Cepi Corpus Et Paratum Habeo – Legal Maxim

Literal Meaning

I have taken the body and have it ready.


An arrival made by the sheriff to a capias promotion respondendum, which implied that he had the litigant prepared to bring into court. This was where the respondent was on the loose. Thereafter be was required by resolution to take safeguard from the litigant, and he returned cepi corpus and safeguard bond. Yet at the same time he may be ruled to acquire the body.


The maxim, cepi corpus et paratum habeo means I have the body and I have it ready. Cepi corpus et paratum habeo are formal words used in the return on a writ for the arrest of a person. 


Hebeas corpus is a writ requiring an individual in custody to be brought under the steady gaze of a judge or into court, particularly to verify the individual’s discharge except if legal grounds have appeared for their confinement.

Case Reference

In the case of Neck v Humphery and Peek[1], the case regarding an action against a sheriff for escape of a prisoner arrested on mesne process, the plaintiff proved the arrest by producing the sheriff’s return of cepi corpus et paratum habeo, it was held, that the latter words of the return produced by the plaintiff did not conclude him from proving the escape by parol evidence that the prisoner was at large after the return, and no bail bond lodged with the sheriff.

Also in R. v The Sheriff of Wilts[2] it was observed that the writ was returnable on the morrow of All Souls. The Defendant surrendered to the sheriff’s officer on the 3d of November, and to prison on the 5th. The Plaintiff issued a rule for bringing in the body, to which the sheriff returned cepi corpus et paratum habeo. An attachment having thereupon been directed against the sheriff, the Court set it aside on payment of all costs. Attachment against the sheriff for not bringing in the body. The writ was returnable on the morrow of All Souls; the party surrendered to the sheriff’s officer on the 3d of November, and to the county prison on the 5th. The sheriff had returned to a rule for bringing in the body, cepi corpus et paratum habeo.

In the case of Benson v Welby Late Sheriff of Lincoln[3] it was observed that Action upon the case by Benson against Welby late’ Sheriff of Lincoln: the plaintiff declares that one Wright was indebted to him in 332l. upon a penal bill obligatory, and for the recovery of the said debt he sued a writ out of this Court against Wright, directed to the Sheriff of Lincoln, returnable on Friday next after three weeks of St. Michael, by force of which writ the defendant then Sheriff of Lincoln arrested the said Wright, and afterwards suffered him to escape, the plaintiff not being satisfied of his debt, and at the return of the writ the defendant falsely and fraudulently returned a cepi corpus et paratum habeo; whereas in truth the defendant had not the body at the return of the writ, whereby the plaintiff was defrauded of his remedy for the recovery of his debt, wherefore he brought this action: the defendant demurred in law. And it was objected for the defendant, that here was an action for a false return of a cepi corpus et paratum habeo , where such action is not maintainable.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[1] Neck v Humphery and Peek, [1835] 4 WLUK 48

[2] R. v The Sheriff of Wilts, [1824] 1 WLUK 324

[3] Benson v Welby Late Sheriff of Lincoln, [1669] 1 WLUK 314


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I am Kousini Gupta, final year BBA.LLB. student from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. The topics in Constitutional, Intellectual Property, Entertainment and Media Law excite me in particular and bring out the best in me. I have interned at District Court, High Court and several reputed law firms. The experience of these internships was highly valuable and enriching. My research and publications have been accepted in reputed national journals. Besides, I also enjoy mooting and have several participation certificates to my credit. In my free time, I like to be creative with paintings and dance to my favourite tunes.