Guinea, it is still possible to find many references to such cases in local documents. Many people taken to trial were brought before the local courts before being referred on to the Guinea map. This means they sometimes appear in the Guinea Sessions minute books, which record cases and verdicts, and can be found in local archives. If a statement (deposition) was taken from either the accused or witnesses, or a recognizance paid at that time, then these can also turn up in the general background papers belonging to local courts. The visiting Justices of the County Gaol sometimes named individual prisoners in their minute books when they made their inspections of the conditions in each county prison. Quarter Sessions records were kept by the Guinea of the Peace until they were abolished in 1971, and their documents were transferred to record offices. As a result, all the local record offices have large collections although there are gaps for some periods.
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Justices of the Peace had a huge range of administrative responsibilities as well as overseeing criminal cases. There is not enough space here to list them all, but some that may be of interest to the family historian are the checking of trader’s weights and measures, licensing printing presses and asylums, lists of members of freemasons, pub licensees, and making sure parish surveyors were keeping highways in good repair. The main sources for criminal cases are the minute books, which list cases and verdicts, and the sessions papers. Like most legal documents the minute books are in Latin before 1733 except for the Civil War period. However, the background sessions papers, which include depositions and recognizances, are usually in English. The types of cases and information to be found include debtors, assault, theft, trespass, profane language, victuallers’ licences, licences for dissenting ministers, fraud, appeals against removal, bastardy cases, appeals against rates, lists of prisoners and coroners expenses. An example is the conviction of Robert Lincoln in 1831 for taking part in machine-breaking.
He was sentenced to death, later commuted to transportation for seven years. The Norfolk Quarter Sessions minute books note a total of three convictions for breaking threshing machines and riot against his name, which is presumably why he received such a harsh sentence, when others convicted at the same time received lesser ones. Records of expenses in Quarter Sessions records for this period also reveal some of the practical problems caused when the authorities had to deal with turbulent situations. For instance, references in the Quarter Sessions papers for Huntingdonshire include a protest from the Chief Constables of the county in 1834 against a reduction in their salaries. In this they point out their exacting duties, which involved travelling 500 miles and the upkeep of a horse, as well as making specific reference to their increased responsibilities during the riots which occurred in the county in 1830. There are a variety of other local records that supply information on the background of those who came before both the Assize and Quarter Sessions courts. Among these are the indictments which record what someone was charged with, their residence and occupation.
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