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The 1779 Naval Courts Martial Act


Anno decimo nono Georgii III c.17.

CAP. XVII.

An Act to explain and amend an Act, made in the Twenty-second Year of the Reign of his late Majesty King George the Second, intituled, An Act for amending, explaining, and reducing into one Act of Parliament, the Laws relating to the Government of his Majesty's Ships, Vessels, and Forces by Sea.

"WHEREAS by an Act, made in the Twenty-second Year of the Reign of his late Majesty King George the Second, intituled, An Act for amending, explaining, and reducing into one Act of Parliament, the Laws relating to the Government of his Majesty's Ships, Vessels, and Forces by Sea; it is, among other Things, enacted, That from and after the Twenty-fifth Day of December, one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine, no Member of any Court-martial, after the Trial is begun, shall go on Shore till Sentence be given, but remain on Board the Ship in which the Court shall first assemble, except in Case of Sickness, to be judged of by the Court, upon pain of being cashiered from his Majesty's Service; nor shall the Proceedings of the said Court be delayed by the Absence of any of its Members, provided a sufficient Number doth remain to compose the said Court, which shall, and is thereby required to sit from Day to Day (Sunday always excepted) until the Sentence be given: And whereas it hath been found by Experience, that the confining Members of Courts-martial to the Ship in which such Courts-martial shall first assemble, until Sentence be given, hath been attended with great Inconveniencies and Prejudice to the Healths of Officers summoned to attend as Members of Courts-martial; and it is highly necessary and expedient that such Inconveniencies should be prevented in future;" may it therefore 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 Content of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That so much and such Part of the said recited Act as directs that no Member of any Court-martial, after the Trial is begun, shall go on Shore till Sentence be given, but remain on Board the Ship in which the Court shall first assemble, except in Case of Sickness, to be judged of by the Court, upon Pain of being cashiered from his Majesty's Service; and that the Proceedings of the said Court shall not be delayed by the Absence of any of its Members, provided a sufficient Number doth remain to compose the said Court, which is thereby required to sit from Day to Day (Sunday always excepted) until the Sentence be given, shall be, and the same is hereby repealed and made void, to all Intents and Purposes whatsoever.

II. Provided always, and be it enacted, That the Proceedings of any Court-martial shall not be delayed by the Absence of any of its Members, provided a sufficient Number doth remain to compose such Court, which shall, and is hereby required to sit from Day to Day (Sunday always exempted) until the Sentence be given; any Thing herein before contained to the contrary whereof in any wise notwithstanding: And no Member of the said Court-martial shall absent himself from the said Court during the whole Course of the Trial, upon Pain of being cashiered from his Majesty's Service, except in Case of Sickness, or other extraordinary and indispensable Occasion, to be judged of by the said Court.

'III. And whereas by two Clauses in the said Act, passed in the twenty-second Year of the Reign of his late Majesty King George the Second, it is enacted and declared, That every Person in the Fleet, who through Cowardice, Negligence, or Disaffection, shall, in Time of Acton, withdraw or keep back, or not come into the Fight or Engagement, or shall not do his utmost to take or destroy every Ship which it shall be his Duty to engage, and to assist and relieve all and every of his Majesty's Ships, or those of his Allies, which it shall be his Duty to assist and relieve, and being convicted thereof by the Sentence of a Court-martial, shall suffer Death; and also that every Person in the Fleet, who, through Cowardice, Negligence, or Disaffection, shall forbear to pursue the Chace of any Enemy, Pirate, or Rebel, beaten or flying, or shall not relieve or assist a known Friend in View, to the utmost of his Power, and being convicted of any such Offence by the Sentence of a Court-martial, shall suffer Death: And whereas the restraining of the Power of the Court-martial to the inflicting of the Punishment of Death, in the several Cases recited in the said Clauses, may be attended with great Hardship and Inconvenience;' be it enacted, That, from and after the passing of this Act, it shall and may be lawful, in the several Cases recited in the said Clauses, for the Court-martial to pronounce Sentence of Death, or to inflict such other Punishment as the Nature and Degree of the Offence shall be found to deserve.


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