1777: 17 George 3 c.9: An Act to impower his Majesty to secure and detain Persons charged with, or suspected of, the Crime of High Treason, committed in any of his Majesty’s Colonies or Plantations in America, or on the High Seas, or the Crime of Piracy.
‘WHEREAS a Rebellion and War have been openly and traiterously levied and carried on in certain of his Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in America, and Acts of Treason and Piracy have been committed on the High Seas, and upon the Ships and Goods of his Majesty’s Subjects, and many Persons have been seised and taken, who are expressly charged or strongly suspected of such Treasons and Felonies, and many more such Persons may be hereafter so seised and taken: And whereas such Persons have been, or may be brought into this Kingdom, and into other Parts of his Majesty’s Dominions, and it may be inconvenient in many such Cases to proceed forthwith to the Trial of such Criminals, and at the same Time of evil Example to suffer them to go at large;’ be it therefore 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,
[Persons guilty of High Treason in America, or at Sea, or of Piracy, or suspected thereof, may be kept in Custody till Jan. 1, 1778.]
That all and every Person or Persons who have been, or shall hereafter be seised or taken in the Act of High Treason committed in any of his Majesty’s Colonies or Plantations in America, or on the High Seas, or in the Act of Piracy, or who are or shall be charged with or suspected of the Crime of High Treason, committed in any of the said Colonies, or on the High Seas, or of Piracy, and who have been, or shall be committed, in any Part of his Majesty’s Dominions, for such Crimes, or any of them, or for Suspicion of such Crimes, or any of them, by any Magistrate having competent Authority in that Behalf, to the Common Gaol, or other Place of Confinement as is herein after provided for that Purpose, shall and may be thereupon secured and detained in safe Custody, without Bail or Mainprize, until the first Day of January, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight; and that no Judge or Justice of Peace shall bail or try any such Person or Persons without Order from his Majesty’s most honourable Privy Council, signed by six of the said Privy Council, until the said first Day of January, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight; any Law, Statute, or Usage, to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.
[His Majesty may appoint Places of Confinement for such Prisoners.]
II. ‘And whereas it may be necessary to provide for such Prisoners within this Realm some other Placed of Confinement besides the Common Gaols;’ be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful for his Majesty, by Warrant under his Sign Manual, to appoint one or more Place or Places of Confinement within the Realm, for the Custody of such Prisoners; and all and every Magistrate and Magistrates, having competent Authority in that Behalf, are hereby authorised to commit such Persons as aforesaid to such Place or Places of Confinement, so to be appointed, instead of the Common Gaol.
[What Offences shall be deemed Piracy.]
III. Provided always, and be it enacted, That no Offences shall be construed to be Piracy within the Meaning of this Act, except Acts of Felony committed on the Ships and Goods of his Majesty’s Subjects by Persons on the High Seas.
[No Person punishable by this Act for any Offence committed within this Realm.]
IV. Provided also, and it is hereby declared, That nothing herein contained, is intended, or shall be construed to extend to the Case of any other Prisoner or Prisoners than such as shall have been out of the Realm at the Time or Times of the Offence or Offences wherewith he or they shall be charged, or of which he or they shall be suspected,
[This Act to continue in Force till Jan. 1, 1778.]
V. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That this Act shall continue and be in Force until the said first Day of January, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and no longer.
Source: Ruffhead, Statutes at Large, vol. 13.