The Daily Telegraph
Pistol aimed at Victoria on Mall fired gun on treason law
The Treason Act 1842 was passed early in the reign of Queen Victoria, drafted after a series of incidents in which the Queen was challenged by armed men while carrying out her royal duties.
The new law was less serious than High Treason and allowed for a person to be prosecuted for having a firearm or offensive weapon in the Queen’s presence with intent to injure or alarm her or to cause a breach of the peace, carrying a maximum sentence of seven years.
The last person convicted under the act is Jaswant Singh Chail, 21, who admitted to police and soldiers that he wanted to kill the late Queen when he was found at Windsor Castle wielding a crossbow on Christmas Day 2021.
On Friday, Mr Chail became the only person to be convicted for the crime since Marcus Sarjeant was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 1981, after pleading guilty to firing blank shots at the Queen during the Trooping of the Colour.
After his release from prison, Mr Sarjeant wrote to the Queen to apologise for his actions but did not receive a reply. Mr Chail said his actions had been motivated by revenge for the 1919 Amritsar massacre. He will be sentenced in March pending a psychiatric evaluation.
Before the 1842 Act, the ancient offence of High Treason, dating back to 1351, punished anyone plotting or “imagining” the death of a monarch, as well as for “levying war” or “adhering to the King’s Enemies”.
William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw, was the last person to be convicted under this Act for broadcasting Nazi propaganda to Britain during the Second World War.
He was captured at the end of the war and after his conviction for High Treason was hanged at Wandsworth prison in 1945.
The High Treason Act of 1351 has been updated several times over the centuries, most recently in 1998 when the Crime and Disorder Act formally abolished the death penalty for treason and replaced it with a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The 1842 Treason Act can be traced back to May 29 1842, when John Francis aimed a pistol at Queen Victoria as she rode in a carriage along The Mall. He did not fire the gun.
He did it again the next day and was arrested and convicted of high treason, receiving the death penalty, then commuted to a life sentence.