Haha! Thank- you – all possible, but I might draw the line at growing a beard.



        January 16, 2019 at 7:14 pm

  2. One of the interesting things about the Anglo-Saxon shilling is that it appears to have been a unit of account rather than a coin (the shilling coin only arriving during the reign of Henry VIII) and that the number of pence to the shilling varied according to which part of the country you were in. Thus in Mercia there were four pence to the shilling, but in Wessex there were five. It seems to have been the Normans who standardised the rate at 12 pence to the shilling and that’s how it remained. If we still had the duodecimal system people would understand more clearly that those who now make the rules are no more than 11 pence to the shilling.


    January 11, 2019 at 9:34 am

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