Report No. 35
(21) Shooting, etc., with intent to murder, etc.
By an Act of 1803,1 shooting at, or attempting to shoot, stabbing or cutting any person, with intent to murder, maim, disfigure, etc., and to resist lawful apprehension, was made a capital offence.
This Act provoked a lot of criticism.2
1. Lord Ellenborough's Act, 1803 (43 Geo. 3, C. 58), section 1.
2. Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 506 foot-note 39.
Originally, rape was a felony punishable with death.1 This was regarded as too harsh, and the punishment was replaced by a castration and loss of eyes.2 The punishment was still further mitigated in 1275,3 by an Act which reduced the offence to a trespass, and subjected the guilty party to two years' imprisonment and a fine at the King's Will.4 But this lenience was said to have been productive of terrible consequences, and it was found necessary later to pass an Act5 which made punishable by judgment of life and member the ravishing of a woman, whether married, maid or other, where she did not consent, neither before nor after.6
Passed under a statute in 1576,7 any person who feloniously committed rape and was found guilty by verdict or was outlawed, or confessed the same upon arraignment, was to suffer death. This statute was repealed and superseded in 1828.8
The punishment for rape in England now is imprisonment for life.9
1. Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 631, foot-note 2; Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 706.
2. Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 706 and foot-note 4; Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p 631, foot-note 2.
3. Statute of Westminster (I), (3 Edw. 1, C. 13), (1275).
4. Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 706.
5. Statute of Westminster (Second), (13 Edw. 1, C. 35).
6. See Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 706.
7. Benefit of Clergy Act, 1576 (18 Eliz., C. 7).
8. Offences against the Person Act, 1828 (9 Geo. 4, C. 31), (for England); see Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 707.
9. Section 1, and second schedule Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (4 and 5 Eliz. 2, C. 69).
An Act of 15621 (which revived and confirmed earlier statutes) appointed capital punishment for sodomy and crimes against nature, by an Act of 1749.2 Any person in His Majesty's fleet who committed either of these offences, as well as his alders and abettors, were to be tried by a court-martial and sentenced to death.
In fact, in ancient times, the punishment for this offence was death, and about the time of Richard, the First, the Practice was to hang a man, and drown a woman, guilty of this offence.3 Death sentence for sodomy was retained by the Act of 1828,4 which was in force until 1861.5
The present punishment for the offence is imprisonment for life.6
1. Sodomy Act, 1562 (5 Eliz., C. 17).
2. Navy Act, 1749 (22 Geo. 2, C. 33).
3. Russell on Crime, (1964), Vol. I, p. 735, foot-note 2.
4. Offences against the Person Act, 1828 (9 Geo. 4, C. 31).
5. Offences against the Person Act, 1861 (24 and 25 Vic., C. 100).
6. Sections 10 and 12 Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (4 and 5 Eliz. 2, C. 69).
(24) Abduction of heiress
Under a statute of 1486,1 abduction of a woman who was an heiress apparent and who had substance either in goods or lands, followed by her marriage or defilement, was punishable with death.2 This was not a purely sexual offence, the motive was economic,3 though often accompanied by sexual offences.
The preamble to the statute4 recited, that women-maids, widows and wives having substance in goods, etc., had been often taken by misdoers for the "lucre of such substances" and afterwards marred or defiled.
The offence of abduction of a girl under 21 years in a similar situation is now punishable with imprisonment for 14 years.5
1. Abduction of Women Act, 1486 (3 Hen. 7, C. 2).
2. Abduction of Women Act, 1486 (3 Hen. 7, C. 2).
3. See Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948) Vol. I, pp. 632 and 438, foot-notes 35 and 36.
4. The preamble is quoted in Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 446.
5. Section 18, Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (4 and 5 Eliz. 2, C. 69).
(25) Simple grand larceny
Theft not accompanied by any aggravating circumstances was, at common law, simple larceny, if the value of the stolen goods exceeded 12 pence, it was simple grand larceny. Such larceny was originally punishable by whipping, then with transportation for 7 years, and (by later Acts) with imprisonment or fine, by death with benefit of clergy, or if the benefit was claimed, by burning in the hand, etc.
But a great number of statutes excluded from the benefit of clergy offenders guilty of certain kinds of grand larceny. Of these offences, only a few may be mentioned here, such as stealing of horses, etc., feloniously driving away, or stealing sheep, cows, etc., feloniously cutting and taking cloth from the reek or tenter in the night time.1 Theft of goods valued at 40 shillings in any ship, etc., on any navigable river or in any port of entry or discharge was made punishable with death.
One Act2 punished with death theft of any mail from any bag of letters sent by the post or of any letter or packet conveyed by the post or out of any post office or any place used for the receipt or delivery of letters. Other Acts which deserve to be noted are Acts of 1589,3 and of 1670,4 under which, larceny of military and naval stores by any person in charge of such places to the value of 20 shillings at one or several different times, was punishable with death.
1. Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, pp. 630-633.
2. Post Office Offences Act, 1767 (7 Geo. 3, C. 50).
3. Embezzlement Act, 1589 (31 Eliz., C. 4).
4. Benefit of Clergy Act, 1670 (22 Car. 2, C. 5).