Crown Courts

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This is a backup of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and remains unavailable.

The Crown Court was established in 1972 by the Courts Act 1971 to replace the courts of Assize and Quarter Sessions. The Crown Court is a permanent unitary court across England and Wales, whereas the Assizes were periodic local courts heard before judges of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, who travelled across the seven circuits into which England and Wales were divided, assembling juries in the Assize Towns and hearing cases. The Quarter Sessions were local courts assembled four times a year to dispose of criminal cases which were not serious enough to go before a High Court judge.

Before 1971 there were two Crown Courts at Liverpool and Manchester, these two courts superceeded the general criminal assizes courts.A Crown Court and a County Court may be located in the same building and use the same jurors. Since the establishment of Her Majesty's Courts Service in April 2005 there is an increased sharing of facilities between Crown Courts, County Courts and Magistrates' Courts.

All courts are now part of Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS, this is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The court service is responsible for managing the magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court, county courts, the High Court and Court of Appeal in England and Wales. These courts deal with criminal and civil cases including adoption, wills and probate.

The Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), which was originally established by its own Act of Parliament, is now part of the Crown Court, and is one of the main criminal courts in London.

Cases for Yorkshire come under the North Eastern Circuit along with Northumberland and Durham. For most of the Crown Courts, The National Archives mainly holds case files. The majority of case files are closed for 30 years although under the Freedom of Information Act 2001, a request can be made via email, or in writing, for a review of closed files. More information about Freedom of Information can be found at TNA.


Not all of the documents in the record series below have been transferred to The National Archives because each Crown Court transfers documents at a different rate. Researchers are strongly advised to check whether the Crown Court records you are seeking are held by The National Archives, or are still retained by the Court Service. You can check if the records you are seeking are held by The National Archives by consulting the Catalogue (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue For further information see here.