Barratry (O. Fr. bareter, barater, to barter or cheat), in English criminal law, the offence (more usually called common barratry) of constantly inciting and stirring up quarrels in disturbance of the peace, either in courts or elsewhere. It is an offence both at common law and by statute, and is punishable by fine and imprisonment. By a statute of 1726, if the person guilty of common barratry belonged to the profession of the law, he was disabled from practising in the future. It is a cumulative offence, and it is necessary to prove at least three commissions of the act. For nearly two centuries there had been no record of an indictment having been preferred for this offence, but in 1889 a case occurred at the Guildford summer assizes, R. v. Bellgrove (The Times, 8th July 1889). As, however, the defendant was convicted of another offence, the charge was not proceeded upon. (See Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law; Russell, Crimes and Misdemeanours; Stephen, Criminal Law.)
In marine insurance barratry is any kind of fraud committed upon the owner or insurers of a ship by a master with the intention of benefiting himself at their expense. Continental jurists give a wider meaning to barratry, as meaning any wilful act by the master or crew, by whatever motive induced, whereby the owners or charterers are damnified. In bills of lading it is usual to except it from the shipowners' liability (see Affreightment).