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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LSJ
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1889-1910
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 1.35 linear metres
Name of creator(s): London County Petty Sessions


Administrative/Biographical history:

Since 1361 the Justices of the Peace met in their court of Quarter Sessions to try offences, and also, from the mid Sixteenth Century to deal with county administration. It was from this latter date with the increase in their workload that Justices began to do some of their business (minor legal and specific administrative tasks) outside of the formal sessions, either singly or in small groups.

Over the next century meetings outside of sessions became more regular, and more matters were dealt with there which had previously been heard at full sessions. They were often carried out at the magistrates' own homes, sometimes at special session meetings in a local court house, tavern or other meeting place. From 1828 all courts of Quarter Sessions were able to create districts or divisions specifically for petty sessions, either new areas or formalising any earlier informal divisions.

It was not only routine administration which was dealt with at these meetings, but some of the judicial procedure which needed carrying out pre-trial. Magistrates would examine alleged offenders and witnesses, take sworn statements (depositions), issue warrants for arrest or summonses to appear at court, bind over individuals to appear, and commit the accused to gaol to await trial or further investigation. Increasingly, they went further and began to sit without a jury to dispense immediate summary justice - either alone, or as a group of two or more known as the 'petty sessions'. They were, of course, hearing very minor cases such as those involving common assault, drunkenness, apprenticeship disputes, byelaw infringement, and (from 1664) attendance at illegal religious assemblies. The punishment they gave here was binding over with a recognizance to keep the peace; committal to prison for a short time (with a discharge before a main trial at the sessions started); or arbitration between the parties concerned to reach a settlement.

Offences which required a jury trial would still be heard at Quarter Sessions or the Assizes (Gaol Delivery Sessions at the Old Bailey), but petty sessions avoided the expense and hassle of a full trial for what were literally petty cases.


Scope and content/abstract:

Lists of convictions under the Summary Jurisdiction Act, some filed from the police courts, 1889-1910.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Records arranged in one series: LSJ/CR: Calendars of Convictions.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Statutory deposit.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2009 to February 2010

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