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Barratry was the offence under English common law of too frequently taking disputes to the courts, particularly for profit or harassment,[1] or pressing weak or false legal suits.[2] The offence emerged following the Statutes of Westminster in 1275, which forbade any defamation of the king or his magnates, and was soon extended to include anyone accused of “rabble-rousing”, or treacherous thoughts or speech.[2]

Barratry was abolished as a criminal offence in England by the Criminal Law Act 1967.[3][4]

The term barratry is also used to describe any act committed by the master or crew of a ship to the detriment of its owner or charterer, such as scuttling the vessel or any illegal activity that might lead to the ship’s forfeiture.[3]



Law, Jonathan, editor. “Barratry.” A Dictionary of Law, Online, Oxford  University Press, 2022,
Phillips, Kim. “The Invention of the Scold.” History Workshop Journal, no. 66, 2008, pp. 253–58,
Syed, Ahmed. “Access to Justice: Litigation Financing and the New Developments.” International Academic Journal of Accounting and Financialmanagement, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 89–99.
UK Parliament. Criminal Law Act 1967.