1725: 12 George 1 c.29: An act to prevent frivolous and vexatious arrests.
FOR the more effectual preventing frivolous and vexatious arrests, 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,
[None to be held to special bail in a superior court under 10l.]
That from and after the twenty fourth day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty six, no person shall be held to special bail upon any process issuing out of any superior court, where the cause of action shall not amount to the sum of ten pounds or upwards;
[Nor in an inferior court, under 40s.]
nor out of any inferior court, where the cause of action shall not amount to the sum of forty shillings or upwards; and that in all cases, where the cause of action shall not amount to the sum of ten pounds or upwards in any such superior court, or to forty shillings or upwards in any such inferior court (and the plaintiff or plaintiffs shall proceed by the way of process against the person)
[But to be served personally with a copy of the process.]
he, she or they shall not arrest or cause to be arrested, the body of the defendant or defendants, but shall serve him, her or them personally, within the jurisdiction of the court, with a copy of the process;
[Not appearing, plaintiff may enter a common appearance, &c.]
and if such defendant or defendants shall not appear at the return of the process or within four days after such return, in such case it shall and may be lawful to and for the plaintiff or plaintiffs, upon affidavit being made, and filed in the proper court, of the personal service of such process as aforesaid (which said affidavit shall be filed gratis) to enter a common appearance or file common bail for the defendant or defendants, and to proceed thereon, as if such defendant or defendants had entred his, her or their appearance, or filed common bail; any law or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.
[Where the cause of action amount higher, affidavit to be made thereof, and the sum indorsed on the back of the writ, &c.]II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said twenty fourth day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty six, in all cases where the plaintiff or plaintiffs cause of action shall amount to the sum of ten pounds, or forty shillings or upwards as aforesaid, affidavit shall be made and filed of such cause of action (which affidavit may be made before any judge or commissioner of the court, out of which such process shall issue, authorized to take affidavits in such courts, or else before the officer who shall issue such process or his deputy, which oath such officer or his deputy are hereby impowered to administer;) and for such affidavit one shilling over and above the stamp-duties shall be paid and no more; and the sum or sums specified in such affidavit shall be indorsed on the back of such writ or process, for which sum or sums so indorsed, the sheriff or other officer to whom such writ or process shall be directed, shall take bail, and for no more: but if after the said twenty fourth day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty six, any writ or process shall issue for the sum of ten pounds or upwards, and no affidavit and indorsement shall be made as aforesaid, the plaintiff or plaintiffs shall not proceed to arrest the body of the defendant or defendants, but shall proceed in like manner, as is by this act directed in cases where the cause of action does not amount to the sum of ten pounds, or forty shillings or upwards as aforesaid.
[22 Jac. 1. c.23.]
III. Whereas the Statute made in the twenty first year of the reign of King James the First, for the more effectual preventing the delays and expences occasioned by the removal of small causes out of inferior courts, has been of late evaded and rendered ineffectual, by the contrivance of vexatious defendants, who by setting up a fictitious action against themselves, for a pretended demand of five pounds or upwards, by such their contrivance procure the smallest actions to be removed by writs of habeas corpus, out of the inferior into the superior courts, whereby the plaintiffs, in such small actions, which will not bear the expence of such superior courts, are necessitated to submit to the loss of their just demands; now for preventing such abuses, and rendring the said statute more effectual for the future, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid,
[Judge of inferior courts may proceed in suits not exceeding 5l. though there may be other actions higher.]
That from and after the said twentieth day of June the judge or judges of such inferior courts, as are described in the said statute, shall or may proceed in such actions, bills, plaints, suits or causes as are therein specified, which appear or are laid, not to exceed the said sum of five pounds, although there may be other actions against such defendant or defendants, wherein the plaintiff or plaintiffs demands shall or may exceed the said sum of five pounds.
[Persons convicted of forgery, &c. practising as attornies, &c. offending against this act, to be transported.]
IV. And for avoiding the great mischiefs and abuses which arise from infamous and wicked persons already convicted of wilful perjury or forgery, practising as attornies or solicitors, in courts of law and equity; be it enacted, That if any person who hath been or who shall be convicted of forgery, or of wilful and corrupt perjury, or subornation of perjury, or common barretry, shall, after the said four and twentieth day of June, act or practise as an attorney, or solicitor or agent, in any suit or action, brought or to be brought in any court of law or equity, within that part of Great Britain called England, the judge or judges of the court, where such suit or action is or shall be brought, shall, upon complaint or information thereof, examine the matter in a summary way in open court; and if it shall appear to the satisfaction of such judge or judges, that the person complained of, or against whom such information shall be given, hath offended contrary to this act, such judge or judges shall cause such offender to be transported for seven years to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.
[Not to extend to Scotland.]
V. Provided always, That this act or any thing herein contained, shall not extend to that part of Great Britain called Scotland.
VI. Provided also, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall continue in force for the term of five years, and from thence to the end of the next session of parliament, and no longer.
[for the continuance of this act see 5 Geo. 2. c.17. Revived and made perpetual by 21 Geo. 2. c. 3.]
Further reading: Wakelam, Credit and Debt in eighteenth century England.