Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18th July 1812: The draft Preservation of Public Peace Bill is published


The Bill for giving additional powers to the Justices has just been printed.—The following is the substance of it:—

The Preamble states—Whereas arms have some time past been industriously collected by evil disposed Persons, for purposes dangerous to the public peace, and have been also by violence taken by night from the houses of Persons unable to resist such violence.

And whereas illegal Associations have been formed in several Counties of the sanction of unlawful Oaths, and which are connected with each other by Delegates from different parts; numerous Outrages have been committed by Persons so associated, and by other evil disposed Persons who assemble to destroy Manufactories and Machinery.

And whereas Meetings are held, as well by night as by day, by such Persons, for the purpose of training and learning the use of arms, in order to enable them more effectually to execute their evil purposes.

And whereas such practices endanger the public peace and security; and it is therefore necessary to empower Magistrates, and others acting by their authority in protection of the public peace, upon suspicion, to search for and seize all stolen, or secreted and concealed arms, and weapons, and ammunition and to receive for safe custody arms and weapons and ammunition belonging to Persons unable to resist such a unlawful outrages as aforesaid, and also to authorize the dispersing of all such unlawful Assemblies and Meetings, and apprehending of Persons engaged therein, or aiding and assisting thereat, or acting as Delegates of or in conjunction with such Associations, or engaging in inviting Persons to join in such illegal practices.

1. The first Clause enacts, that arms collected for purposes dangerous to the public peace, may be search for and seized.

2. The second Clause enacts, that arms not secure from unlawful seizure may be demanded by warrant of Justices, and lodged in places of security. If they are refused, Justices may enter by force in the day time any place where such arms may be.

3. The third Clause enacts, that the party may appeal to Special or Quarter Sessions, if the Justices upon whose warrant the same shall have been taken, shall, upon application, refuse to restore the same. The Justices, at such Special or Quarter Sessions, shall make such order for the restitution or safe custody of such arms, as upon such application shall appear to them to be proper, which order shall be final and conclusive. Sessions to be held every three weeks, for deciding claims as to arms.

4. The fourth Clause enacts, a registry of arms to be kept, and copies thereof made for Lieutenancy and Quarter Sessions.

5. The fifth Clause enacts, that a Meeting of Lieutenancy, or, if no such Meeting, or Quarter Session, may determine how arms, &c. may be disposed of.

6. The sixth Clause enacts that all assemblies of Persons meeting to be trained or drilled, or for the purpose of being arrayed in bodies or learning the use of arms without lawful authority, and all assemblies for the purpose of taking of arms or secreting them, or for the unlawful destruction of houses, machinery, &c. and all assemblies associated or communicating together by delegates for the purpose of raising any sum of money by voluntary contributions among themselves or from others, for the purpose of aiding and abetting any such unlawful purposes, shall be prohibited as dangerous to the public peace. And every person present at, or aiding any such assembly, or acting as Secretary or Delegate, or who shall be employed in collecting, receiving or disbursing any such sums of money, shall upon being convicted therof be deemed guilty of (The rest will be filled up with the word felony.)

7. The seventh Clause enacts, that Persons assembled in danger of the public peace, may be dispersed; and those found carry Arms under suspicious circumstances, may be detained and required to give Bail, and prosecuted for a (The rest will be filled up with the word misdemeanour.)

8. The eighth Clause enacts, that Justices may, upon information from both, commit Delegates, &c. and seize Books, unless such Persons can give sufficient bail to the satisfaction of the Justices for his appearance to answer any indictment

9. The ninth Clause enacts that Persons committed under this Act to plead, and proceed to trial upon the indictment being found, or if trial postponed, to remain in custody, unless bailed by Court.

10. The tenth Clause enacts, the Justices or Peace Officers acting under any warrant of any Justice may disperse any assembly, which such Justice may suspect to be assembled for unlawful purposes. And if such persons shall not satisfy the Justice that they are lawfully assembled, and shall be ordered to disperse, and shall not agree to such order to disperse, such assembly to be deemed an unlawful assembly under the Act, and the Person renewing them after such order may be arrested and detained, and dealt with under the provisions of the Act.

11. The 11th Clause and acts, that Justices of detached and adjoining Counties to have concurrent jurisdiction in such counties.

Provided also, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend to prevent any prosecution by indictment or otherwise anything which shall be an offence within the intent and meaning of this Act, and which might have been so prosecuted if this Act had not been made, unless the offender shall have been prosecuted for such offence under this Act, and convicted or acquitted of such offence; save only that no person shall be prosecuted under the provisions of this Act, for having been before the passing of this Act a Member of any Assembly or Association by this Act declared to be unlawful, if such person shall not in any manner have acted the provisions of this Act,

Persons in custody or on bail at passing this Act, still liable to prosecution.

12. The 12th Clause enacts a penalty for permitting unlawful meetings.

13. The 13th Clause enacts, that Justices on Oath of an unlawful Meeting being held, may declare the Licence of the House forfeited.

14. The 14th Clause enacts, that the Act shall extend to certain Counties and others by Proclamation.

As published in the Leeds Mercury of 18th July 1812.

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