The Petty Session's Branch was established by 1858. (1) The role of the branch is not documented.
On 12 February 1866 responsibility for the Police magistrates and the Courts of Petty Sessions was transferred from the Chief Secretary to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. (2) This was one of many changes of superior agency that saw the branch move frequently between the Colonial Secretary and the Attorney General’s Department before settling into the Department of Justice and Public Instruction at the end of 1873.
By 1872 the branch had responsibility for ‘Central Police Office, Water Police Office, Police Magistrates and Clerks of Petty Sessions’. (3) By 1904 it comprised Stipendiary Magistrates, Central Water Police, Water Police Office, Interpreters, Police Magistrates and Clerks of Petty Sessions. (4)
It is understood that the role of the branch was to administer the system of Courts of Petty Sessions including:
Determining the places where Courts would be established;
Ensuring that the Courts were adequately staffed;
Monitoring the system e.g. maintaining statistics;
Deciding whether a Court should be closed .
However, the managerial structure of the branch is not recorded.
Many of the clerical staff acquired legal qualifications while in office.
In June 1955 shorthand writers began replacing Deposition clerks and it was reported that this "has been an unqualified success and has resulted in the expeditious disposal of business in an efficient manner". (5)
The Public Service Board reported that the title of the Petty Sessions Branch (Administration) was changed to the Magistrates Courts Administration on 19 May 1975. (6) It would appear, however, that the section achieved greater independence as a result of this name change that in fact resulted in the creation of a new agency.
1. Public Service List 1858.
2. NSW Government Gazette, 13 February 1866, p.453.
3. Public Service List 1872, pp.25-27.
4. Public Service List 1904, pp.68-98.
5. Department of Attorney General and Justice, Report for the year ended 30 June 1956 under regulation 32 (of the Public Service Board), p.2 [State Records: 12/1254-60].
6. Public Service Board Annual Report, 1975-6, p.77.