ATTAINDER, in the Law of England, was the immediate and inseparable consequence from the common law upon the sentence of death. When it was clear beyond all dispute that the criminal was no longer fit to live, he was called attaint, attinctus, stained or blackened, and could not, before the 6 and 7 Vict. c. 85, § 1, be a witness in any court. This attainder took place after judgment of death, or upon such circumstances as were equivalent to judgment of death, such as judgment of outlawry on a capital crime, pronounced for absconding from justice. Conviction without judgment was not followed by attainder. The consequences of attainder were - lst, Forfeiture ; 2d, Corruption of blood. On attainder for treason, the criminal forfeited to the Crown his lands, rights of entry on lands, and any interest he might have in lands for his own life or a term of years. For murder, the offender forfeited to the Crown the profit of his freeholds during life, and in the case of lands held in fee-simple, the lands themselves for a year and a day ; subject to this, the lands escheated to the lord of the fee. These forfeitures related back to the time of the offence committed. Forfeitures of goods and chattels ensued not only on attainder, but on conviction for a felony of any kind, or on flight from justice, and had no relation backwards to the time of the offence committed. By corruption of blood, "both upwards and downwards," the attainted person could neither inherit nor transmit lands. The lands escheated to the lord of the fee, subject to the Crown's right of forfeiture. The doctrine of attainder has, however, ceased to be of much importance. By the 33 and 34 Vict. c. 23, it is enacted that henceforth no confession, verdict, inquest, conviction, or judgment of or for any treason or felony, or felo de se, shall cause any attainder or corruption of blood, or any forfeiture or escheat. Sentence of death, penal servitude, or imprisonment with hard labour for more than twelve months, after conviction for treason or felony, disqualifies from holding or retaining a seat in Parliament, public offices under the Crown or otherwise, right to vote at elections, &c., and such disability is to remain until the punishment has been suffered or a pardon obtained. Provision is made for the due administration of convicts' estates, in the interests of themselves and their families. Forfeiture consequent on outlawry is exempted from the provisions of the Act.
Bills of Attainder in Parliament ordinarily commence in the House of Lords ; the proceedings are the same as on other bills, but the parties affected by them may appear by counsel and witnesses in both Houses. In the case of an impeachment, the House of Commons is prosecutor and the House of Lords judge ; but proceedings by Bill of Attainder are legislative in form, and the consent of Crown, Lords, and Commons is therefore necessary.