Reprieve - Encyclopedia

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REPRIEVE (reprise, from Fr. reprendre), in English law, a term which originally meant remand to prison: later and more usually, the suspension for a time of the execution of a sentence passed on conviction of crime. The term is now seldom or never used except with reference to sentences of death. In the case of capital felonies other than murder the recording of sentence of death has the effect of a reprieve by the court. The court which can award a sentence is said to possess as of common right a discretionary power of granting a reprieve. Courts of justice, however, do not grant reprieves by way of dispensation from the penalties of the law, which is not for the judicial department, but for temporary purposes, e.g. of appeal or inquiry as to the state of mind or health of the convict, or to enable him to apply for a pardon. Under the old system of transportation it was a common practice to reprieve convicted felons as a step to induce them to consent to transportation to the American colonies (see the Old Bailey Regulations of 1662, J. Kelyng, ed. 1873, p. I). In cases of conviction of wilful murder the reprieve, if any, is granted by the home secretary on behalf of the crown, and on convictions of murder the court seems now to have no power to reprieve except in the case of a pregnant woman.

See Hawkins, P. C. bk. 2, C. 51; Blackstone, Commentaries.

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