1774: 14 George 3 c.20: Discharged Prisoners Act

1774: 14 George 3 c.20: An Act for the Relief of Prisoners charged with Felony, or other Crimes, who shall be acquitted or discharged by Proclamation, respecting the Payment of Fees to Gaolers, and giving a Recompence for such Fees, out of the County Rates.


WHEREAS Persons in Custody for Felonies, or other Crimes, or on Suspicion thereof, or as Accessaries thereto, though no Bills of Indictment are afterwards preferred or found against them, or they are acquitted on their Trials, are nevertheless frequently detained for certain Fees to the Sheriffs, Gaolers, or Keepers of Prisons, in whose Custody they happen to be, which is both oppressive and unjust: For Remedy whereof, may it please your 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,

[Prisoners charged with Felony or other Crimes in England for want of Prosecution to be set at large.]

That every Prisoner who now is, or hereafter shall be, charged with any Felony or other Crime, or as an Accessary thereto, before any Court holding criminal Jurisdiction, within that Part of Great Britain called England and Wales, against whom no Bill of Indictment shall be found by the Grand Jury, or who, on his or her Trial, shall be acquitted, or who shall be discharged by Proclamation, for want of Prosecution, shall be immediately set at large in open Court, without the Payment of any Fee or Sum of Money to the Sheriff, Gaoler, or Keeper of the Gaol or Prison, from whence he or she shall be so discharged, and set at Liberty, for or in respect of such Discharge.

[Sheriffs, Gaolers, or Keeper’s Fees, abolished.]

II. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all such Fees as have been usually paid, or payable, to the several Sheriffs, Gaolers, and Keepers of Prisons in England and Wales, in any of the Cases aforesaid, shall absolutely cease, and the same are hereby abolished and determined; and from and after the passing of this Act, no Gaoler, or Keeper of any Gaol or Prison, shall ask, demand, take, or receive, any Sum or Sums of Money from any of the said Prisoners, as Fees, for, upon, or in respect of his or her Discharge.

[The Treasurers of Counties, &c. as are not assessed at large, on Receipt of a Certificate, signed by a Judge, &c. shall pay to such Gaolers not exceeding 13s. 4d. in lieu of such Fees.]

III. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That, in Lieu of such Fees so abolished as aforesaid, the Treasurers, or other proper Officers of the several Counties, or of such Districts, Hundreds, Ridings, or Divisions, of a County, as are not usually assessed to the County at large, and of such Cities, Towns Corporate, Cinque Ports, Liberties, Franchises, and Places, as do not pay to the Rates of the several Counties in which they are respectively situated, shall, on receiving a Certificate, signed by one or more Judge or Justice, before whom such Prisoner shall have been discharged as aforesaid, (which Certificate the judge or Justice is hereby required to give), pay out of the Rates of such County, or of such District, Hundred, Riding, or Division, or out of the publick Stock of such City, Town Corporate, Cinque Port, Liberty, Franchise, or Place, such Sum as has been usually paid upon that Occasion, not exceeding thirteen Shillings and Four-pence for every Prisoner so discharged as aforesaid, to the Sheriff, Gaoler, or Keeper of the Prison, whence the said Prisoner shall have been discharged as aforesaid; which several Sums, so paid in pursuance of this Act, shall be respectively allowed to the said Treasurers and Officers by the Justices before whom their Accounts shall be passed.

Source: Ruffhead, Statutes At Large, volume 12.