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Series VPRS 4912
Court of Petty Sessions Cause List Books (1859-1888); Court of Petty Sessions Registers (1888-1966)
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1859 - 1966
  Series in Custody 1859 - 1966
  Contents 1859 - 1966
Public Access: Open
Location: Ballarat
Format of Records: Physical
 
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1859 - 1966 Harrow Courts VA 935
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
2002 - cont Melbourne Courts VA 518
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Cases were recorded in Cause List Books and Court of Petty Sessions Registers in chronological order by date of hearing.

  • Function / Content
    Courts of Petty Sessions (now known as Magistrates' Courts) dealt with a very large range of "minor" court matters. Cases were heard in three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and licensing. In the nineteenth century they provided the lowest level of redress in civil and criminal matters. The County Court and the Supreme Court heard and determined more serious criminal cases and larger civil disputes. The licensing jurisdiction included both liquor and non-liquor licensing matters until 1886 when separate liquor Licensing Courts were established.

    Successive Justices Acts required clerks of Petty Sessions to keep a record of all decisions and orders made by Courts of Petty Sessions. This record is the authoritative record of the court. Until about 1888, volumes used for this purpose were called Cause List Books (a cause meaning a case). Most Courts of Petty Sessions dealt with criminal, civil and licensing matters as they arose. Accordingly, Cause List Books generally give details of all these types of cases. Only the largest and busiest courts recorded civil, criminal and licensing matters separately.

    Cause List Books are generally in a common format. At the top of each page are recorded details of the name of the court, the date of sitting and the name of the Chairman of the court and other presiding officer(s). For each case heard, details are given of the name of the complainant, defendant, any fees to be paid, the cause (ie the criminal charge or the nature of the civil claim), the decision and any remarks. The remarks column was sometimes used to record the payment of fines or fees. In order to authenticate entries made in the Cause List Book the presiding officer(s) of the court signed it at the end of each day.

  • Recordkeeping System
    Entries in the Cause List Books were made in chronological order according to the date the case was heard by the court and each case received a consecutive number. At most courts this numbering sequence reverted to 1 at the commencement of each day the court sat. Thus cases were identified by the date of hearing and their number.

    This identifying symbol was annotated onto all documents lodged with the court prior to or during the case. The documents were known as "process" and were placed together to create a case file. In most instances files dating from the nineteenth century have been destroyed.

    From about 1888 Cause List Books became known as Registers. Although their format altered slightly from this time their purpose remained the same.

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Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0000 1859 - 1966 Open 14
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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