Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Welcome back to magical law in the Wizarding World the series where I analyze magical law in the Harry Potter books. For this video we will be analyzing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
As we have learned in the two pervious videos, there are two major laws that govern the Wizarding World. The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, both, as with the pervious two books, were broken at the very beginning of the book. In chapter two, Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake, Harry in front of Muggles, blows his aunt into a balloon out of anger when Aunt Marge was talking awfully about Harry’s dead parents. Harry’s uncle demanded that Harry bring Aunt Marge back, but Harry refused, grabbed his belongings, and left his aunt and uncle’s house.
In chapter three, The Knight Bus, Harry was chagrined over how “he had just done serious magic, which meant that he was almost certainly expelled from Hogwarts. He had broken the Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry so badly that he was surprised Ministry of Magic representatives weren’t swooping down on him where he sat.” He sat outside wondering “What was going to happen to him? Would he be arrested, or would he simply be outlawed from the wizarding world?” Even though Harry manages to break the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery each year so far, he still understands that it is a law and he could be punished for it.
Later on in the chapter, Harry is greeted at the Leaky Cauldron by the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, “Oh, my dear boy, we’re not going to punish you for a little thing like that!…It was an accident! We don’t send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts!” Harry was very skeptical of Fudge’s response since the year before Harry had been served with a notice notifying him that if he performs any more magic at his muggle family members’ house then he would be expelled from Hogwarts, but Fudge told him, “Circumstances change, Harry…” Later on we learn that the reason why Fudge did not expel Harry or punish him was because the wizarding world needed to keep Harry safe, and the safest place for Harry to be was Hogwarts. In the first chapter, Owl Post, we are introduced to Sirius Black on the muggle new network. We learn that he was an escaped convict who was, “armed and extremely dangerous.” Then in chapter three, The Knight Bus we learn that Sirius Black was a wizard who had escaped Azkaban, the wizarding prison. As stated in the book, “While Muggles have been told that Black is carrying a gun (a kind of metal wand that Muggles use to kill each other), the magical community lives in fear of a massacre like that of twelve years ago, when Black murdered thirteen people with a single curse.” In chapter ten, The Marauder’s Map we learn more about what Sirius Black did and why he was in Azkaban. Fudge explained how “nobody but trained Hit Wizards from the Magical Law Enforcement Squad would have stood a chance against Black once he was cornered. I was Junior Minister in the Department of Magical Catastrophes at the time, and I was one of the first on the scene after Black murdered all those people.
This story of Sirius Black and him being arrested shows us once again that even the wizarding world can’t escape bureaucracy as learn about even more departments in the Ministry of Magic and how they strive to keep all the wizards and witches obeying the law. Let’s talk about the wizarding world’s correctional system. Azkaban prison is guarded by Dementors. Dementors are first introduced to us in chapter five (aptly entitled “The Dementor”) when dementors were described as being on the Hogwarts Express looking for Sirius Black. Remus Lupin described dementors in chapter ten, The Marauder’s Map. Quote, “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself… soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life, and you will just be an empty shell that lost its soul.” So what would you equate the dementors to in our world? A really intense, deathly serious combination of Homeland Security and the FBI?
In chapter 11, The Firebolt, we are first introduced to legal proceedings of a sort in the magical world. Back in chapter six, Talons and Tea Leaves, Draco Malfoy had gotten too close to Hagrid’s hippogriff and had gotten hurt. His father, Lucius Malfoy, brought the incident to the Ministry of Magic. In chapter 11, Hagrid receives a letter which reads, “we must register our concern about the hippogriff in question. We have decided to uphold the official complaint of Mr. Lucius Malfoy, and this matter will therefore be taken to the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. The hearing will take place on April 20th, and we ask you to present yourself and your hippogriff at the Committee’s offices in London on that date…” So the Wizarding World holds hearings. Hermione reassured Hagrid by saying that, “You’ll have to put up a good strong defense, Hagrid…I’m sure I’ve read about a case of hippogriff-baiting…where the hippogriff got off I’ll look it up for you, Hagrid, and see exactly what happened.” That shows us that precedent in law exists in the Wizarding World, I might even say it’s safe to assume that the Wizarding World uses common law like England and 49 of the United States. There is other evidence in later books that further suggest the Wizarding World might follow common law principles when it is revealed that Harry, “Ron, and Hermione went to the library the next day and returned to the empty common room laden with books that might help prepare a defense for Buckbeak the hippogriff. “The three of them sat in front of the roaring fire, slowly turning the pages of dusty volumes about famous cases If marauding beasts, speaking occasionally when they ran across something relevant.”
In chapter 15, The Quidditch Final, we learn that Hagrid lost his case, and that the Hippogriff has been taken away to be executed. In chapter 16, Professor Trelawney’s Prediction, we learn that Hagrid lost his appeal.
In chapter 18, Moody, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, we learn how the Ministry of Magic keeps tabs of people who are a Animagus, someone who can turn into an animal. I found this particularly interesting because it reminded me of watch lists, no fly lists, and other such lists we have in the United States where the government keeps tabs on people that they find pose or could pose a particularly great threat to others. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban shows us that there the wizarding world is a world of laws. There are hearings, precedent in law, appeals, judgements, jails, prison guards, magical law enforcement, and more that are similar to our world and government.
Join me next week for magical law in the Wizarding World in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.