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When you play the Game of Thrones you either win or you go to jail…

Whilst real life may not be as exciting (or terrifying) as the hit TV show Game of Thrones, we can all rest easy knowing our lives are less likely to end at the hands of an axe wielding wildling or a fire breathing dragon. Interestingly enough, the legal aspects of Game of Thrones play a significant role in both story and character progression, with many key storylines revolving around the King’s Justice (or in many instances, injustice). While many of the legal principles in Game of Thrones may seem absurd, some core parallels can be made to South Australian law.

Trial by Combat or Trial by Jury?

A key concept underpinning the Australian legal system in criminal matters is the option of a trial by Jury or by Judge alone. This is clearly a notable example of the differing systems of determining guilt between the real world and the fictional world of Game of Thrones.

It’s often said that if someone is innocent, they will often fight tooth and nail, or to their dying breath, to prove it. This is a concept applied far more literally in Game of Thrones, where a defendant can invoke the right of trial by combat. Should a defendant choose to invoke this right, the defendant or their representative will fight to the death against an opposing champion. Notable examples of such a practice in Westeros include Bronn and Oberyn Martell’s defence of Tyrion Lannister on two separate, different occasions, with two vastly different (and gory) endings.

Whilst in real life the likelihood of death is much lower, defendants will often do everything reasonably possible to prove their innocence. Alternatively, if proving their innocence is impossible or unlikely, appropriate steps can be taken in order to mitigate any potential sentence they may face. In South Australia, those facing serious criminal charges (referred to as major indictable charges) have the option of standing before a Judge or a Jury of their peers pursuant to section 6 of the Juries Act 1927 (SA).

Fundamental to both a trial by Jury or by a Judge is the underlying principle of a fair trial and unbiased decision. Whilst Game of Thrones draws parallels to our legal principle to a trial by Jury or Judge, a trial by The Seven (the prevailing religious belief in Game of Thrones) or by the King is rarely free of bias and could rarely be deemed fair.

“It’s Treason then….”

Treason and coup d’états are common place in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros with all but one of the Seven Kingdoms vying for their place on the Iron throne. Those unsuccessful in their attempts to overthrow a King or Queen will often find themselves facing execution for their crimes. In South Australia, the crime of treason exists and is taken just as seriously as it is in the Seven Kingdoms. A guilty verdict for the crime of treason attracts a life sentence of imprisonment, one of the most serious sanctions available in South Australia since the abolition of the death penalty in 1976.

For money or for power?

If Games of Thrones has taught its viewers and readers anything, it is that any character can die at any moment. In the Seven Kingdoms, all of a deceased’s land and title will pass to their first born son, irrespective of whether the deceased has an older daughter. In many instances, the only way for a second born son to access their family inheritance was to kill their brother, or have them sent to the Wall to join the Night’s Watch.

In real life, this is certainly not the case. In South Australia, the distribution of a deceased’s estate is determined by virtue of their last will and testament or the laws of intestacy. A will is a legal document that clearly sets out a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets after their death.  Pursuant to section 4 of the Wills Act 1936 (SA), a will allows all property to be disposed, provided the will is executed in the appropriate manner.

Many people, however, pass away without having a will in place. Such a situation is known as dying intestate, in which the distribution of one’s estate is determined by the Administration and Probate Act 1919. For example, if the deceased leaves only a spouse or domestic partner with no children, the entirety of their estate passes that spouse or domestic partner pursuant to section 72G of the Act. Alternatively, if a situation arises where there is no surviving spouse or partner but surviving children, the estate is equally divided between the children. While these provisions serve as a safeguard in allowing for an estate to be divided, they may fail to adequately distribute one’s estate according to their wishes.

South Australian law also helps alleviate the unnecessary situation where siblings plot to access a deceased parent’s estate. The Inheritance (Family Provisions) Act 1972 (SA) is an Act which allows family members who have received unsubstantial or no distribution pursuant to a will to contest that will in Court and receive their ‘fair’ share; a much more civilised method than poison and convoluted plotting and planning, albeit less quick and far more expensive.

If you or someone you know has committed an act of high treason or you just need more information or assistance on how to proceed in your legal matter, please contact us on 08 8210 5400 or email – please note we do not accept enquiries by raven.

And now my watch has ended….

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