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In English law, benefit of clergy was used by clergymen to claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead under canon law. However, with the advent of time it became a mechanism by which first-time offenders could receive a more lenient sentence for some lesser crimes. It was an exemption to the punishment of death which the laws impose on the commission of certain crimes, on the culprit demanding it.
Benefit of Clergy also refers to the authorized sanction of a religious rite.