Charles II, 1670 & 1671: An Act for the Releife and Release of poore distressed Prisoners for Debt.

Pages 734-737

Statutes of the Realm: Volume 5, 1628-80. Originally published by Great Britain Record Commission, s.l, 1819.

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In this section

Reasons for passing this Act.

Justice of Peace to require Prisoner to be brought before him.; Cause of Imprisonment to be certified.

Forasmuch as very many persons now detained in Prison are miserably impoverished either by reason of the late unhappy Times, the sadd and dreadfull Fire, their owne Misfortunes, or otherwise, soe as they are totally disabled to give any Satisfaction to their Creditors, and soe become without advantage to any a Charge and Burthen to the Kingdome, and by Noysomnes (inseperably incident to extreame Poverty) may become the occasion of Pestilence and contagious Diseases to the great prejudice of the Kingdome Bee it therefore enacted by the Kings most excellent Majestie by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and the Commons in this present Parlyament assembled and by the authority of the same That it shall and may be lawfull to and for any Justice of the Peace of any County City, Towne or Liberty within the Kingdome of England, Dominion of Wales or Towne of Berwicke upon Tweede by Warrant under his Hand and Seale to require the Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of any Prison within his respective Jurisdiction to bring without delay the Body of any Person being in Prison for Debt, on the fourteenth day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one, or damages (and petitioning such Justice to be discharged) to some convenient place within the distance of One mile from the said Prison, and shall certifie the cause and causes of the Imprisonment before the same Justice; which Warrant every such Sheriffe, Goaler and Keeper is hereby commanded to obey. And in case such Prisoner comeing before such Justice, shall take an Oath to this effect (viz).

Form of Oath by Prisoner.; Prisoner to be remanded, and Certificate thereof to Prisoner.; Notice to be left with Plaintiff to appear at the next Quarter Sessions.; In what case Prisoner to be discharged without Fee or Chamber Rent.

I A B doe upon my corporall Oath solemnely professe and declare before Almighty God That I have not any Estate Reall or Personall in Possession, Reversion or Remainder of the value often pounds in the whole, or sufficient to pay the Debt or Dammages for which I am imprisoned, and that I have not directly or indirectly sold, leased or otherwise conveyed, disposed of, or entrusted all or any part of my Estate, thereby to secure the same to receive or expect any Proffitt or Advantage thereof, or defraude or deceive any Creditor or Creditors whatsoever to whome I stand indebted.

Then after the takeing of such Oath the said Justice shall remand the Prisoner to Prison and shall give a Certificate thereof, in writeing under his Hand and Seale to the same Prisoner to be served upon such person or persons his or her Executors or Administrators, or to be left at the place of the usuall abode of such person or persons at whose Suite the Prisoner standeth charged and imprisoned, thereby appointing aswell the said person or persons as the said Prisoner to appeare before the Justices at the next generall Quarter Sessions of the Peace to be holden for the same County, City, Towne or Liberty, when, if it shall appeare upon Oath (which Oath the said Justices are impowered to administer) that the said Certificate was soe served or left forty dayes or more before the said Sessions, and that the said Oath taken by the said Prisoner be not disproved by good Testimony of any credible person or persons upon Oath, to be administred by the said Justices by vertue of this Act, then the said Justices being satisfyed therein shall direct their Warrant under their Hands and Seales commanding the said Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of the Prison to sett at Liberty, and discharge the said Prisoner if imprisoned for the causes aforesaid and noe other, without paying any thing for Fee or Chamber-Rent, which Warrant shall be a sufficient Discharge to the same Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of Prison, and noe Action of Escape, or other Action shall be brought against them or any of them for the same in any wise.

II. If Creditor willfully insist on Prisoner continuing in Goal, then he is to pay a weekly Sum to Prisoner.

On Non-payment thereof Prisoner discharged.

Provided alsoe and bee it enacted by the authority aforesaid That when such prisoner or prisoners for debt shall have legally taken the said oath in this act proposed to be taken, and shall have duely summoned his or [her (fn. 1) ] Creditor or Creditors, and after the said forty dayes time if the said Creditor or Creditors shall make noe discovery of his, her or their Estates, nor disprove or detect the said prisoner or prisoners of forsweareing themselves, that then if such Creditor or Creditors will not be satisfyed therewith (that the said prisoner or prisoners may be sett at liberty) or will insist to have the said prisoner continued in Goale that then the said Creditor or Creditors shall at his and their owne proper costs and charges allow and pay weekely a reasonable Maintenance to the said prisoner or prisoners such as the said Commissioners of the Peace or any three of them in their respective Divisions shall order and appoint not exceeding eighteene pence a weeke, And upon non-payment of the same weekely, the said prisoner or prisoners shall be sett at liberty according to the true intent and meaning of this Act.

III. On Action against Sheriff, &c. General Issue may be pleaded.

Double Costs.

And bee it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That upon any Action of Escape or other Suite brought or to be brought against any Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of any such Prison, or other officer or person for any thing done in obedience to this Act, it shall and may be lawfull [to and (fn. 2) ] for such Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of Prison or other Officer or person to pleade the generall Issue, and give this Act in Evidence, which shall be a good and sufficient discharge, and shall save harmlesse every such Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper or Prison pleading the same, And if the Plaintiffe in any such Action shall be nonsuited or Verdict passe against him the Defendant shall have double Costs to be taxed by the Court where such Action shall be brought.

IV. Judgments against Prisoner to stand good notwithstanding the Discharge.

New Execution against Real and Personal Estate, except Wearing Apparel, &c.

Provided alwayes and bee it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That notwithstanding the discharge of the person of such prisoner as aforesaid upon takeing the Oath aforesaid, all and every Judgement had, and taken against him or her shall be and stand good and effectuall in the Law to all intents and purposes against the Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments, Goods and Chattells onely of the said prisoner soe discharged as aforesaid. And it shall and may be lawfull to and for such Creditor of such prisoner or prisoners soe discharged as aforesaid, his Executors Administrators or Assignes to take out any new Execution against the Lands Tenements, Hereditaments Goods and Chattells of such prisoner or prisoners, (his or her weareing Apparell, Beding for him and his or her Family, and Tooles necessary for his or her Trade and Occupation onely excepted) for the satisfaction of his or their said Debt in such sort, manner, and forme as he or they might have done, if the person or persons of such prisoner or prisoners had never beene taken in Execution, Any Act Statute or Custome to the contrary notwithstanding.

V. Prisoner taking a false Oath convicted of Perjury.

5 Eliz. c. 9.; A new Execution to be awarded against him, upon which he may be remanded.

Provided alsoe and bee it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That if at any time after the takeing of the said Oath the said prisoner or prisoners shall upon any Indictment or Indictments, or by his or their owne Confession or Verdict of twelve men be convicted of false swearing in any point or Article contained in the said Oath, as he or they shall or may be by force of this Act, then such prisoner or prisoners soe convicted as aforesaid shall suffer all such paines and forfeitures, as [by (fn. 3) ] the Statute of Quinto of Queene Elizabeth are to be inflicted upon any person convicted of wilfull Perjury, And alsoe the Court by Processe out of which the prisoner was imprisoned shall award a Capias ad satisfaciend? infinite or other Processe directed to any Sheriffe or Sheriffes, for the apprehending of the said prisoner and upon returne of Cepi Corpus, shall remand the said prisoner into the prison whence he or she was dismissed, there to remaine in Execution in such manner and condition as he or she was before his or her said Enlargement. And then and from thenceforth he or she shall be adjudged to be in Execution fully, as if he or she had never beene discharged thereof, And the Execution and Executions upon his or her Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments, Goods and Chattells if any such happen to be after his or her said discharge out of Prison, and before he or she shall be remanded shall stand alsoe good and effectuall in Law, Any Act, Statute or Custome to the contrary notwithstanding.

VI. Officer delaying to bring Prisoner before a Justice, or to discharge him; Penalty £100.

Provided, and bee it enacted by the authority aforesaid That in case any Sheriffs, Goaler or Keeper of Prison shall refuse or delay to bring or discharge or sett at Liberty any Prisoner according to the order of the Justice or Justices to be made in manner as aforesaid, every such Sheriffe Goaler or Keeper of Prison shall forfeite and pay to such Prisoner detained contrary to such Order the summe of one hundred pounds to be recovered by Action of Debt in any Court, of Record, and shall be alsoe subject to any Fine and Punishment as the said Justices shall order or award.

VII. No Sheriff, &c. to carry any Person to Tavern, Alehouse, &c. without his free Consent;

nor demand or receive any greater Sum than by Law ought to be taken for Arrest, waiting, &c.; nor take unreasonable Sum for Lodging, &c.; nor procure such Prisoner to pay for other Wine, &c. than he shall freely call for.

And whereas it is found by common experience That such person or persons that are under Arrests, or committed to the Custodie of Sheriffes, Bayliffes, Goalers Keepers of Prisons or Goales are much abused and wronged by extorting of great Fees, Rewards and other Exactions, and putt to great Expences under pretences of favour or otherwise, whereby they are greatly oppressed and many times ruined in their Estates. For remedy thereof Bee it enacted by the authority aforesaid That if any Under Sheriffe, Bayliffe Sergeant at Mace or other Officer or Minister whatsoever shall at any time or times hereafter have in his or their Custody any person or persons by vertue or colour of any Writt, Processe or other Warrant whatsoever, it shall not be lawfull for such Officer or Officers to convey or carry, or cause to bee conveyed or carryed the said person or persons to any Taverne Alehouse or other publique Victualling or Drinking House without the free and voluntary consent of the said person, or persons soe as to charge such Prisoner with any Summe of Money for any Wine, Beere, Ale, Victualls, Tobacco or any other things whatsoever, but what the said person or persons shall call for, of his, her or their owne accord, and shall not demand, take or receive, or cause to be demanded taken or received directly or indirectly any other or greater Summe or Summes then what by Law ought to be taken or demanded for such Arrest, takeing. or waiteing (untill such person or persons shall have procured an appearance, found Baile, agreed with his or their Adversaryes, or be sent to the proper Goale belonging to the County, City, Towne or place where such Arrest or takeing shall be) [nor take and exact any other reward or gratuity for soe keeping the said person or persons out of the Goale or Prison, then what he, she or they shall or will of his, her or their owne accord voluntarily and freely give, (fn. 4) ] Nor take nor receive any other or greater summe or summes for each nights lodgeing or other expences then what is reasonable and fitting in such cases, or shall be soe adjudged by the next Justice of the Peace or at the next Quarter Sessions, and shall not cause or procure the said person or persons to pay for any; [other (fn. 3) ] Wine, Beare, Ale, Victualls, Tobacco or other things then what the said person or persons shall voluntarily, perticularly and freely call for.

VIII. Sheriffs, Gaolers, &c. to permit their Prisoners to send for necessary Food, Bedding, &c. where they please;

and not to demand greater Tee for Commitment, &c. than is allowable, until the same be settled as herein mentioned.

And that every Under Sheriffe, Goaler, Keeper of Prison or Goale, and every person or persons whatsoever to whose custody any person or persons shall be delivered or committed by vertue of any Writt of Processe or any pretence whatsoever shall permitt and suffer the said person or persons at his and their will and pleasure to send for, and have any Beere, Ale, Victualls and other necessary foode where and from whence they please, as alsoe to have and use such Beding, Linen and other things as the said person or persons shall thinke fitt, without any purloyning, detaineing or paying for the same or any part thereof, nor shall demand, take or receive of the said person or persons any other or greater Fee or Fees whatsoever for his [her (fn. 3) ] or their commitment, release or discharge, or for his, her or their Chamber-rent then what is allowable by Law, untill the same shall be setled by three Justices of the Peace, whereof one to be of the Quoru of each particular County, City and Towne Corporate in their severall Precincts, and for the City of London and Countyes of Midlesex and Surrey the two Lord Cheife Justices of the Kings Bench and Common Pleas and the Lord Cheife Baron or any two of them, and the Justices of the Peace of the same in their severall Jurisdictions.

IX. Inquiry to be made by Lord Chief Justices, &c. into all charitable Uses given for the Benefit of poor Prisoners.

And likewise that the said Lord Cheife Justices, Lord Cheife Baron and Justices of the Peace in their severall Jurisdictions and all Commissioners for charitable Uses doe use their best endeavours and diligence to examine and finde out the severall Legacies, Gifts and Bequests bestowed and given for the benefitt and advantage of the poore Prisoners for Debt in the severall Goales and Prisons in this Kingdome, and to send for any Deeds, Wills, Writeings and Bookes of Accounts whatsoever and any person or persons concerned therein, and to examine them upon Oath to make true discovery thereof (which they have full power and authority hereby to doe) and the same soe found out and ascertained, to order and setle in some manner and way that the Prisoners hereafter may not be defrauded, but receive the full benefitt thereof according to the true intent of the Donors.

X. Accounts of such Gifts, Rates of Fees, and Government of Prisons to be signed, &c. by the Lord

Chief Justices, &c. and hung up in every Gaol, fairly written; and registered by Clerk of the Peace.

And that these Accounts of the severall Legacies, Gifts and Bequests given and bestowed upon the severall Prisoners for Debt within this Kingdome, and the severall Rates of Fees and the future Government of Prisons be signed and confirmed by the Lord, Cheife Justices and Lord Cheife Baron or any two of them for the time being, and the Justices of the Peace in London, Midlesex, and Surrey, and by the Judges for the severall Circuits and Justices of the Peace for the time being in their severall Precincts, and fairely written, and hung up in a Table in every Goale and Prison before the first day of November One thousand six, hundred seaventy and one, and likewise be registred by each and every Clerke of the Peace within his or their particular Jurisdiction, And after such Establishment noe other greater Fee or Fees then shall be soe established shall be demanded or received.

XI. Recital that Felons and Prisoners for Debt are lodged together.

Sheriff, Gaoler, &c. so lodging Prisoners; Penalty.

And whereas it is become the common practice of [the (fn. 5) ] Goalers and Keepers of Newgate, the Gatehouse at Westminster and sundry other Goales and Prisons to lodge together in one Roome, or Chamber and Bed Prisoners for Debt and Felons, whereby many times honest Gentlemen, Tradesmen and others Prisoners for Debt are disturbed, and hindred in the night time from their naturall rest by reason of their Fetters and Irons, and otherwise much offended and troubled by their lewd and prophane language and discourses, with most horrid curseing and swearing (much accustomed to such persons) Bee it enacted by the authority aforesaid That it shall not be lawfull hereafter for any Sheriffe, Goaler or Keeper of Goale or Prison to putt, keepe or lodge Prisoners for Debt and Felons together in one Roome or Chamber, but that they shall be putt, kepte and lodged seperate and apart one from another in distinct Roomes upon paine that he, she or they which, shall offend against this Act, or the true intent and meaning thereof or any part thereof shall forfeite and lose his or her Office, Place or Imployment, and shall forfeite treble dammages to the party grieved to be recovered by vertue of this Act. Any Law, Statute, Usage or Custome to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.


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