The Libel Act (1792) 32 Geo. III, c. 60
[This legislation introduced by Whig leader in the House of Commons, Charles James Fox, was designed to reduce the power of the judiciary to determine whether an impugned publication was criminally libellous, and by the same token to increase the power of juries in criminal libel cases to reach that general conclusion]
An act to remove doubts respecting the functions of juries in cases of libels.
Whereas doubts have arisen whether on the trial of an indictment or information for the making or publishing any libel, where an issue or issues are joined between the King and the defendant or defendants, on the plea of Not Guilty pleaded, it be competent to the jury impanelled to try the same to give their verdict upon the whole matter in issue: be it therefore declared and enacted . . . That, on every such trial, the jury sworn to try the issue may give a general verdict of guilty or not guilty upon the whole matter put in issue upon such indictment or information; and shall not be required or directed, by the court or judge before whom such indictment or information shall be tried, to find the defendant or defendants guilty, merely on the proof of the publication by such defendant or defendants of the paper charged to be a libel, and of the sense ascribed to the same in such indictment or information.
II. Provided always, That, on every such trial, the court or judge before whom such indictment or information shall be tried, shall, according to their or his opinion and directions to the jury on the matter in issue between the King and the defendant or defendants, in like manner as in other criminal cases.
III. Provided also, That nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend, to prevent the jury from finding a special verdict, in their discretion, as in other criminal cases.
IV. Provided also, That in case the jury shall find the defendant or defendants guilty, it shall and may be lawful for the said defendant or defendants to move in arrest of judgement, on such ground and in such manner as by law he or they might have done before the passing of this act; anything herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.