Concerning theft and receipt of theft, taken off the prisoners by thieves or bonds for ransoms, and punishment of the same

Item, concerning the article proposed by the barons, freeholders and inhabitants of the sheriffdom of Selkirk, Roxburgh, Lanark, Peebles, Dumfries, Edinburgh and other inhabitants of the remaining shires of this realm, bearing that it is not unknown of the continual theft, robbery and oppression committed and done within the bounds of the said sheriffdoms by thieves, traitors and other ungodly persons, having neither fear of God nor man, and especially in these troubles by resetters, fortifiers and maintainers of the said evil-given persons amongst the inhabitants and indwellers of the said sheriffdoms respectively, within diverse parts of the same, which is the chief cause and fortification of the said theft; and likewise that the thieves and broken men, inhabitants of the said sheriffdoms and other bounds of the marches of this realm facing the parts of England, not only commit daily thefts, robberies, plundering, murders and fire-raising upon the peaceable subjects of the country, but also take sundry of them, detain them in captivity as prisoners, ransom them, or let them to burghs for their entry again; and in like manner, diverse subjects of the inland take and sit under their assurance, paying them blackmail and permitting them to rob, harry and oppress their neighbours with their knowledge and in their fight without resistance or contradiction. For eschewing and stopping of the which inconveniences aforesaid, it is statute and ordained by our sovereign lord, [James Stewart, earl of Moray], his dearest regent, and three estates of this present parliament, that whatsoever person or persons reset, fortify, maintain or give meat, harbour or assistance to any thieves in their thievish stealing and deeds, either in their coming thereto or passing therefrom at any time coming, or communicate or keep tryst with them to that effect in any manner of way without licence of the keeper of the country where the thief remains had thereto, to the effect it may be known for what purpose they communicated with the said thieves within 48 hours after, or before the committing of the said crime, that the resetter, fortifier, maintainer, assister, meat-giver and communicator with such persons shall be called for that at particular diets criminally as art and part of their thievish deeds, or otherwise civilly at the instance of the party offended upon 15 days' warning only, without diet or table; and also that the sheriffs of all shires, stewarts, bailies of regality and their deputes, and all other judges ordinary at every head court, put the said matters to the inquisition of an assize of the country at the desire and complaint of the party, and as is found, to report the same to the justice, justice clerk and their deputes within 15 days next after the matter be tried, so that this present act and statute may be put into execution upon them as the said sheriffs, stewarts, bailies of regality and judges ordinary aforesaid will answer to our sovereign lord and his dearest regent upon the execution of their office. And also for eschewing of the said great, continual and odious crimes and offences, and pacifying of the lieges in all parts oppressed within this realm, and for the common welfare thereof, it is statute and ordained that no thief take any Scotsman at any time hereafter under the pain of treason and lese-majesty, and that none of our sovereign lord's true and faithful lieges which have been taken by the said thieves and broken men shall be held to enter to them, notwithstanding any bond given for their entry, discharging them and their sureties simply in that behalf; and if any of the said thieves call or charge the principal men taken by them or their surety for their interest for payment of the pains contained in the bonds, or any part thereof, by ransom or bond not paid to the said thieves, either bygone or in time coming, they shall (by the doing of the same) incur and underlie the pains of treason and lese-majesty aforesaid; and also that our said sovereign lord's faithful and obedient subjects, which hereafter shall happen to take and apprehend any of the said thieves in their passing to commit theft, or in the actual doing thereof, or in their returning from there, in no way let them to liberty and freedom, but present them before the justice and his deputes in the tolbooth of Edinburgh within 15 days after their apprehension, if their takers (having power) sentence them not to death themselves; and also that none take assurance or sit under assurance of the said thieves, or pay them blackmail, or give them meat, drink, reset, maintenance or supply in their thievish deeds in time coming, under the pain of death and confiscation of all their goods moveable; and in like manner, when any thieves resort in stealing or reiving within the country, that all our sovereign lord's lieges dwelling in the bounds where they resort rise, cry, raise the fray and follow them, as well in their coming as passing out on horse and suit for riding and recovering of the goods stolen and reft, and apprehending of their persons to be brought to justice, and concur with the owners of the goods and other followers to that effect, under the pain to be held partakers of the said theft; and whosoever is suspected or accused to do in the contrary, that the justice clerk grant letters at the instance of any party for calling of them to underlie the law for that at a particular diet complaining upon the premises, or any point thereof, or accuse them for the same at general justice ayres, executing the pains contained in this present act against the contraveners thereof without favour or delay; and if it shall happen any open notorious thief to resort or come to any manner of person's house, it shall be lawful to the owner of the said house to take and apprehend that thief without reproach or dishonour, and bring him to the justice to be punished according to the laws.

  1. The Actis of King James the Sext, printed by R. Lekprevick (Edinburgh, 1568), ff.18v-19v. Bound with earlier parliamentary material at NLS, Black Acts, 1566-94, H.33.c.21, Scots Acts of Parliament, H.33.c.23 or Scots Acts, H.33.c.25.