Lesson One
Magical and Wizarding Law

Laws of Magic

Magic is not infinitely possible. As everything, it has limitations to what it can do for the witches and wizards. The basics of magic were coined by Adalbert Waffling, a magical theoretician, who named them Fundamental Laws of Magic. The Fundamental Laws of Magic are statements about the general nature of magic. It is not known how many laws Waffling created, as the exact wording to the whole document was lost, and in the modern wizarding world, only the first fundamental law is known. 

"Tamper with the deepest mysteries - the source of life, the essence of self - only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind."

- First Fundamental Law of Magic

Another important magical law pertains to Transfiguration. Some of you may already know it from your classes at Hogwarts. Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration is another law that commands the limitations of magic and touches on the subject of, as the name implies, Transfiguration. A reminder, Transfiguration is a branch of magic that focuses on the alteration of the form or appearance of an object, via the alteration of the object's molecular structure. There are five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law, which tell what cannot be created or changed into something else by even the most skilled wizard.

  • Food: Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions of Elemental Transfiguration. While food cannot be created from nothing, it can be multiplied if one already has some food to do it. It can also be enlarged or summoned, if the caster knows its approximate location. Consumable liquids, such as water and some of the sauces are exception to Gamp's Law.
  • Money (and valuable items): A wizard or a witch cannot create money or valuable property, otherwise, the whole monetary system that Gringotts employed would fall apart. False items can be created, one such example is Leprechaun gold, or multiplied with Gemino curse, but the enchantments itself never last. They disappear after a few hours.
  • Love: Someone can certainly manipulate a person with spells and potions, but truly genuine love cannot be forced upon anyone. Even Amortentia, most powerful love potion in the world only causes powerful infatuation or obsession.
  • Death: Death is permanent. Similarly to love, certain manipulations of life are possible (such as Inferi), but ultimately whatever returns to life is not exactly the same as when it was lost.
  • Fifth Exception: Turn to the assignment.

Wizarding Laws

There are three laws in the magical world that witches and wizards hold in high regard above all others. 

The most important law in the magical world is the International Statute of Secrecy passed by the International Confederation of Wizards in 1692. This statute directs that the Wizarding World be kept secret from the Muggles and most other laws in the Wizarding World stem from it. It was added on in later years with other prohibitions, such as outlawing dragon breeding and Quidditch within certain radius of a Muggle town. The upholders of the Statute are individual Ministries or Councils, who are responsible for hiding the presence of the magical community in their own country. Their task is to control magical beasts, curb public displays of underage magic, and ensure that magical sports are played without risk of discovery by Muggles.

Second important law pertains to underage wizards and witches. The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery is a bylaw of the Ministry of Magic, written and put into practice in 1875. It bans the use of underage magic outside of school. The main enforcers of the decree are the employees of Improper Use of Magic Office. The restriction is for wizards and witches under the age of seventeen, who are still subjected to The Trace. However, the Decree recognizes extreme situations in Clause 7, which reads that that magic can be used in front of Muggles in exceptional circumstances, including situations when the life of the witch or wizard is threatened, or the lives of other witches, wizards and Muggles are threatened. Exempt from the rule are small children who are not yet of school age, since they usually have no control over the magic they are performing. 

While not explicitly stated in any major law, three curses were classified as unforgivable by the Ministry of Magic in 1717. They were named Unforgivable Curses, because their use is considered reprehensible by ordinary wizarding folk and carries the strictest punishment known in the magical world. They are the Killing Curse, the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse. I will not go into further detail, but know that if you use these spells, you have a one way ticket to life sentence in Azkaban.

Wizengamot

As all governments, the Ministry of Magic in Britain has some sort of court of law. Those wizards and witches who break the law are subjected to the Wizengamot and the Council of Magical Law. The Wizengamot is the high court of wizarding world. It predates the Ministry of Magic itself, as it started back in the days where wizards and witches were still ruled over by a medieval Wizards' Council. The administration of the Wizengamot is in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, while all trials take part in the deeper levels of the Ministry of Magic.

When the court is in session, all members wear robes in plum color with a silver W emblazoned on them. There are around fifty members, most of them coming from old pureblood families. The seats in the Wizengamot are mostly inherited from heir to heir, which has been a point of contention in the wizarding world, as was the age of the members (average being 87 years old). Presiding over the trials are the Wizengamot members, Head Warlock and Court Scribe. If the trial is very significant, other may attend the session, such as the Minister of Magic, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and a British Youth Representative. The trials consist of a very short hearing with no real lawyer (though the defendant can be represented by another person) and without any possbility of appeal. Criminals are in most cases sent to Azkaban, given a Dementor's Kiss or subjected to the breaking of their wand. Those individuals who are wrongly imprisoned are only given an apology from the Wizengamot. Public is not allowed to attend Wizengamot trials.

Sources

  • Harry Potter and the Unforgivable Curses: Norm-formation, Inconsistency and the Rule of Law in the Wizarding World by Aaron Schwabach
  • Introduction to Wizarding Law by Nicholas Moline
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Fundamental_Laws_of_Magic
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Gamp's_Law_of_Elemental_Transfiguration
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Transfiguration
  • http://www.beyondhogwarts.com/harry-potter/articles/the-five-principal-exceptions-to-gamps-law.html
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/International_Statute_of_Wizarding_Secrecy
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Decree_for_the_Reasonable_Restriction_of_Underage_Sorcery
  • http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Wizengamot