Getting Started

The main historic records of the criminal justice system can be found in the National Archives and local record offices. The National Archives (TNA) holds the records of the Home Office (HO), Metropolitan Police (MEPO), Assize (ASSI – although local assize records are held at regional record offices) and Prison Commission records (PCOM). Records relating to convict transportation can also be found amongst the Colonial Office (CO) and Admiralty (ADM) records. The National Archives holds a huge range of records available, many of which are also now digitised and available from

The best way to explore what is available at TNA is by using their excellent online guides. For example: Criminals and Convicts, Criminal Trials in the Assize Courts, 1559-1971 and Police. Local Record Offices also hold some criminal justice and policing records. For example, these include local and regional police and constabulary archives, records of the court (Assize, Quarter Sessions, Petty Sessions or Magistrates court), local prison archives and reformatory and industrial school archives.

Survival and access can vary from archive to archive. Many record offices have excellent online information online (for example, the West Yorkshire Archives Service and the East Riding Archives Service). Before you visit an archive make sure you read the guidance on the website. Many allow you to register and even order in advance, so it is worth doing some initial preparation before you go. Archive staff are usually happy to answer questions although you are advised to contact them in advance of your visit, especially for more complicated queries (see the Researching Here section for getting started at TNA).

HMP Holloway: History and Sources

Holloway prison was originally built as the New City of London Prison…

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Street Scene

Source Guide for Hull and East Riding: Sources for researching your criminal past

Download our Source guide for researching your criminal past: An introduction to…

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Some suggested sources for tracing your police ancestors

Dr David J. Cox, University of Wolverhampton Local archives/record offices Policing agents…

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Industrial and Reformatory School Registers

Registers kept by Industrial and Reformatory Schools contain a great deal of…

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Quarter Sessions

Quarter-sessions were local courts usually held four times a year, which generally…

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Street Scene

Where to find criminal justice system records?

The main historic records of the criminal justice system can be found…

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Latest Updates on Twitter

One of mine (and quite probably @dchurchill01's) favourite sources on the @leedsparksstudy research project. The typography, in particular, is 🔥.

I got to write with Johnny Ilan! Our blog for the @BritSocCrim "Criminological postcards from London"#criminology #London

Ned Buntline's "The Mysteries of New York" (1848)
#crime #history #literature

William Connolly and his friend Harold Black worked together at Ogden's Imperial Tobacco in Anfield. They fought together and ultimately died together at Richebourg l'Avoue in France #OnThisDay 1915 #LivesOfWW1 #WW1

A strange noise proceeded from Mrs WEAVERS’ maid’s sleeping apartment. Observing the blankets were unusually protuberant, Mrs W. lifted them, when there burst upon her astonished vision, comfortably stowed beneath—a—a—gallant, gay lothario!” 🤭 Read on:

Remembering @WMPolice @brumpolice PWRC Leonard Arthur Mead, killed by enemy action while on duty during an air raid - aged 33, 17/5/1941

We are still trying to find a picture of Leonard if anyone can help


Stockings, lace and a muff: The reluctant haberdasher and the fashionable shoplifter

Are you a fan of Bagpuss? Don’t miss a free talk by Sandra Kerr, musician, singer, writer and creator of the music from Bagpuss. Saturday 7 July, 11am. Book your free ticket