Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Barratry Definition:

An intentional wrongful act committed by the crew or master of a ship to the prejudice of the owner or the charterer.

Barratry has meaning in (1) maritime law as well as being (2) an ancient common law criminal offence.

•   In maritime law, as set out within the British Marine Insurance Act of 1906, which also refers to "barratrous conduct":

"The term barratry includes every wrongful act willfully committed by the master or crew to the prejudice of the owner, or, as the case may be, the charterer."

Bouvier's Law Dictionary described the maritime law term as:

"An unlawful or fraudulent act, or very gross and culpable negligence of the master or the mariners of a vessel in violation of their duty as such, and directly prejudicial to the owner and without his consent.

"It is said that the term implies an intentional injury; is does not embrace cases of negligence."

Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law gives the following examples of barratrous conduct:

"... running away with the ship, sinking her, deserting her or stealing the cargo ... but in English law, no mere negligence or default, no mater what loss may be caused thereby, will constitute barratry."

•  Historically, barratry was a common law criminal offence which, in Bouvier's Law Dictionary, is defined as:

"... the offence of frequently exciting and stirring up quarrels and suits, either at law or otherwise."

William Blackstone, in Volume 4 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, page 134, noted that the offence was similar to maintenance and champerty. Blackstone aded that:

"If the offender (as is too frequently the case) belongs to the profession of law, a barretor who is thus able as well as willing to do mischief ought also to be disabled from practising for the future.

An English law, at 12 George I, Chapter 29 , provided that any lawyer convicted of barratry was subject to being "transported for seven years" (sent to a colony such as Australia).


  • Marine Insurance Act 1906, 1906 Chapter 41 (6 Edward 7), published at www.bailii.org/uk/legis/num_act/1906/1067660.html


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