I find the justice system in Harry Potter very interesting. One one hand, it seems similar to the justice system in the real world: there are trials where the accused can call a witness.

'I may be wrong,' said Dumbledore pleasantly, 'but I am sure that under the Wizengamot Charter of Rights, the accused has the right to present witnesses for his or her case? Isn't that the policy of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Madam Bones?' he continued, addressing the witch in the monocle.

On the other hand, there are many examples when suspects don't get a trial. For example, both Hagrid and Sirius were sent to Azkaban without a trial.

So how does the justice system in Harry Potter work? And is Rowling trying to make some sort of commentary here?


1 Answer 1


Very closely related (on Science Fiction SE): Why did the wizarding society seem to have such a weak view of civil rights?

Following the answers there, people that were sent to prison without trials (e.g. Hagrid, who was sent to prison without even having been charged with anything "as a precaution," or Sirius Black, who at least had clear charges against him even if he wasn't actually tried) "because of fear and political expediency," as the accepted answer on the linked question says. In the case of Hagrid, quite simply, the Ministry wants to be seen as doing something. The fact is they have no clue what the Monster of Slytherin was and they were completely powerless to stop it, but of course they couldn't/wouldn't actually admit that.

Scrimgeour was quite explicit about this when discussing the case of Stan Shunpike with Harry:

“Well, of course, to you it will matter enormously,” said Scrimgeour with a laugh. “But to the Wizarding community at large ... it’s all perception, isn’t it? It’s what people believe that’s important."

(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 16, A Very Frosty Christmas).

It's worth noting at this point that Muggle societies aren't above holding people in prison without charges, trials or habaes corpus out of fear (consider, for example, internment of Japanese in the U.S. during WWII or certain other more recent events - I'll let you draw the inference as to which ones I'm referring to), so perhaps we shouldn't be entirely surprised to learn that Wizarding society has done the same thing.

With that said, as discussed in the other Q&A, Wizarding society's view of civil rights seems to be considerably weaker and less "modern" than current views of civil rights, and there were major procedural problems with the trials when they were held at all (e.g. the fact that the chief law enforcement officer also served as both the chief judge and chief prosecutor). These procedural flaws are a major reason that Cornelius Fudge's blatant attempt to railroad Harry Potter nearly succeeded.

  • 1
    This is an OK answer, but it could be improved substantially by taking a look at this article: pharnabazus.livejournal.com/715.html
    – user111
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:38
  • 1
    @Hamlet Since you keep talking about that article in relation to this question, perhaps you could make a self-answer out of it?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 15:02

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