Negative misprision is the concealment of treason or felony. By the common law of England it was the duty of every liege subject to inform the king's justices and other officers of the law of all treasons and felonies of which the informant had knowledge, and to bring the offender to justice by arrest (see Sheriffs Act 1887, s. 8). The duty fell primarily on the grand jurors of each county borough or franchise (until the abolition of grand juries in 1933), and is performed by indictment or presentment, but it also falls in theory on all other inhabitants (see Pollock and Maitland, Hist. Eng. Law, ii. 505). Failure by the latter to discharge this public duty constitutes what is known as misprision of treason or felony (see 3 Co. Inst., 139).
Misprision of treason, in the words of Blackstone, " consists in the bare knowledge and concealment of treason, without any degree of assent thereto, for any assent makes the party a principal traitor." According to Bracton, de Corond, seq. 118, failure to reveal the treason of another was in itself high treason, but statutes of 1551-1552 and 1554-1555 made concealment of treason misprision only. Most of the statutes regulating procedure on trials for treason also apply to misprision of treason. The punishment is loss of the profit of the lands of the offender during life, forfeiture of all his goods and imprisonment for life. These punishments are not affected by the Forfeiture Act 1870.
Misprision of felony is the concealment of a felony committed by another person, but without such previous concert with, or subsequent assistance of the offender, as would make the concealer an accessory before or after the fact. The offence is a misdemeanour punishable on indictment by fine and imprisonment.
Under the old common law hierarchy of crimes (as treasons, felonies and misdemeanours), misprision of treason was a felony and misprision of felony was a misdemeanour. (There was no such offence as misprision of a misdemeanour.) These categories were abolished in 1967.
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