For over 100 years bushrangers roamed throughout the state of NSW. Their exploits entranced the public and names such as Ben Hall, Captain Thunderbolt and Ned Kelly became both heroes and villains for many.
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 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.
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.