Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Pain and pleasure: The foot torturer's tools
Pain is caused by the release of chemicals such as bradykinnin , substance P and prostaglandins and can be divided into two types somatic and visceral. Somantic pain most often is in the muscles and skin. This is mild by comparison to visceral pain, which radiates from internal organs causing nausea and weakness. Detection of somatic pain is found by stimulation of the free nerve endings that lie near the surface of the skin. Once activated these transmit a signal to the brain, however not all sensation will be perceived as painful and the message maybe thwarted in several ways. Nerves, which transmit sensations of deep pressure, vibration, heat and cold, can override pain signals. Moods also affect the process, for example pain is sharper when the person is anxious. Once pain has been registered for 20-40 minutes the body will begin to produce opiate like chemicals to reduce pain sensations. The release of chemicals can cause anaesthetic europhoria and trance like qualities.
Moderate anxiety increases the response to pain but paradoxically high levels of fear, including terror, decrease the response to pain. This may explain the why tormentors would use techniques to extremes.
Captors saw no need to pamper wrong doers and were determined to make their lives unbearable as possible to sap their resistance. The victims were often kept trussed up for weeks, usually naked and in extreme cold and damp conditions before confessions were secured.
The Star Chamber was formed by Henry VII (1485-1509) and the name came from the magnificent room in the palace of Westminster where, the chief justices, pontiffs and members of Privy Council met. Their remit was to pass sentence on those too powerful to be dealt with by an ordinary court or to decide on cases too complex to be understood by the uneducated juries of the day. Frequently the King would preside and pronounce judgment. The Star Chamber was entirely separate from the common law courts of the day. At first the intention was honourable but it soon deteriorated into a means for meeting out punishment.
Under Chancellor Wolsey's leadership (1515-29), the Court of Star Chamber became a political weapon, bringing actions against opponents to the decrees and edicts of Henry VIII. Wolsey also encouraged petitioners to use the Court of the Star Chamber as a court of original jurisdiction, not as a last resort after the common law courts had failed. Depositions were taken from witnesses, but no jury was employed in the proceedings. Although its sentences included a wide variety of corporal punishments, including Peine Forte et Dure, those convicted were never sentenced to death.
The court remained active through the reigns of James I and Charles I. The Star Chamber became a byword for unfair judicial proceedings but its supreme powers were not questioned until 1628 and it was finally abolished by the Long Parliament in 1641.