Liverpool Crown Court Report
This research guide covers records of the Crown and Magistrates’ courts that replaced the assizes and quarter sessions following their abolition in 1971. It does not cover civil records such as the tribunals service (for example, child support, social security), county courts (civil litigation) or the civil division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
2. Abolition of the assize and quarter sessions
The ‘Report of the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions’ (Sessional Papers, House of Commons, Cmnd 4153, 1966-69, XXVIII, 433) was published in 1969. Chaired by Lord Beeching, the three year investigation identified many problems with the existing criminal justice system. To improve efficiency the report recommended its replacement with a nationally administered court and the Courts Act 1971 incorporated most of the recommendations. As a result, a higher criminal court known as the Crown Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature replaced the assizes and quarter sessions in 1972.
3. Records not yet transferred to The National Archives
All indictments (with the exception of the Central Criminal Court) and some case files have not yet been transferred to The National Archives (see table below). They remain in the custody of HM Courts and Tribunal Service. For information about these records contact the Ministry of Justice.
4. Crown court records held by The National Archives
Crown courts hear serious indictable offences such as robbery, rape and murder. A judge has overall responsibility for the court with a jury of twelve people providing the verdict. They also hear referrals for sentencing and appeals from lower courts.
For many of the Crown courts, The National Archives holds samples of surviving case files, and the indictments for most cases.
Liverpool and Manchester Crown courts are anomalies. They were established in 1956 following recommendations that they would combat a rise in crime in these areas. These new courts took responsibility for the quarter sessions work as well as criminal assize work for south Lancashire. The assizes work for the west Derby area was assigned to Liverpool and the assizes work of Salford was assigned to Manchester. Liverpool and Manchester Crown Courts also have stopping up orders in J 108 and J 109. To find the records of these courts prior to 1972, look under Lancashire in the research guide Assizes: key to series for English criminal trials, 1559-1971.
Not all of the documents in the record series below have been transferred to The National Archives because each Crown court transfers documents at a different rate.
Researchers are strongly advised to check whether the Crown court records you are seeking are held by The National Archives, or are still retained by the court service. You can check if the records you are seeking are held by The National Archives by consulting Discovery, our catalogue.
The indictment is an important document and contains key information about the progress of the trial, outcome and appeal (if relevant). The indictment was formally annotated during the trial thereby providing a concise account of the events and decisions that occurred. If the case went to appeal, the indictment will record the outcome.
Information contained on the indictment includes:
- defendant’s name, sex and date of birth
- whether bail or custody was granted
- date committed for trial, conviction and sentence date
- trial dates (from/to) added upon completion of the trial
- the identity of the firm of shorthand writers
- name of the Crown court who will hear the case
- judge’s name
- defence counsel names of barristers and solicitors
- prosecution counsel names of barristers and solicitors
- offences charged to the defendant listed as separate ‘counts’
- defendant’s plea to the charges
- jury’s verdict
- sentence or order
- appeal details – date of appeal and whether grounds for appeal granted or refused
A copy indictment, the larger of the two documents, is usually attached to the indictment and includes a list of witnesses called to trial, along with repeating much of the information contained within the initial indictment.
The case number is recorded on each indictment and will look similar to ‘721717’. The ’72’ denotes the year, in this case 1972, and the 1717 denotes the 1717th case heard by the Crown court that year. Some indictments are closed for longer periods, for example, indictments that identify minors.