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Admiralty Court Act, 1840

(3 & 4 Vict c 65)
[7th August 1840]

An Act to Improve the Practice and Extend the Jurisdiction of the High Court of Admiralty of England.

Whereas the jurisdiction of the High Court of Admiralty of England may be in certain respects advantageously extended, and the practice thereof improved:

1. [Concerning the right of Deans of the Arches to preside over the Court of Admiralty. Repealed by Statute Law Revision ('SLR') Act, 1893, 56 Vict c 14]

2. [Concerning the right of appearance of advocates, surrogate and proctors of the Court of Arches to appear in the Court of Admiralty. Repealed by 42 & 43 Vict c 59]

3. Whenever a vessel shall be arrested, etc., court to have jurisdiction over claims of mortgagees

Whenever any ship or vessel shall be under arrest by process issuing from the said High Court of Admiralty, or the proceeds of any ship or vessel having been so arrested shall have been brought into and be in the registry of the said court, in either such case the said court shall have full jurisdiction to take cognizance of all claims and causes of action of any person in respect of any mortgage of such ship or vessel, and to decide any suit instituted by any such person in respect of any such claims or causes of action respectively.

4. Court to decide questions of title, etc.

The said Court of Admiralty shall have jurisdiction to decide all questions as to the title to or ownership of any ship or vessel, or the proceeds thereof remaining in the registry, arising in any cause of possession, salvage, damage, wages, or bottomry, which shall be instituted in the said court after the passing of this Act.

5. [Repealed by The Wreck & Salvage Act, 1846, 9 & 10 Vict c 99]

6. The court in certain cases may adjudicate, etc.

The High Court of Admiralty shall have jurisdiction to decide all claims and demands whatsoever in the nature of salvage for services rendered to or damage received by any ship or sea-going vessel, or in the nature of towage, or for necessaries supplied to any foreign ship or sea-going vessel, and to enforce the payment thereof, whether such ship or vessel may have been within the body of a county, or upon the high seas, at the time when the services were rendered or damage received, or necessaries furnished, in respect of which such claim is made.

7. Evidence may be taken viva voce in open court

In any suit depending in the said High Court of Admiralty the court (if it shall think fit) may summon before it and examine or cause to be examined witnesses by word of mouth, and either before or after examination by deposition, or before a commissioner, as hereinafter mentioned; and notes of such evidence shall be taken down in writing by the judge or registrar, or by such other person or persons, and in such manner, as the judge of the said court shall direct.

8. Evidence may be taken viva voce before a commissioner

The said court may (if it shall think fit) in any such suit issue one or more special commissions to some person, being an advocate of the said High Court of Admiralty of not less than seven years standing, or a barrister at law of not less than seven years standing, to take evidence by word of mouth, upon oath, which every such commissioner is hereby empowered to administer, at such time or times, place or places, and as to such fact or facts, and in such manner, order, and course, and under such limitations and restrictions, and to transmit the same to the registry of the said court in such form and manner, as in and by the commission shall be directed; and such commissioner shall be attended, and the witnesses shall be examined, cross-examined, and re-examined by the parties, their counsel, proctors, or agents, if such parties, or either of them, shall think fit to do so; and such commission shall, if need be, make a special report to the court touching such examination, and the conduct or absence of any witness or other person thereon or relating thereto; and the said High Court of Admiralty is hereby authorised to institute such proceedings and make such order or orders upon such report, as justice may require, and as may be instituted or made in any case of contempt of the said court.

9. Attendance of witnesses and production of papers may be compelled by subpoena

It shall be lawful in any suit depending in the said Court of Admiralty for the judge of the said court, or for any such commissioner appointed in pursuance of this Act, to require the attendance of any witnesses, and the production of any deeds, evidences, books, or writings, by writ, to be issued by such judge or commissioner in such and the same form, or as nearly as may be, as that in which a writ of subpoena ad testificandum, or of subpoena duces tecum, is now issued by Her Majesty's Court of Queen's Bench at Westminster; and every person disobeying any such writ so to be issued by the said judge or commissioner shall be considered as in contempt of the said High Court of Admiralty, and may be punished for such contempt in the said court.

10. [Concerning the admissability of evidence. Repealed by SLR (No 2) Act, 1874, 37 & 38 Vict c 96]

1117. [Concerning procedures in Admiralty. Repealed by 42 & 43 Vict c 59]

18. [Concerning the power of judges in Admiralty to make Rules. Repealed by SLR (No 2) Act, 1888, 51 & 52 Vict c 57. See also 42 & 43 Vict c 78 s 22]

19. [Repealed by the SLR, 1874, 37 & 38 Vict 96]

20. Gaolers to receive prisoners committed by the Court of Admiralty or by Admiralty coroners

The keeper for the time being of every common gaol or prison shall be bound to receive and take into his custody all persons who shall be committed thereunto by the said Court of Admiralty, or who shall be committed thereunto by any coroner appointed by the judge of the said Court of Admiralty, upon any inquest taken within or upon the high seas adjacent to the county or other jurisdiction to which such gaol or prison belongs; and every keeper of any gaol or prison who shall refuse to receive into his custody any person so committed, or wilfully or carelessly suffer such person to escape and go at large without lawful warrant, shall be liable to the like penalties and consequences as if such person had been committed to his custody by any other lawful authority.

21. Prisoners in contempt may be discharged

It shall be lawful for the judge of the said High Court of Admiralty to order the discharge of any person who shall be in custody for contempt of the said court, for any cause other than for non-payment of money, on such conditions as to the judge shall seem just: Provided always, that the order for such discharge shall not be deemed to have purged the original contempt in case the conditions on which such order shall be made be not fulfilled.

22. Jurisdiction to try questions concerning booty of war

The said High Court of Admiralty shall have jurisdiction to decide all matters and questions concerning booty of war, or the distribution thereof, which it shall please her Majesty, by the advice of her Privy Council, to refer to the judgement of the said court; and in all matters so referred the court shall proceed as in cases of prize of war, and the judgement of the court therein shall be binding upon all parties concerned.

23. Jurisdiction of courts of law and equity not taken away

Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall be deemed to preclude any of her Majesty's courts of law or equity now having jurisdiction over the several subject matters and causes of action herein-before mentioned from continuing to exercise such jurisdiction as fully as if this Act had not been passed.

24. [Repealed by the SLR Act, 1874, 37 & 38 Vict c 96]


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