I was reading a local history article recently, and was reminded of an unusual word and rather bizarre concept. The article carried a list of minor crimes and their punishments:
Joe Bloggs, drunk and disorderly, fined 5 shillings…Fred Smith, assault, 7 shillings… and so on.
down and killed by a horse pulling a cart, and the entry said: Horse, Deodand 1 shilling. What this means is that in effect, the horse was fined for killing the boy!
The concept of deodand goes back many centuries, the principle being that if one person’s property causes harm or death to another person, that property can either be forfeited, or a fine levied. By early Victorian times the law was becoming obsolete and only token amounts tended to be awarded, and the practice was finally abolished in 1846.