MAYHEM (for derivation see MAIMING), an old Anglo-French term of the law signifying an assault whereby the injured person is deprived of a member proper for his defence in fight, e.g. an arm, a leg, a fore tooth, etc. The loss of an ear, jaw tooth , etc., was not mayhem. The most ancient punishment in English law was retaliative membrum pro membra, but ultimately at common law fine and imprisonment. Various statutes were passed aimed at the offence of maiming and disfiguring, which is now dealt with by section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. Mayhem may also be the ground of a civil action, which had this peculiarity that the court on sight of the wound might increase the damages awarded by the jury.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)