Series VPRS 4892
Court of Petty Sessions Registers
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1888 - 1967
  Series in Custody 1888 - 1967
  Contents 1888 - 1967
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
1888 - 1967 Branxholme Courts VA 933
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 Court Registers in chronological order by date of hearing.

  • Function / Content
    Courts of Petty Sessions, known since 1971 as Magistrates' Courts, have dealt with a very large range of "minor" court matters. The types of cases heard, which have changed and increased over time, fall within four broad jurisdictions: criminal, civil, licensing and family law. Apart from a large number of tribunals, Courts of Petty Sessions/Magistrates' Courts provide the lowest level of redress in civil and criminal matters. The County Court, the Supreme Court and various Commonwealth courts have heard and determined more serious criminal cases and larger civil disputes. The licensing jurisdiction since 1886 has comprised non-liquor licensing matters only.

    Successive Justices' Acts, and more recently Magistrates' Court Acts, have required the clerk or registrar of each Court to make and keep a register of all convictions, orders and other proceedings of the Court. This register is the authoritative record of the Court. Until about 1888 this record was known as a Cause List Book.

    Initially, most clerks maintained a single register for all or most of the Court's business. This series comprises a Court Register which includes a mixture of cases from the various jurisdictions. Subsequently Clerks of Court were instructed to create separate registers for certain types of cases. Some Courts also began to maintain additional registers for different types of cases. Typically, separate registers have been established for the following cases:

    Adoption of Children Register
    Used for: Adoption of children (1928 to 1958)

    Civil/Summons Register
    Used for: Cases brought to court by summons

    Commonwealth Register
    Used for: Commonwealth jurisdiction (from 1915)

    Family Law Register
    Used for: Commonwealth family law jurisdiction (from 1975)

    Licence Register
    Used for: Liquor (pre 1886) and non-liquor licence applications

    Maintenance Register
    Used for: Maintenance cases (1928 to 1975)

    Police/Arrest Register
    Used for: Cases brought to court by police arrest

    Quasi Register
    Used for: Criminal cases brought by summons

    Special Complaints Register
    Used for: Civil cases where Court determines redress (1928 to 1979)

    Where courts have subdivided the registration of cases, each Register has been allocated a different Victorian Public Record Series (VPRS) number and the type of register has been included in the series title.

    Court Registers are generally in a common format, giving details of the case number, the name of the prosecutor or informant (in a criminal matter), complainant (in a civil matter), or applicant (in a licensing matter), the name of the accused or defendant, how the case came to the court (arrest, warrant, summons etc), the fees or court costs accrued, a description of the charge, cause or proceeding, the decision or order and any remarks. The column for remarks was often used to record the payment of fines and fees. In order to authenticate entries made in the register the presiding officer(s) of the court signed the register at the end of each day.

  • Recordkeeping System
    Each case was allocated a consecutive number in chronological order by the date the case came before the court. In the nineteenth century many courts used a system whereby the case number reverted to 1 each day, thus cases were identified by the date of hearing and their number. In the twentieth century an annual numbering system was used, in which case numbers reverted to 1 at the beginning of each year. The case number was annotated onto all documents, known as process, lodged with the court during the case.

    In the 1970's and 1980's many courts ceased to use bound volumes for the register and began the practice of recording the court's decision on the summons or warrant issued by the court to initiate proceedings. This document was annotated by the presiding Magistrate with his or her decision and then filed in case number order with other initiating documents to form a register. Some courts subsequently placed these documents in masonite folders or lever arch files, whilst at other courts the register is simply bundles of papers. Documents additional to the register were placed together to create a case file. In most instances these files were destroyed about fifteen years after the completion of the case to which they related.

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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
U0000 1888 - 1967 Open 4
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