Rei publicae interest ne crimina remaneant impunita

Innocent III, Inauditum (4 February, 1199) Quia vero graviter peccant et qui loquitur mendacium et qui subticet veritatem, et publice interest, quod maleficia non remaneant impunita, magnificentiam tuam rogamus attentius per apostolica scripta mandantes  (Since they who speak mendaciously and subvert the truth sin gravely because it is the public interest that crimes (maleficia) do not remain unpunished, We call upon your magnificence through Apostolic letters). . .

Innocent III, Pope. Die Register Innocenz' III. 1: 1. Pontifikatsjahr, 1198/1199, Texte. Ed. Othmar Hageneder and Anton Haidacher. Publikationen des Historischen Instituts beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1964. No. 546 (549), pp. 790. Po. 591 (Alanus 5.12.5; Collectio Rotomagensis 21)


Lex Aquilia  Dig. 9.2.51(52).4: "Quod si quis absurde a nobis haec constituti putaverit, cogitet longe absurdius constitui neutrum lege Aquilia teneri aut alterum potius, cum neque impunita maleficia esse oporteat nec facile constitui possit, uter potius lege teneatur, multa autem iure civili contra rationem disputandi pro utilitate communi recepta esse innumerabilibus rebus probari potest (But in case anyone might think that we have reached an absurd conclusion, let him ponder carefully how much more absurd it would be to hold that neither should be liable under the lex Aquilia or that one should be held to blame rather than the other.  Misdeeds (i.e. deeds that have been performed with culpa) should not escape unpunished, and it is not easy to decide if one is more blameworthy than the other.   Indeed it can be proved by inumerable examples that the civil law has accepted things for the general good that do not accord with pure logic)." 

Innocent III, Vt famae (10 December, 1203) Ad primum igitur respondemus, quod cum prelati excessus corrigere debeant subditorum et publice utilitatis interest, ne crimina remaneant impunita, et per impunitatis audaciam fiant . . .

Innocent III, Pope. Die Register Innocenz' III. 6: 6. Pontifikatsjahr, 1203/1204, Texte und Indices. Ed. Othmar Hageneder, John C. Moore, and Andrea Sommerlechner with Christoph Egger and Herwig Weigl. Publikationen des Historischen Instituts beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1995. No. 181 (183), pp. 301-302. Po. 2038.


Alanus Anglicus, 5.12.5 (Inauditum hactenus speciem falsitatis). Vercelli, Bibl. Cap. 89, fol. 120r-120v. Gloss of Alanus to "et publice interest quod maleficia non remaneant impunita" fol. 120v: "Infra de incid. in can. Vt fame <Alan. K 5.23.2= 3 Comp. 5.21.8 (X 5.39.35)>, ff. ad leg. Aquil. Item uult [Ita uulneratus recte] § penult. <Dig. 9.2.51(52).4> ff. [C. recte] de [ade male]penis, Superioris [Si operis recte], <Cod. 9.47.14> ff. de fideius. Si a reo § Idem quod uult [uolgo recte] <Dig. 46.1.70(71).5>

Tancred, De criminibus et qualiter agitur contra criminosos (ca. 1216), edited by Richard M. Fraher, "Summula de criminibus:  A New Text and a Key to the Ordo iudiciarius,"  Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law 9 (1979) 23-31

Incipit:  Quoniam rei publice interest ut crimina non remaneant impunita .  .  . nota quod quattuor modis agitur de crimine .  .  . in modum denunciationis, inquisitionis, exceptionis, et accusationis (It is in the public interest that crimes do not remain unpunished  ... Note that there are four ways of bringing a crime to justice:  denunciation, inquisition, exception, and accusation).

Richard M. Fraher, "The Theoretical Justification for the New Criminal Law of the High Middle Ages:  Rei publicae interest, ne crimina remaneant impunita,"  The University of Illinois Law Review  (1984) 577-595 at 590 n. 66: Summa induent sancti (ca. 1190): "crimina non remanere impunita publice interest et oportet."  The crucial link between "utilitas" and "crimina impunita" is made in this text --- but it is unlikely that anyone in the Roman Curia would have known this Northern French work.

Günter Jerouschek, "'Ne crimina remaneant impunita':  Auf daß Verbrechen nicht ungestraft bleiben:  Überlegungen zur Begründung öffentlicher Strafverfolgung im Mittelalter,"  Zeitschrift der Savingy-Stiftung für Rechtgeschichte, Kan. Abt. 89 (2003) 323-337; also published in  Strafrechtsgeschichte an der Grenze des nächsten Jahrtausends, ed. Barna Mezey (Budapest 2003). 54-84, followed by Markus Hirte, Papst Innozenz III., das IV. Lateranum und die Strafverfahren gegen Kleriker: Eine registergestützte Untersuchung zur Entwicklung der Verfahrensarten zwischen 1198 und 1216 (Rothenburger Gespräche zur Strafrechtsgeschichte 5; Tübingen: Diskord, 2005) 193-194, the maxim originates not in an Anglo-Norman canonist and not in Roman law but in the writings of other twelfth-century canonists.   As I have said, it is doubtful that the jurists in Innocent's Curia would have known the Northern French work.   Jerouschek does not understand, however, as Fraher does, that the key link in the formation of this maxim was to connect "utilitas publica (in its various forms)" and the idea that "crimina punienda sunt." Unfortunately for his argument he cannot cite a single text in which "utilitas" or "publice interest" and "crimina impunita non remaneant" or "crimina punienda sunt" is linked.  Consequently, his argument that the maxim as it evolved in Innocent's decretals can be or could have been found in the works of the twelfth-century canonists is off the mark.  If the canonists had already created the maxim, had connected public utility and the idea that crimes should be punished, Innocent or his jurists would have been able to pluck it out of one of their works.  In fact, however, we can only follow its evolution to a full-blown maxim only in Inauditum and, finally, in Vt fame.  Further, Jerouschek thinks that Alanus' citation  of "eine dunkle Julian-Kommentierung (p. 327)" in the Lex Aquilia to justify the birth of the maxim in papal law is not important.  He does not understand the connections that the jurists made constantly when they adopted concepts from Roman law and incorporated them into the Ius commune.  Alanus saw the connection between the Lex Aquilia and Innocent's decretal "Inauditum" and pointed it out to his readers.  Later canonists, like Bernardus Parmensis in his Ordinary Gloss to the Decretals of Gregory IX, had no difficulty in connecting the maxim in Vt fame with the Lex Aquilia (as well as several other Roman law texts).   Jerouschek denies the link that every jurist of the Ius commune saw.  Most importantly this is still one more example of the powerful influence and authority of Roman law on canonical jurisprudence at the end of the twelfth century. 

There is no doubt, however, that the idea that crimes should be punished became part of the common intellectual coin --- if not yet clearly articulated in twelfth-century thought.   Lotte Kéry demonstrates this quite convincingly by discovering a text in which "utilitas" and "crimina impunita" are linked outside of canonical texts, see her essay "Canon Law and Criminal Law: Results of a New Study,"  Proceedings of the Twelfth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Washington, D.C. (MIC, Series C Subsidia 13; Vatican City: 2007) notes a remarkable text in the letters of Fulbert of Chartres: sed cum iuris sit ad utilitatem rei publicae cunctos punire maleficos.’ printed in The Letters and Poems of Fulbert of Chartres, ed. and transl. by F. Behrends (Oxford Medieval Texts; Oxford 1976) 54, n. 29.  So we have two examples of a link between "publica utilitas" and "crimina punienda sunt" that pre-date Innocent's decretals.  Of course, we may find more.  In the end, however, the maxim is the product of a skillful blend of Roman law and the common presumptions of the age.