Murder Act 1751
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WHEREAS horrid crime of murder has of late been more frequently perpetrated than formerly, and particularly in and near the metropolis of this kingdom, contrary to the known humanity and natural genius of the British nation: and whereas it is thereby become necessary, that some further terror and peculiar mark of infamy be added to the punishment of death, now by law inflicted on such as shall be guilty of the said heinous offence: may it please your most excellent Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons in this present parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of Easter term, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty two, all persons who shall be found guilty of wilful murder, be executed according to law, on the day next but one after sentence passed, unless the same shall happen to be the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday, and in that case on the Monday following.
II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the body of such murderer so convicted shall, if such conviction and execution shall be in the county of Middlesex, or within the city of London or the liberties thereof, be immediately conveyed by the sheriff or sheriffs, his or their deputy or deputies and his or their officers, to the hall of the Surgeons Company, or such other place as the said company shall appoint for this purpose, and be delivered to such person as the said company shall depute or appoint, who shall give to the sheriff or sheriffs, his or their deputy or deputies, a receipt for the same; and the body so delivered to the said company of Surgeons, shall be dissected and anatomized by the said Surgeons, or such person as they shall appoint for that purpose: and in case such conviction and execution shall happen to be in any other county or other place in Great Britain, then the judge or justice of assize, or other proper judge, shall award the sentence to be put in execution the next day but one after such conviction (except as is before excepted) and the body of such murderer shall in like manner be delivered by the sheriff, or his deputy, and his officers, to such surgeon as such judge or justice shall direct for the purpose aforesaid.
III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That sentence shall be pronounced in open court immediately after the conviction of such murderer, and before the court shall proceed to any other business, unless the court shall see reasonable cause for postponing the same; in which sentence shall be expressed not only the usual judgment of death, but also the time appointed hereby for the execution thereof, and the marks of infamy hereby directed for such offenders, in order to impress a just horror in the mind of the offender, and on the, minds of such as shall be present, of the heinous crime of murder.
IV. Provided always, and be it enacted, That after such sentence pronounced as aforesaid, in case there shall appear reasonable cause, it shall and may be lawful to and for such judge or justice, before whom such criminal shall have been so tried, to stay the execution of the sentence, at the discretion of such judge or justice, regard being always had to the true intent and purpose of this act.
V. Provided also, That it shall be in the power of any such judge or justice to appoint the body of any such criminal to be hung in chains: but that in no case whatsoever the body of any murderer shall be suffered to be buried; unless after such body shall have been dissected and anatomized as aforesaid; and every such judge or justice shall, and is hereby required to direct the same either to be disposed of as aforesaid, to be anatomized, or to be hung in chains, in the same manner as is now practised for the most atrocious offences.
VI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after such conviction, and judgment given thereupon, the gaoler or keeper to whom such criminal shall be delivered for safe custody, shall confine such prisoner to some cell, or other proper and safe place within the prison, separate and apart from the other prisoners; and that no person or persons whatsoever, except the gaoler or keeper, or his servants, shall have access to any such prisoner, without licence being first obtained for that purpose under the hand of such judge or justice, before whom such offender shall have been tried, or under the the hand of the sheriff, his deputy or under sheriff.
VII. Provided always, That in case any such judge or justice shall see cause to respite the execution of such offender so condemned as aforesaid, such judge or justice may relax or release restraints, any or all of the restraints or regulations herein after directed to be observed by the gaoler or keeper of the prison where such prisoner shall be confined, by any licence in writing signed by such judge or justice for that purpose, for and during the time of such stay of execution; any thing herein before contained to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.
VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That after sentence passed as aforesaid, and until the execution thereof, such offender shall be fed with bread and water only, and with no other food or liquor whatsoever (except in case of receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and except in case of any violent sickness or wound, in which case some known physician, surgeon or apothecary may be admitted by the gaoler or keeper of the said prison to administer necessaries; the christian and surname of such physician, surgeon or apothecary, and his place of abode, being first entered in the books of such prison or gaol, there to remain) and in case such gaoler or prisonkeeper shall offend against or neglect to put in execution any of the directions or regulations hereby enacted to be observed, such gaoler or prison-keeper shall for such offence forfeit his office, and be fined in the sum of twenty pounds, and suffer imprisonment until the same be paid.
IX. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons whatsoever shall by force set at liberty, or rescue or attempt to rescue or set at liberty, any person out of prison who shall be committed for, or found guilty of murder, or rescue or attempt to rescue any person convicted of murder going to execution, or during execution, every person so offending shall be deemed, taken and adjudged to be guilty of felony, and shall suffer death without benefit of clergy.
X. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons whatsoever shall, after such execution had, by force rescue or attempt to rescue the body of such offender out of the custody of the sheriff or his officers, during the conveyance of such body to any of the places hereby directed, or shall by force rescue or attempt to rescue such body from the company of Surgeons, or their officers or servants, or from the house of any surgeon where the same shall have been deposited in pursuance of this act; every person so offending shall be deemed and adjudged to be guilty of felony, and shall be liable to be transported to some of his Majesty's colonies or plantations in America for the term of seven years, in like manner as is directed by the laws now in force relating to the transportation of felons; and shall be subject to the like punishment and methods of conviction, in case of returning into, or being found at large within Great Britain, within the said term of seven years, in all respects, as by law other felons are subject to, in case of unlawfully returning from transportation.
XI. Provided always, and it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, That nothing herein contained shall extend to repeal or alter so much of an act made in the eleventh year of his late Majesty's reign (intituled, An act for the more effectual disarming the Highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; and for the better securing the peace and quiet of that part of the kingdom) as relates to the suspension of the execution of persons convicted of capital offences within that part of Great Britain called Scotland, for the respective times in the said act mentioned; any thing herein before contained to the contrary notwithstanding.