is, punish first and try afterwards. Lydford, in the county of Devon, was a fortified town, in which was an ancient castle, where were held the courts of the Duchy of Cornwall. Offenders against the stannary laws were confined before trial in a dungeon so loathsome and dreary that it gave rise to the proverb referred to. The castle was destroyed by the Danes. (See Cupar Justice, Cowper Law.)
I oft have heard of Lydford law, How in the morn they hang and draw, And sit in judgment later.
A Devonshire Poet.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894