Bench of Magistrates guide

The first Bench of Magistrates was convened in Sydney on 19 February 1788

Historical background

The first Bench of Magistrates was convened in Sydney on 19 February 1788.

The first Charter of Justice (1787) provided for the disposal of minor criminal matters and public order offences by three designated justices of the peace (the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Judge Advocate). Governor Phillip's second commission enabled him to appoint additional justices to deal with the expected heavy workload, and a number of civic and military officers were appointed as magistrates from 1788 onwards.

The first Bench of Magistrates was convened in Sydney on 19 February 1788. By 1800 sittings were held regularly in Parramatta and the Hawkesbury district, and the use of magisterial proceedings had become widespread in the Colony by the 1820s. As settlement spread during the squatting era, magistrates and their clerks performed an increasingly wide range of judicial and administrative functions, particularly in more remote areas.

The Judge Advocate's Bench of Magistrates, presided over by the Judge Advocate and held in his offices from the time that they were erected, met from February 1788 until the promulgation of the Third Charter of Justice in 1824 when the office of Judge Advocate was abolished and new courts were constituted. In fact this Bench seldom met after 1818.

Main record series

NRS 3397 Judge Advocate's Bench of Magistrates, Proceedings

19 Feb 1788-1821

The related online index lists cases heard before the Judge Advocate's Bench of Magistrates between 19 February 1788-25 November 1820. It includes meetings of the bench at Rose Hill (Parramatta) from 7 October 1789. Information includes surname, name, charge/nature of document, date, number, page, item identifier, reel, COD, and remarks. Hearings reflecting the Bench's other functions are also noted. These include setting the price of bread, issuing and cancelling publicans' licences, swearing in constables and controlling the markets. The names of individuals appearing on the lists relating to publicans' licences, constables and female servants will be progressively added to Index.

Related records