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Watch & Ward Act 18-04-1812

18th April 1812

The following is an abstract of "an Act for the more effectual preservation of the peace by- enforcing the duties of Watching and Warding until the 1st day of March 1814, in places where disturbances prevail or are apprehended passed in the present Session of Parliament:—
The Custos Rotulorum, or in his absence, the Sheriff or any five justices of the peace acting in or for any county in England, may convene a special general Session, to take into consideration the expediency of carrying the provisions of this act into effect: and should it appear to the Justices at such special Session that disturbances prevail or are apprehended in any place within their jurisdiction, and that the ordinary peace-officers are insufficient, it is incumbent upon them to declare the state of the peace in that place, and it is by this act directed that every man residing within any such place, rateable to the poor's rate, above the age of 17 years, shall be liable to the duties of Watching by day and Warding by night. Justices are empowered to summons witnesses to give evidence concerning the execution of this act, making them a suitable compensation out of the county rates, and to commit to prison any person refusing to obey such summons, or give the evidence required. Lists to be made by order of the magistrates, by petty constables, of all men above the age of 17 years paying poor-rates. The magistrates to appoint the number of inhabitants to keep watch every night from sun-set to sun-rise, and also to ward during the day; and arrange the order, rotation, and time of performing the duty. Persons aggrieved may appeal to the Petty Sessions. Special constables to be appointed by the Justices to regulate the Watch and Ward. If the urgency of the case required, the Custos Rotulorum or Sheriff may direct the Act to be put in execution before the Special General Sessions are met. The chief constable of every hundred to visit the place under the operation of the Watch and Ward Act, and to report to the Special Sessions the manner in which the duties of Watching and Warding are performed. Persons liable refusing to Watch and Ward without some sufficient excuse, to pay a penalty not exceeding 10/. or less than 40s. Persons above 50 years of age, not occupying 20/. a year, may be exempted by the magistrates. Substitutes approved by the Petty Sessions or chief constable may be provided. Ratdes, staves, lanthorns, and arms, with watch houses and other accommodations, to be provided by the constables out of the poor's-rate. Persons appointed to Watch and Ward shall endeavour to prevent murders, burglaries, outrages, and disorders ; and every person so employed is authorised to apprehend all suspicious persons, and deliver the persons so apprehended to the constable, watch-house, or other place of security, until they can be conveniently taken before the magistrates. Persons watching in one district are required to assist those in another, when notice by signal shall be given that such assistance is necessary; except on those occasions no person to absent himself from his own stand or walk. Constables are bound to record the conduct of persons employed in the Watch, in a book to be kept for that purpose, which book shall be delivered to the chief constable, or to such person as the Special Sessions shall appoint. Magistrates having exclusive jurisdiction in any city, place, or borough, to have power to carry the act into effect in their respective cities, places, and boroughs; the expence to be paid out of a rate made in such place, but such place not to be further liable to any rate for the county at large for carrying the act into effect. Constables are empowered to apprehend offenders out of their respective jurisdictions. Compensations to be made, at the discretion of the justices, out of the poor- rates, to special constables and other persons employed in executing the act; and magistrates may allow compensations to persons voluntarily associating to Watch and Ward. Persons resisting or assaulting any person Watching or Warding to forfeit any sum not exceeding 20/. and be liable to such other punishment as any persons are liable to for assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty. Publicans suffering any person engaged in Watching and Warding to tipple during the hours of such Watching and Warding, to forfeit for the first offence 40s. for the second offence 5/. for the third and every subsequent offence 10/. Justices are empowered to remove persons not usually resident in any town or village, on oath of any householder that such person is suspicious or dangerous, and that he is endeavouring to seduce others to join in disturbances, to their settlement or last place of residence. Constables are also required to make out lists of persons above the age of 14. Persons aggrieved may appeal to the Quarter Sessions. Offenders may be convicted before one or more Justices, and the forfeitures may be levied by distress; appeal after conviction may be made to the next General Sessions, but no appeal shall be removed by writ of certiorari or otherwise. Justices at any Special General Sessions may suspend or discontinue the execution of the act. No person engaged as a special constable or watchman shall gain any settlement by such appointment Actions commenced against any person for anything done in pursuance of this act, must be commenced within three months after the fact committed, and not afterwards; and in case of a nonsuit, or verdict for the defendant, such defendant may recover treble costs. The act to be a public act; may be altered, amended, or repealed during the present Sessions, and to expire on the 1 st of March, 1814.

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