Page images

6. Contempts against the


[125] statute *33 Hen. VIII. c. 12, malicious striking in the king's

palace, wherein his royal person resides, whereby blood is drawn, is punishable by perpetual imprisonment, and fine at the king's pleasure ; and also with the loss of the offender's right hand, the solemn execution of which sentence is prescribed in the statute at length (9) (10).

But striking in the king's superior courts of justice, in king's courts of Westminster-hall, or at the assizes, is made still more penal

than even in the king's palace. The reason seems to be, that those courts being anciently held in the king's palace, and before the king himself, striking there included the former contempt against the king's palace, and something more; viz. the disturbance of public justice. For this reason, by the ancient common law before the conquest (w), striking in the king's court of justice, or drawing a sword therein, was a capital felony: and our modern law retains so much of the ancient severity as only to exchange the loss of life for the loss of the offending limb. Therefore a stroke or blow in such a court of justice, whether blood be drawn or not, or even assaulting a judge sitting in the court, by drawing a weapon, without any blow struck, is punishable with the loss of the right hand, imprisonment for life, and forfeiture of goods and chattels, and of the profits of his lands during life (w). A rescue also of a prisoner from any of the said courts, without striking a blow, is punished with perpetual

(w) LL. Inæ. c. 6; LL. Canut. (1) Staund. P. C. 38; 3 Inst. 140, c. 56; LL. Alured. c. 7.


(9) Mr. Hargrave has given in the shall please him to appoint. Of this 11th vol. of the State Trials, p. 16, an submission and request the justices extract from Stowe's Annals, contain- forthwith informed the king, who of ing a very curious account of the cir- his goodness, considering the gentle cumstances of the trial of Sir Edmund heart of the said Edmund, and the Knevet, who was prosecuted upon this good report of lords and ladies, statute, soon after it was enacted, " for

granted him pardon, that he should which offence he was not onely judged loose neither hand, land, nor goods, to loose his hand, but also his body to but should go free at liberty."-Cu. remaine in prison, and his lands and (10) So much of the 33 Hen. VIII. goods at the king's pleasure. Then c. 12, (part of $ 6 to g 18,) as relates to the said Sir Edmund Knevet desired the punishment of manslaughter, and that the king, of his benigne grace, of malicious striking, by reason whereof would pardon him of his right hand, blood shall be shed, is repealed by and take the left: for (quoth he) if 9 Gco. IV. c. 31. As to manslaughter, my right is spared, I may hereafter generally, vide pos', 191. doe such good service to his grace, as

imprisonment, and forfeiture of goods, and of the profits of lands during life (y); being looked upon as an offence of the same nature with the last; but only, as no blow is actually given, the amputation of the hand is excused. For the like reason an affray, or riot, near the said courts, but out of their actual view, is punished only with fine and imprisonment (2) (11)

*Not only such as are guilty of an actual violence, but of (*126] threatening or reproachful words to any judge sitting in the courts, are guilty of a high misprision, and have been punished with large fines, imprisonment, and corporal punishment (a). And, even in the inferior courts of the king, an affray, or contemptuous behaviour, is punishable with a fine by the judges there sitting; as by the steward in a court-leet, or the like (6).

Likewise all such, as are guilty of any injurious treatment to those who are immediately under the protection of a court of justice, are punishable by fine and imprisonment; as if a man assaults or threatens his adversary for suing him, a counsellor or attorney for being employed against him, a juror for his verdict, or a gaoler or other ministerial officer for keeping him in custody, and properly executing his duty (c); which offences, when they proceeded further than bare threats, were punished in the Gothic constitutions with exile and forfeiture of goods (d).

(4) Hawk. P. C. 517.
(:) Cro. Car. 373.
(a) Ibid. 503.

(6) 1 Hawk. P. C. 58.
(c) 3 Inst. 141, 142,
(d) Stiernh. de jure Goth. 1. 3, c. 3.

(11) Lord Thanet and others were defendants were brought up for judgprosecuted by an information filed by ment, Lord Kenyon expressed doubts, the attorney-general, for a riot at the whether upon this information the trial of Arthur O'Connor and others court was not bound to pronounce the for high treason under a special com- judgment of amputation of the right mission at Maidstone. Two of the hand, &c. as required in a prosecution defendants were found guilty gene expressly for striking in a court of jusrally.

tice. In consequence of these doubts The three first counts charged (inter the attorney-general entered a noli alia) that the defendants did riotously prosequi upon the three first counts, make an assault on one J. R., and did and the court pronounced judgment of then and there beat, bruise, wound, fine and imprisonment as for a common and ill-treat the said J. R. in the pre- riot; 1 East, P. C. 438.--CH. sence of the commissioners. When the

Lastly, to endeavour to dissuade a witness from giving evidence; to disclose an examination before the privy council; or, to advise a prisoner to stand mute; all of which are impediments of justice, are high imprisions, and contempts of the king's courts, and punishable by fine and imprisonment. And anciently it was held, that if one of the grand jury disclosed to any person indicted the evidence that appeared against him, he was thereby made accessary to the offence, if felony; and in treason, a principal. And at this day it is agreed, that he is guilty of a high misprision (e), and liable to be fined and imprisoned (f)(12)(13).

(e) See Barr. 212; 27 Ass. pl. 44, $ 4, fol. 138.

(f) 1 Hawk. P. C. 59.

(12) A few years ago, at York, a mony of the gentlemen of the grand gentleman of the grand jury heard a jury. It was held, that the object of witness swear in court, upon the trial this concealment was only to prevent of a prisoner, directly contrary to the the testimony produced before them evidence which he had given before the from being contracted by subornation grand jury. He immediately commu- of perjury on the part of the persons nicated the circumstance to the judge, against whom bills were found. This who upon consulting the judge in the is a privilege which may be waived by other court, was of opinion that public the crown; see p. 303, post. --Ch. justice in this case required that the (13) It appears that an attempt to evidence which the witness had given stifle evidence is an indictable offence, before the grand jury should be dis- on the principle that an incitement to closed, and the witness was committed commit crime is in itself criminal; 6 for perjury to be tried upon the testi- East, 464; 2 Stra. 904.




familias of the

The order of our distribution will next lead us to take into Of offences

against the consideration such crimes and misdemesnors as more espe-commonwealth. cially affect the commonwealth, or public polity of the king-fences against dom: which, however, as well as those which are peculiarly as the pater, pointed against the lives and security of private subjects, are nation. also offences against the king, as the pater-familias of the nation; to whom it appertains by his regal office to protect the community, and each individual therein, from every degree of injurious violence, by executing those laws, which the people themselves in conjunction with him have enacted ; or at least have consented to, by an agreement either expressly made in the persons of their representatives, or by a tacit and implied consent presumed and proved by imme

morial usage.

The species of crimes, which we have now before us, is subdivided into such a number of inferior and subordinate classes, that it would much exceed the bounds of an elementary treatise, and be insupportably tedious to the reader, were I to examine them all minutely, or with any degree of critical accuracy. I shall therefore confine myself principally to general definitions or descriptions of this great variety of offences, and to the punishments inflicted by law for each particular offence; with now and then a few incidental observations: referring the student for more particulars to other voluminous authors; who have treated of these subjects with greater precision and more in detail, than is consistent with the plan of these commentaries. The crimes and misdemesnors, that more especially affect They are divided

into five species, the commonwealth, may be divided into five species ; viz. as *offences against public justice, against the public peace,

[*128] against public trade, against the public health, and against the public police or economy; of each of which we will take a cursory view in their order.

I. Offences against public justice, which are felonies, as,

1. Embezzling, vacating, or falsifying public records ;

First then, of offences against public justice : some of which are felonious, whose punishment may extend to death; others only misdemesnors. I shall begin with those that are most penal, and descend gradually to such as are of less malignity.

1. Embezzling or vacating records, or falsifying certain other proceedings in a court of judicature, is a felonious offence against public justice. It is enacted by statute 8 Hen. VI. c. 12, that if any clerk, or other person, shall wilfully take away, withdraw, or avoid any record, or process in the superior courts of justice in Westminster-hall, by reason whereof the judgment shall be reversed or not take effect; it shall be felony not only in the principal actors, but also in their procurers and abettors (1). And this may be tried either in the king's bench or common pleas, by a jury de medietate; half, officers of any of the superior courts, and the other half common jurors. Likewise by statute 21 Jac I. c. 26, to acknowledge any fine, recovery, deed enrolled, statute, recognizance, bail (2), or judgment, in the name of another person not privy to the same, is felony without be

(1) The 8 Hen. VI. c. 12, § 3, is shall be liable, at the discretion of the now repealed by 7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. court, to be transported beyond the 27, by sect. 21 of which it is enacted, seas for the term of seven years, or to that “if any person shall steal, or shall suffer such other punishment by fine or for any fraudulent purpose, take from imprisonment, or by both, as the court its place of deposit for the time being, shall award; and it shall not in any or from any person having the lawful indictment for such offence be neces. custody thereof, or shall unlawfully sary to allege that the article, in resand maliciously obliterate, injure, or pect of which the offence is committed, destroy any record, writ, return, panel, is the property of any person, or that process, interrogatory, deposition, affi- the same is of any value." davit, rule, order, or warrant of attor- (2) The merely personating bail beney, or any original document whatso- fore a judge at chambers, or acknowever, of or belonging to any court of ledging bail in a false name, is only a record, or relating to any matter civil misdemeanor, unless the bail are filed; or criminal, begun, depending, or ter- 2 East, P. C. 109; and putting in bail minated, in any such court, or any bill, in the name of a person not in existence answer, interrogatory, deposition, affi- is not within the act; 1 Stra. 304. davit, order, or decree, or any original The courts will not vacate the proceeddocument whatsoever, of or belonging ings against the party personated, until to any court of equity, or relating to the offender is convicted; T. Jones, 64; any cause or matter, begun, depending, 1 Ventr. 501 ; 3 Keb. 694; 1 Ld. Rd. or terminated in any such court, every 445; and a conviction cannot take such offender shall be guilty of a mis- place until the bail-piece is filed; 2 demeanor, and being convicted thereof, Sid. 90.

« EelmineJätka »