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TOWER BRIDGE MAGISTRATES COURT

Reference Code:  PS/TOW

Site Location
London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description
Collection
Date
1889-1953
Extent
33.15 linear metres (662 volumes)
Scope and Content
Records of Tower Bridge Magistrates Court, 1889-1953, comprising court registers and court minute books. Court registers record the date of the hearing, the name of the informant or complainant (often the police), the name of the defendant, a brief note of the offence and the decision of the magistrate. Court minute books or notebooks are rough notes of the proceedings recording the gist of the evidence given.
Classification
COURTS: MAGISTRATES
Administrative History
Tower Bridge Magistrates Court: Under a 1792 Act of Parliament a public office was opened in Union Hall, Union Street, Southwark, serving a district covering a large part of South London including Lambeth and Southwark. In 1845 the district was split and shared between two new courts, the Lambeth Police Court and Southwark Police Court. The latter was recorded as being in Blackman Street, Borough in 1845, and at 298 Borough High Street in 1892. The court moved in 1905 to Tooley Street and changed its name to Tower Bridge Police Court. The Act of 1792 established seven 'Public Offices' (later Police offices and Police courts) in the central Metropolitan area. The aim was to establish fixed locations where 'fit and able magistrates' would attend at fixed times to deal with an increasing number of criminal offences. Offices were opened in St Margaret Westminster, St James Westminster, Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Shadwell and Southwark. An office in Bow Street, Covent Garden, originally the home of the local magistrate, had been operating for almost 50 years and was largely the model for the new offices. Each office was assigned three Justices of the Peace. They were to receive a salary of £400 per annum. These were the first stipendiary magistrates. Later they were expected to be highly qualified in the law, indeed, to be experienced barristers. This distinguished them from the local lay justices who after the setting up of Police Offices were largely confined, in the Metropolitan area, to the licensing of innkeepers. In addition each office could appoint up to six constables to be attached to it. The commonly used term of 'Police Court' was found to be misleading. The word 'police' gave the impression that the Metropolitan Police controlled and administered the courts. This was never the case, the word 'police' was being used in its original meaning of 'pertaining to civil administration', 'regulating', etc. In April 1965 (following the Administration of Justice Act 1964) the London Police Courts with their stipendiary magistrates were integrated with the lay magistrates to form the modern Inner London Magistrates' Courts. The police courts dealt with a wide range of business coming under the general heading of 'summary jurisdiction', i.e. trial without a jury. The cases heard were largely criminal and of the less serious kind. Over the years statutes created many offences that the courts could deal with in addition to Common Law offences. Examples include: drunk and disorderly conduct, assault, theft, begging, possessing stolen goods, cruelty to animals, desertion from the armed forces, betting, soliciting, loitering with intent, obstructing highways, and motoring offences. Non-criminal matters included small debts concerning income tax and local rates, landlord and tenant matters, matrimonial problems and bastardy. Offences beyond the powers of the Court would normally be passed to the Sessions of the Peace or Gaol Delivery Sessions in the Old Bailey (from 1835 called the Central Criminal Court). From the late 19th century such cases would be the subject of preliminary hearings or committal proceedings in the magistrates' courts.
Copyright
Depositor
Access Restrictions
These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998
Arrangement
Court Registers (PS/TOW/A) Court Minutes (PS/TOW/B)
Creator
Tower Bridge Magistrates Court
Source of Acquisition
Deposited in March 1985 ACC/2094
Physical Condition
Fit

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