Monday, 14 May 2012

14th May 1812: Government legal opinion on prosecuting Humphrey Yarwood & John Buckley Booth


We had the honor to receive Mr. Beckett’s Letter dated May 9th, 1812 transmitting the inclosed Depositions which he states had been sworn before you under the Provisions of the Unlawful Oath Act 37 Geo: 3. C. 123 for the purpose of exculpating the Deponents from the Penalties of the Act they having fled from the jurisdiction in which the Offence was committed for the Security of their persons being suspected of being Spies, which it is stated in point of fact was the Case, they having got themselves sworn for the purpose of giving Information.

And our Opinion is requested upon the Facts disclosed in the Depositions whether they do not contain matter which renders it advisable to apprehend immediately any and which of the Parties implicated in administering the Unlawful Oath deposed to, and to seize their Papers, and with a view of instituting legal proceedings against such persons, whether it will be necessary to have the Depositions resworn before a Justice of the Peace of the County where the Offence was committed, and whether such justice must be within the County at the time of receiving the Information and of granting his warrant, or whether a Magistrate of the proper County being in London may receive the Information and grant his warrant there, the Informants being in London and afraid of returning into the County where the Oath was administered to them—

We have taken the same into our consideration, and are of Opinion that upon the Evidence of these two persons Yarwood may be indicted for Felony in administering an unlawful Oath contrary to 37 G. 3 C. 123.

That Bulkley [sic] who is probably the most criminal of them all, is less nearly affected by the Evidence than Yarwood. The Oaths are talked of in his presence, but the object of them is not stated, that being previously understood. The numbers that had been engaged are also spoken of, but the nature of their engagement is not explained in Bulkleys presence, that also being previously understood.

The utmost with which he can be charged upon this Evidence is the being present at an Unlawful Assembly, or perhaps conspiring with the persons there assembled to disturb the Public Peace, and these charges are also general a nature that we think it doubtful whether he would be convicted.

With this impression upon our minds we incline to think that it would be more prudent to watch him carefully hereafter than to prosecute came upon such proof as can now be obtained.

From Yarwoods account it does not appear probable that any thing would be gained at present by a Search for Papers.

We think it prudent for the Witnesses to reswear their Depositions before a Magistrate of Lancashire within the County, and for such warrants as are issued at all to be issued there.

We have [etc]
V Gibbs
Thos. Plumer

Lincolns Inn
14th May 1812

[To] The Right Honble
Richard Ryder
&c. &c. &c.

This letter can be found at HO 42/123.

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