Report No. 35
Larceny committed in a dwelling house was known as "simple compound larceny" and so was larceny from the person of another. Larceny in a dwelling house was known as burglary. At common law it was felony within the benefit of clergy, but, by statutes it was made a capital offence without benefit of clergy.1 A number of other larcenies in houses, shops and warehouses were also made capital by statutes.2
These statutes are too numerous to be discussed here.
1. See Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 635.
2. See Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 635.
(27) Larceny from the person
Two classes of larceny from the person were made capital offences without benefit of clergy, namely
(i) any person convicted of feloniously taking away any money, goods or chattels from the person of any other, privily without his knowledge, in any place whatsoever (known as larceny calm et secrete from the person) if the value was 12 or more;1
(ii) Robbery, i.e., felonious taking of money or goods of any value from the person of another, or in his presence, against his will, by violence or putting him in fear. We may note only the main statute,2 relating to a person who robbed any other person or comforted, aided, abetted, assisted, etc., any person to commit the said offence.
1. Benefit of Clergy Act, 1565 (8 Eliz., C. 4), section 2.
2. Benefit of Clergy Act, 1691 (3 and 4 W& M., C. 9), section 1.
(28) Larceny by servants, etc.
While many of the statutes punishing larceny were wide enough to cover theft by a servant in the master's house, of tangible property, some difficulty survived regarding other kinds of property stolen by a servant. The doctrine that property once delivered to his servant is no longer in the master's possession, and that a servant who appropriates such goods is therefore not guilty of felony, was the cause of this difficulty, and to meet this difficulty,1 a number of statutes had been passed punishing various acts by servants amounting to embezzlement of securities and other effects, particularly in the case of employees of banks, certain companies and the post office.2
1. See Radzinowicz- History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 639.
2. As to Post Office, see the Post Office Offences Act, 1767 (7 Geo. 3, C. 50), section 1.
To send letters threatening injury to life or property in order to extort money was a high misdemeanour at common law, punishable by a fine and imprisonment. In 1722,1 an Act was passed whereby a person who knowingly sent letters either unsigned or signed with a fictitious name, demanding money was guilty of a felony without benefit of clergy. A later Act passed in 17542 similarly punished with death any person who knowingly sent letters without a name or with a fictitious name, threatening to kill or to burn any house, although no money or valuable effects had been demanded in it.
The courts put a wide construction on the first Act, apparently because extorting money by sending threatening letters was a common offence in the 18th century.3
1. Waltham Back Act, 1722 (9 Geo. 1, C. 27).
2. Persons Going Armed and Disguised Act, 1754 (27 Geo. 2, C. 15).
3. See Radzinowicz History of English Criminal Law, (1948), Vol. I, p. 75.
An Act of 19601 recited that many person within the counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, etc., had been (either in their house or while travelling) carried as prisoners and kept barbarously and cruelly until redeemed by great ransom, etc., so that many persons had been forced to pay a certain rate of money, corn, cattle or other consideration, commonly called blackmail in order to be freed or protected in safety from the danger of such robbery, etc. For all these offences, and for being privy, etc., thereto capital punishment was provided for by that Act.
1. Outrages in Northern Counties Act, 1601 (43 Eliz., C. 13).