One of the earliest courts established in New South Wales, the Vice Admiralty Court was an Imperial Court whereby directives, instructions, imperial bills and acts changing its structure or procedures as well as rules, regulations and tables of fees were received via dispatches from the Secretary of State. Under this arrangement, local conditions could not be taken into account; as a result, the Court was much maligned, particularly by merchants who felt that both the scale of fees and the relatively slow dispatch of business in the Court were detrimental to merchant shipping in New South Wales as a whole.
Insolvency - The inability to satisfy creditors or discharge liabilities. Early legislation in NSW addressed insolvency rather than bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy - Bankruptcy is similar, but not identical to insolvency. Bankruptcy involves the sequestration of a person's assets when they are unable to meet the demands of creditors. Bankruptcy is a state in which a person is unable to pay creditors and is required to undergo a legal process that usually results in liquidation of his/her estate in order to meet expenses (as least in part). If a person is declared to be a bankrupt then he or she cannot operate a business for profit, enter a business contract or borrow money.
The Letters Patent (or Charter of Justice) provided that the Court should be a Court of Record presided over by the Judge Advocate of the Colony, together with six naval or military officers appointed by the Governor, with the authority to try all criminal causes which were offences under the law of England. A majority vote of the Court was sufficient for conviction except in capital cases, where unless five members of the Court held the accused guilty, the matter was reserved for Royal decision.
The first Bench of Magistrates was convened in Sydney on 19 February 1788. By 1800 sittings were held regularly in Parramatta and the Hawkesbury district, and the use of magisterial proceedings had become widespread in the Colony by the 1820s. As settlement spread during the squatting era, magistrates and their clerks performed an increasingly wide range of judicial and administrative functions, particularly in more remote areas.
Inquests are conducted by coroners and are held to investigate the manner and cause of death
Justices of the Peace were authorised to keep the peace for the territory of New South Wales by being able to arrest, take bail, bind to good behaviour and to suppress and punish riots.
A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to divorce and procedures for accessing Divorce Case Papers (Open to Public Access after 30 years).
An overview of the Court of Claims and a list of the main records series in our collection. The Commissioners appointed in the court were empowered to hear the claims of all persons holding or claiming to hold lands where grants had been promised and claiming to have grants delivered to them.
As a result of the criticisms of the existing judicial arrangements in NSW by Commissioner Bigge, the existing Court of Criminal Jurisdiction and the Supreme Court of Civil Jurisdiction were abolished. The Supreme Court was established under the Third Charter of Justice (1823), operating with a number of jurisdictions from 1824. The Supreme Court heard all matters that were punishable by death until the abolition of the death penalty in 1955.
The Quarter Sessions court was an intermediate court with greater powers than the local court or bench but not as great as the Supreme Court. It could hear all crimes and misdemeanours where the crime was not punishable by death. It met three times a year at various locations throughout NSW. It was composed of two or more magistrates, presided over by an elected Chairman who served the entire colony/state.