For remedy of the fraud and disorder used amongst officers of arms in execution of criminal letters, chapter 9

Concerning the complaint made to our sovereign lord and the three estates of this present parliament by the poor commons universally within this realm, making mention that where it is not unknown to his highness and his estates how James [Douglas], earl of Morton, lord of Dalkeith, in his late regiment, for good order to be had amongst his majesty's officers of arms and other parties that raised and pursued criminal letters upon slaughters, mutilations and other capital crimes, whereby a great multitude of accomplices were summoned and given in bill and such collusion used between the parties and officers aforesaid, executors thereof, that composition was taken for reporting of their names, to the great prejudice of his majesty, they being often known as guilty of the same crimes and yet could not be pursued at the diet appointed thereto; in respect, no surety was found for reporting of the said letters duly executed and endorsed upon the said accomplices, and therefore command was given by his highness's late regent aforesaid to the justice clerk and his deputes that no letters criminal in time coming should be directed nor passed by them for summoning of any accomplices to be given in bill by the parties, purchasers thereof, but that the whole persons complained upon should be nominated in the body of the principal letters. Nevertheless, it is of verity that diverse our sovereign lord's officers of arms aforesaid, without power or privilege granted to them by virtue of the said criminal letters, not only have summoned and daily yet summon diverse persons as accomplices given in bill and not nominated in the letters aforesaid, compelling through that a great part of the said accomplices to travel upon their sumptuous charges and expenses to his majesty's burgh of Edinburgh, and otherwise use such extortion that the subjects are compelled to give the said officers composition to report their names; likewise also to their great ruin and hardship, the said officers, by collusion of diverse parties, purchasers of the said letters, have summoned and daily yet summon such multitude of assizers to particular diets that, by composition received by the said officers from substantial persons whom they charged and draw forth of their ticket after they be summoned, there is by appearance of their extortion near as much profit and composition collected as would satisfy the parties against whom the crimes are committed, and no others are put in roll to compear upon the assize but a multitude of his highness's poor commons aforesaid who have not money to pay composition, to their great hurt, travail and expense, as also to the prejudice of his majesty's treasurer and advocates for his highness's interest which, for want of a sufficient number of assizers, are compelled to consent to the continuation of causes thereof. Therefore our sovereign lord, with advice of his three estates in this present parliament, statutes and ordains that the justice clerk and his deputes shall direct no letters in time coming for calling of any accomplices generally to underlie the law, but that the letters be upon special persons complained upon, and that no sheriff or officer of arms, executor of any criminal letters, presume or take upon hand to charge or use execution upon any accomplices given in bill over the bounds and direction of the letters, nor to summon any more persons upon an assize than 45, which he shall receive in roll from the party pursuer, subscribed with his hand; and shall annex the same roll unaltered or cancelled to the end of his execution, under the pain of 500 merks to be incurred by his surety and the said officer to be deprived of his office and to suffer further pains in his body and goods at our sovereign lord's will. And if any party pursuer finds that of necessity he must have a greater number summoned on the assize, upon his supplication the same shall be granted as it shall appear reasonable, in which case the officer may summon so many more upon the assize as he shall be directed by the letters and received in roll subscribed by the party without incurring the pain above-written.

  1. NAS, PA2/12, ff.27r-v. Back
  2. 'P' written in margin. Back