Peine Forteet Sure
Peine Forte et Sure - "stern and bitter penalty" - was a method of compulsion inflicted upon those who refused to plead when indicted for felony. In cases of high treason, or petty larceny, such a refusal was treated as equivalent to a confession of guilt. The practice existed in the time of Edward I., and was finally abolished by 12 George III., and refusal to plead now amounts to a plea of "Not Guilty." The sufferer from it - who might, however, plead benefit of clergy - was taken back to prison, laid on his back, subjected to a gradually-increasing weight of stone or iron, and fed on alternate days with mouldy bread and a draught taken from the standing water nearest the prison, the process continuing till he pleaded or died. His object in resisting was, of course, to escape the injury his conviction would have entailed on his family by confiscation of his property, etc.