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 National Archives holds a huge range of records available, many of which are also now digitised and available from www.findmypast.co.uk.

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).

Latest Updates on Twitter

Our own Prof Shore (@ourcriminalpast), is in this month's @HistoryExtra talking about the idea of the Victorian underworld:

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A must read for anyone interested in the "underworld" from a very thoughtful and astute historian. Before we imagined professional crime as #organizedcrime, we thought of it as an underworld - and some still do #twitterstorians. https://t.co/JTu4J8gAae

An everyday tale of death from caressing a mad cat. #history #1820s #research #newspapers #hydrophobia #death

Out this week!! Heather Shore challenges misconceptions about 19th century crime in BBC History magazine @HistoryExtra @becketthistory @ourcriminalpast @BBC

#Transcribe the prison record of Ah Koon imprisoned for burglary in 1895 #twitterstorians https://t.co/WxHSti0MRT

Stumbled on this very familiar trial from @OldBaileyOnline today https://t.co/SRF2n3ROLB -case resulting from infamous 1885 Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. Found myself wondering, not for the first time, what became of little Eliza Armstrong when it was all over? #ESRCvictims

I feel inspired to research some women but there were no female police detectives in 19th century England, so I’m investigating the lives of detectives’ wives, as they were generally overlooked. I’m starting with Amelia Caminada. #womenshistory

An 1861 survey named all the 14,000+ adult workhouse inmates in England & Wales who had been resident for 5+ years. Now all listed via links under the 'Inmates' section on each union's web page on https://t.co/hunTf5jT7y