Scope and Content

Records of the Petty Sessions Court held at Henley and Caversham, some records can be found in the Henley Borough collection, please see BOR3. The court closed in 1992.

The records mainly comprise of Minute Books and Registers of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, which became Registers of the Magistrates Court in the 1950s. The minute books contain brief details of the offenders, the information of witnesses and the court's verdict, while the registers provide the name of the informant/complainant and defendant, the offence, date and the minute of adjudication. Among the other documents are Registers of the Juvenile Court (which contain similar information to the main court registers), Registers of Licences (giving name of licensee and owner, address of premises and type of licence) and Clubs, Registers of Non-Contentious Business, Registers of Adoptions (supplying name of applicant, name, age and sex of infant, and the court's decision) and Probation Case Committee Minute Books.

Quarter Sessions were held four times a year, Petty Sessions much more frequently. The latter had civil jurisdiction, such as the licensing of premises for the sale of alcohol. Most, of their time spent on criminal cases involved trials of the vast amount of minor non-indictable crimes. However, under the Magistrates Courts Act of 1952 the magistrates could also try some indictable offences, especially those involving persons under the age of eighteen. Under Childrens and Young Persons Acts 1933-63 a bench of magistrates trying a child or young person was termed a Juvenile Court.

Petty Sessions was used as a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, held before two or more magistrates in a sessional court-house. However, a defendant could choose to go before a jury at Quarter Sessions or Assizes, if he felt he had a better chance of acquittal.

Quarter Sessions acted as a Court of Appeal from Petty Sessions, as well as a court of original jurisdiction in its own right for many indictable crimes. More serious cases, such as murder, were removed to Assize hearings. These courts were abolished on 1 January 1972: Petty Sessional Courts are now known as Magistrates Courts. Separate Borough Courts remained in existence until the Local Government Act of 1972.

The records were deposited as part of Acc 3471 in May 1995, Acc 6568 in April 2017, Acc 6816 in December 2019 and Acc 6864 in April 2021. Catalogued by Alison Smith in July 2021.

Access Information

Some records may be closed under the Data Protection Act, please see the individual records for more details.