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THE Design of this Work has been to place together all the Statutes relating to the CRIMINAL LAW of ENGLAND, the Offences mentioned in which are determinable in Courts of Record, and punishable there corporally or otherwise; so arranged as to shew the Present State of those Laws, the several Acts creating, continuing, reviving, making perpetual, or repealing the same, and how far they bear upon, and are affected by, each other: In so doing, the enacting parts have been introduced at length, but such formal clauses as it was thought might be abridged without impairing the general view of the subject, have been inserted in that shape.
All the Statutes relating to ARSON; to the different species. of Felonious and other ASSAULTS; the BANK of ENGLAND, and other PUBLIC COMPANIES, BANKERS, and PUBLIC FUNDS; the Offences contained in the BLACK ACT; the Acts relating to BULLION and PLATE; the safe Custody of NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE, BURGLARY, CATTLE, the BENEFIT of CLERGY, COIN, CORONERS, EXPENCES of PROSECUTORS and WITNESSES in CRIMINAL CASES, EXTORTION, FISH, FISHERIES, and FISH PONDS, FORCIBLE ENTRY and DETAINER, GAME, GAMING, the HABEAS CORPUS ACT, and the Powers of Judges to grant WRITS of HABEAS CORPUS; all the Statutes relating to the different Species of HOMICIDE; the cutting HOPBINDS; to HUE and CRY, and the Trial and Custody of INSANE OFFENDERS, will be found classed under those Heads: so also the Statutes relating to FORGERY, (with the exception of the Temporary Loan and Revenue Acts, of which only a few of the different clauses have been selected, to shew the nature of the Forgeries thereby intended to be guarded against,) have been classed and arranged under the appropriate heads and subdivisions of that Title: as have also the several species and degrees of LARCENY and ROBBERY under the latter Title, by consulting which it will be perceived what a multipli
city of Enactments have taken place and are still in force on the subject alone of ROBBERY from the Person (1), (which is the case also in numerous instances on other subjects), nearly the whole effect of which are contained in the few general words made use of in the Statute 3, 4 W. & M. c. 9. s. 1. (2) Under the Title EAST INDIA COMPANY will be found all the Statutes enabling the Court of King's Bench in England to hear and determine offences committed in the East India Settlements.
By the perusal of this Collection it will be readily seen that many different Statutes have been passed on the same subject, containing descriptions of Offences very similar in their natures, but inflicting very dissimilar punishments; for instance, by the Statute 10 G. 2. c. 32. s. 6. maliciously to set on fire any Mine, Pit, or Delph of Coal, is a capital felony, whilst only three years afterwards the Legislature declare (by the Statute 13 G. 2. c. 21. (3) that persons wilfully diverting water into any Coal Work, Mine, &c. with design to destroy the same, shall pay Treble Damages, and full Costs to the Party grieved! So again, by the Statute 22 Car. 2. c. 5. s. 3. Offenders cutting and stealing Cloth, or other Woollen Manufactures from the Rack or Tenter in the night time are ousted of Clergy (4), whilst the Statute 15 G. 2. c. 27. enables one Justice of the Peace to punish the Party in whose possession such goods (which have been stolen from the Rack or Tenter in the night time) shall be found, summarily (for the first and second offences) by convicting them (5) in the treble value of the goods, to be levied by distress and sale of the goods of the Offender, and in default thereof commitment for a certain period; and the third offence is made a transportable Felony.
In some instances, Statutes made on the same subject, which, upon a cursory view, appear to be precisely similar in their provisions, will, upon close inspection, be found to vary from each other in a few words only, and where this occurs the several Statutes
(1) See title LARCENY AND ROBBERY, Division I. § 1. 4. 6. and IV. § 3. (2) See the same title, Division I. § 6.
(3) This Act recites the provisions of 10 G. 2. c. 32. and that it is reasonable that an adequate punishment should be likewise inflicted on persons wilfully destroying or damaging Collieries by means of water; surely if the latter punishment was considered adequate to the offence, the former must be thought to be inordinate.
(4) A late Statute, 51 G. 3. c. 51. has restored to their Clergy offenders guilty of a very similar offence, namely, that of stealing linen exposed to be printed, &c. in any bleaching croft, &c.
(5) It is remarkable that this Statute, giving this summary proceeding, enacts that the party shall be deemed and adjudged convicted of stealing the same goods; though it never could be intended by the Legislature to give a Justice of the Peace the power to convict a person of Felony.
are inserted (1). In not a few cases, also, latter Statutes re-enact, verbatim, the Provisions of former Acts, without noticing the existence of the first Statute. See the Statute 35 G. 3. c. 66. and 37 G. 3. c. 46. title FORGERY, II. page 265. 268. and also the Stat. 32 G. 2. c. 14. and 52 G. 3. c. 143. s. 5. title FORGERY, IV. page 278, 279.
The Severity of our Penal Laws has been deprecated by the most eminent Writers on the subject in this and other Countries; and a proposal to reduce the Bulk of the Statute Law in general has at different periods been recommended to Parliament from the Throne itself. Perhaps, as relates to the Criminal Law, or at least such parts of it as punish many offences with Death, the task of weeding the Statute Book of obsolete Acts, or such whereupon the Capital Judgment is rarely executed, and afterwards Digesting (2) the whole Criminal Statute Law into one Code, might not prove either a very difficult or laborious task; especially since the Legislature has already taken steps towards the attainment of one of those most desirable ends, by appointing a Committee to examine and report upon the practicability and policy of one part of such an undertaking. The Compiler of this Work, from motives of respect to the known Talents of the Members of that Committee, defers at present offering numerous observations connected with this subject, and will only add a few remarks on the state of one out of the many Statutes which have come under his review in preparing this Digest.
The Black Act (3), (as it is usually termed) may be mentioned as a strong instance among others, of the Existence of a Statute punishing with Death many Offences, before that time not being Felony, the provisions contained in which have, generally speaking, become obsolete, the reasons for which they were so made having long ceased to exist (4), and many parts of
(1) See the Statute 45 G. 3. c. 89. s. 6. under title BANK OF ENGLAND, Division III. § 2. p. 39. wherein the words "Bank Note, Bank Bill of Exchange, Bank Post Bill," are omitted, although contained in the preceding Statute 41 G. 3. U. K. c. 39. (See the same title, Division III. § 1. p. 37.
(2) In forming such a Digest previous to any new punishment being substituted for such as already exists, great care should be taken that the whole subject under consideration is placed in view; for want of such a caution, much inconvenience may arise. Perhaps all the offences for which the Pillory was part of the punishment were not immediately under the eye of the framers of the late Act which takes away that punishment, except in perjury and subornation thereof. The Pillory will be found frequently mentioned as part of the sentence in cases of misdemeanors created by the Statute in this collection. (3) See that title in this work.
(4) Such as maliciously breaking down the head or mound of any Fish Pond, whereby the Fish shall be lost or destroyed; or cutting down or destroying Trees planted in any
which Act will be found to be virtually repealed by the operation of latter Statutes (1). The powers of the above Act are, in several instances, extended to offences created by subsequent Statutes. See the Stat. 10 G. 2. c. 32. s. 4. under title HopBINDS, in this Digest, page 360; and also title COAL WORKS, &c. Division I. page 110.
The offence of knowingly sending any Letter, with or without any name subscribed thereto, or signed with a fictitious name, demanding money or other valuable thing, having also been created a capital Felony by the above named Statute (9 G. 1. c. 22.), whenever it may be deemed expedient to repeal that Act it will be necessary to consider how far it is affected by subsequent Statutes on the same subject, namely, 27 G. 2. c. 15. and 30 G. 2. c. 24. s. 1. (2) Of a similar nature to the last mentioned offences is that of sending Threatening Letters to Master Woolcombers, &c. or other Person concerned in the Woollen Manufactures, for which see the Stat. 12 G. 1. c. 34. s. 6.
The Statute 22, 23 Car. 2. c. 1. generally denominated as the Coventry Act, (which it is obvious from the similar penning of the two Acts was contemplated by the framers of the Statute 43 G. 3. c. 58.) appears to be rendered nearly obsolete, if it be not entirely repealed, by the effect of the latter Statute.
Numerous as are the Provisions of our Criminal Statute Laws, yet, on a general Revision of them, it might be found desirable not only to soften down the rigour of some of them (3), but to add other further regulations for punishing Offences which those Laws do not yet take cognizance of; one such instance, in particular, may be here noticed, as being almost of daily occurrence, without there being any remedy provided to stop the crime; by the Statute
avenue or growing in any garden, orchard, or plantation, for ornament, shelter, or profit; or rescuing such offenders; or procuring others to join in any such unlawful act.
(1) As to Deer and Conies, by the Statutes 42 G. 3. c. 107. and 57 G. 3. c. 90. though it is observable that the latter Statute only mentions the offenders being armed, and does not refer to their being disguised, which latter word is used in the Black Act: as to stealing Fish, by the Statute 5 G. 3. c. 14. though that Statute is silent as to the offenders being armed and disguised, which are aggravated circumstances necessary to bring them within the Black Act; and as to wilfully and maliciously shooting at any person, by 43 G. 3. c. 58. s. 1. and setting fire to any house, barn, or outhouse; the latter Statute omitting the words "or to any hovel, cock, mow, or stack of corn, straw, hay, or wood," which are contained in the Black Act.
(2) See East, P. C. 1117, 1118. where the differences between these Statutes are pointed out with the usual perspicuity of that Author.
(3) Constructive Burglaries, (if they may be so called) have, from the absolute necessity of drawing the exact line between what is and what is not such an offence, perhaps gone greater lengths than was originally intended by the Law.