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Report No. 35

(6) Riotous offences

The following offences were capital1:-

(a) riotously to assemble (12 persons or more) and not to disperse for an hour after the proclamation. Thus, the offence was constituted by unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously remaining or continuing together although no specific act had been committed;

(b) opposing the making of the proclamation and not to disperse within an hour after the making of the proclamation had been opposed;

(c) unlawfully to assemble to the disturbance of the public peace and when so assembled unlawfully and with force to demolish or pull down any church or chapel, or any building for religious worship, certified and registered, or any dwelling house, etc.

In an interesting case,2 it was held that if a person was present at a riot and, by shouting and other expressions excited the rioters in to demolish and to pull down a dwelling house, he was, a principal in the second degree; because, though he had himself taken no part in pulling down the house, etc., or committed any offence, etc., his participation in the offence amounted to aiding the abetting.

The Act of 1714 was amplified by a later Act,3 what provided that pulling down, etc., any mill which had been or was being erected or any works belonging thereto was also punishable with death.

1. The Riot Act, 1714 (1 Geo. 1 Statute 2, C. 5).

2. Royce, (1767) 4 Burr 2073.

3. Malicious Injury Act, 1769 (9 Geo. 3, C. 29).

(7) Destroying banks, flood-gates and bridges

Several statutes provided death penalty for destroying river banks1-2 and wilfully and maliciously blowing up, pulling down or destroying certain Bridges.3

1. Perpetration of Various Laws Act, 1733 (6 Geo. 2, C. 37) section 5 made permanent by Continuance of Act, 1757 (31 Geo. 2, C. 42) (river-bank or sea bank).

2. For bank, flood-gate or sluice made for, Benefiting the Bedford Level, see the Bedford Level Act, 1754 (27 Geo. 2, C. 19).

3. For London and Westminster bridges, see Westminster Bridge Act, 1736 (9 Geo. 2, c. 29) and London Bridge Act, 1757 (31 Geo. 2, C. 20).

(8) Offences against the public order

Idle soldiers wandering about, or overstaying their leave without a testimonial or pass from a Justice of the Peace were punishable with death, if after conviction and after being retained in service by "an Honest freeholder" they departed within a year without licence.1

"Egyptians" (Gypsies) remaining more than one month in the Kingdom, or any person, above 14, found in their company who remained one month in the Kingdom, were punishable with death.2-3

1. Vagabonds Act, 1597 (39 Eliz., C. 14).

2. Egyptians Act, 1554 (1 and 2 Ph. & M., C. 4).

3. Egyptians Act, 1562 (5 Eliz., C. 20).

(9) Offence against administration of justice Capital Punishment was appointed for certain offences connected with administration of justice, such as,-

(a) acknowledging fine, recovery, judgment, etc., in the name of a person not privy thereto;1

(b) false entry in a marriage register, or destroying such register, etc., with intent to avoid any marriage or to subject any person to any of the penalties of the Act2

(c) "taking a reward to help to stolen goods."3 This dangerous practice was "a contrivance carried to a great length of villainy in the beginning of the reign of George, the First;4

(d) Avoiding justice by taking shelter in supposed privileged places (like ancient places of the Crown);5

(e) escape of or liberation of prisoners prison-breaking, by force, rescue of a prisoner by force returning or being at large after transportation.6

1. Fines and Recoveries Act, 1623 (21 Jac. 1, C. 26).

2. Marriage Act, 1753 (26 Geo. 2, C. 33).

3. Piracy Act, 1717 (4 Geo. 1, C. 11), section 4.

4. Blackstone, 4 comm. 132 and see Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 682.

5. Dealt with in several statutes of 1697, 1722 and 1724.

6. Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 623 to 625.

(10) Offences against public health

Following offences were capital:-

(a) Infected person having upon him infectious uncured sores, disobeying orders to remain in his house;1

(b) Disobeying order prohibiting entry of vessel infected by plague; and

(c) Concealment by ship's masters of fact that their vessel had come from infected place etc.; refusal to conform with obligation to remain in quarantine; and similar offences under an Act of 1753,2 re-enacted later.3

1. Plague Act, 1604 (1 Jac. 1, C. 31).

2. Quarantine Act, 1753 (26 Geo. 2, C. 6), sections 2, 3, 8, 10, 17.

3. Quarantine Act, 1800, replaced by Quarantine Act, 1805 (45 Geo. 3, C. 10).

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