Law and the Courts - Wellington HTML

Contents

Introduction

Court records can give a fascinating window into people’s lives. An encounter with the legal system – be it for some minor altercation between neighbours or a criminal trial for a major crime – is a stressful and sometimes deeply traumatic. The records that remain are a rich source for researchers. They contain a multitude of details about the lives of ordinary people and their contact with the legal system.

Archives New Zealand holds court records from the late 19th century until about 10 years before the present day. Please note information changes over time and is subject to continuous updating and amendment. Archives New Zealand receives transfers from government agencies intermittently. Please contact our Wellington office for further information.

This research guide lists Wellington office holdings for the upper South and lower North Islands. It covers records not included in the Personal Identity, Making a Living and Welfare Research Guides and updates the Wellington information in Gavel and Quill 1997. Similar court records can be found in our three regional offices but these are not included here.

The listings in this guide, organised by place, cover civil and criminal cases heard before the Courts: a Magistrate’s Court, Court of Appeal, District or High Court. There may be cross-over between courts as cases originate in one and are concluded in another. Agency code searches in Archway give more information about the actual courts.

Note: Puke Ariki in New Plymouth holds a considerable number of New Plymouth Court records.

Access

Some civil records are open, but most are restricted for 60 years. R denotes a restricted record; R60; R100 indicates the restriction period.

All Criminal records under 100 years old are restricted. Some records may also be sealed or restricted for longer periods by a court order. All requests for permission to access restricted records should provide information about the reason for the research. The more information provided, the easier it is to consider the request.

Details about restrictions and who to contact for access permission are found in individual Archway entries. Access enquiries may need to be directed to the individual court registrar, the Ministry of Justice or the Department of Corrections.

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Civil: Actions

Civil Cases and Plaints

Actions or civil proceedings involved legal action brought under civil statute (as opposed to criminal statute) usually by one citizen (plaintiff) against another citizen (defendant) for financial or other reasons.

Plaint Registers list civil cases, and files may also exist. File numbers are found in the registers which contain particulars of plaintiff, defendant, and the progress of the case. In a very few cases plaints are listed by surname on Archway.

Records are open access, except where civil records are included with restricted criminal/adoption records. Civil record books marked as restricted will need to be checked by Archives staff on a case-by-case basis to ensure they include no criminal/adoption records. The records below are open unless otherwise stated.

Blenheim

Brightwater

Carterton

Collingwood

Cullensville (see Havelock)

Dannevirke

Eltham (see Stratford)

Eketahuna

Featherston

Greytown

Hastings

Havelock (includes Cullensville)

Hawera

Inglewood

Civil Record Book 1889-1949 [ADCA 21558 W5394/183-193]

Kaikoura

(see also plaints listed by individual surname, held in our Christchurch office, searchable on Archway)

Kopua (and Ormondville)

Civil Record Book 1881-1884 [ABJJ W4074/102]

Levin (including Otaki, Foxton)

Lower Hutt

Civil Record Book 1952-1980 R60 [AAOI W3793/1-11]

Manaia

Masterton

Martinborough

Napier

Nelson

New Plymouth

Opunake

Ormondville (see also Kopua & Waipawa)

Pahiatua

Palmerston North

Patea

Picton

Pongaroa

Porangahau

Stratford (includes Eltham)

Waipawa and Ormondville

Waipawa

Waipukurau

Wairoa

Whanganui

Wellington

Woodville – Palmerston North High Court

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Civil: Miscellaneous/Agency

Agency is a Wellington court term used for early miscellaneous cases, and for cases referred by other Supreme Courts. Agency covered a wide range, including suits, appeals, chattels registration, land transfers and disputes. Case files are usually held. Most cases were later classified as Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous was the term used to describe all such cases from other courts. Miscellaneous registers may contain material on companies winding up, aged and infirm persons, matrimonial property applications, changes of name by deed poll, criminal and civil appeals, domestic appeals, applications by solicitors to the bar and anything else that did not fit into other registers. Case files are usually held.

Records are open unless stated. Restrictions relate to criminal cases and adoption records. Restrictions are for 60 years from the last paper on the file, or for 100 years. Adoption records are restricted indefinitely.

Blenheim

Dannevirke

Miscellaneous Applications Registers 1970-1978 [ABPQ W4287/96]

Eketahuna

Miscellaneous Domestic Proceedings Register 1970-1976 [AAOY W3298/844]

Hastings

Havelock

Miscellaneous Applications 1894-1933 [ABYB 22204/214]

Hawera

Miscellaneous Applications Index 1949-1979 [ABIB W3865/63]

Kaikoura

Miscellaneous Applications Record Book 1937-1970 (indexed) R [ABYB 22174 W5445/148]

Levin

Lower Hutt

Miscellaneous Court Files – sample 1981 (search by name on Archway) R60 [AAOI W3048/1]

Masterton

Napier

Nelson

Miscellaneous Registers 1901, 1926, 1947, 1965, 1978 [AAOO 18000 W5444/365-369]

New Plymouth

Pahiatua

Palmerston North

Stratford (includes Eltham)

Waipukurau

Wairoa

Civil Index to Miscellaneous Applications 1972-1978 [AEAR 21521 W5516/75]

Wanganui

Wellington

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Criminal

Archives New Zealand holds a wealth of summary information on criminal cases including Returns of Prisoners Tried, Court Calendars, Criminal Record Books, Criminal Trial and Sentence Registers, and Crown Books. We also hold many criminal case files, mostly for more serious crimes.

Police Gazettes contain a wealth of useful information on criminal cases and should be used in conjunction with the criminal records described here. If you do not know which court the case was tried in you will need to use the Gazettes. This will enable you to find the correct return of Prisoners Tried to access available court information. For more information see Info Sheet 1: Police Gazettes.

Access

All Criminal records under 100 years old are restricted. Some records may also be sealed or restricted for longer periods by a court order. All requests for permission to access restricted records should provide information about the reason for the research. The more information provided, the easier it is to consider the request. Requests for permission to access restricted criminal records held at Archives New Zealand should be directed to the court that transferred the records. For contact details, please see the Courts of New Zealand website.

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Criminal Record Books

Criminal Record Books are court registers of cases heard and include such details as the name of the prosecutor and defendant, charge, plea, verdict and sentence/date of issue of warrant of imprisonment.

Some cases are accessed by indexes, either separate books or included in the registers themselves. Other volumes have no indexes and have to be searched. They are arranged by date of the case hearing. Some criminal record books are for cases heard in Children’s Courts. These can involve criminal charges against minors or charges brought against parents or guardians on the behalf of the children themselves.

Blenheim

Brightwater

Record Book of Criminal Cases 1881-1912 [ADEF 16266 JC-Brightwater 1/4]

Carterton

Criminal Record Book 1891-1951 [AAOF 22034 W5447/506-520]

Chatham Islands

Criminal Record Books 1914-1965 [ADDJ 16267 JC-CI1/5-6]

Collingwood

Dannevirke

Eketahuna

Criminal Record Book 1902-1932, 1935-1951 [AAOY W3298/981-986]

Eltham

Featherston

Criminal Record Book 1891-1970 [AAOF 22049 W5447/528-546]

Foxton

Criminal Record Book 1881-1970 [AAON W4370/50-54]

Greytown

Hastings

Havelock (includes Cullensville)

Criminal Record Book 1881-1925 [ABYB 21708 W5445/24, 39, 40, 227]

Hawera

Inglewood

Criminal Record Book 1898-1951 [ADCA 21600 W5394/353-358]

Levin

Criminal Record Book 1896-1971 [AAON W4370/3-9, 58]

Lower Hutt

Manaia

Criminal Record Book 1883-1929-1932 [ABIB W3865/3, 122]

Masterton

Martinborough

Criminal Record Book 1940-1951 [AAOF 22027 W5447/547-548]

Napier

Nelson

New Plymouth

Criminal Record Book 1881-1970 (some gaps) [ADCA 21567 W5394/216-290]

Opunake

Ormondville

Criminal Record Book 1889-1932 [ABPQ W4287/36-38, 58]

Otaki

Pahiatua

Palmerston North

Picton

Criminal Record Book 1961-1966 [ABYB 21701 W5445/63]

Pongaroa

Criminal Record Book 1907-1931 [AAOY W3298/993]

Porongahau

Criminal Record Book 1895-1921 [ABJJ W4074/96]

Stratford

Tinui

Criminal Record Book 1918-1950 [AAOF 22325 W5447/549]

Waipawa

Waipukurau

Wairoa

Waitara

Waverley

Criminal Record Book 1903-1929, 1940-1949 [AAOG 23433/1, 5-7, 34]

Wanganui

Wellington

Woodville

Criminal Record Book 1896-1908, 1918-1951 [AAOY W3298/976-980]

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Trial (& Sentence) Registers

Prisoners Tried or Committed for Sentence

Entries in these registers are chronological, with an alphabetical index in the front of each volume. They record the details of criminal trials and/or sentencing. They include the name of the prisoner, crime, place and date of committal, receipt of depositions. Some also include the plea and verdict, result of the hearing, date of the sentence and remarks of the solicitor.

Blenheim

Register of Prisoners for Trial & Sentence 1915-2003 [ABYB 22142/1]

Masterton

Napier

New Plymouth

Prisoner Register for Trial & Sentence 1915-1949 [ABAJ 21925 W5395/439]

Palmerston North

Wanganui

Prisoners for Trial & Sentence Register 1915-1972 [AAOG W3559/3]

Wellington

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Cases

Criminal case files can be located through the variety of registers listed in this Guide. Some are also listed on Archway Staff by the name of the person convicted. Criminal case files (including those listed as an alphabetical sequence in our earlier guide to court records Gavel and Quill) are not listed on Archway and can only be found by doing a restricted search on Archway Staff. Special access permission is required before such a search can be undertaken.

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Trial (& Sentence) Files

Trial files consist of depositions, witness statements, evidence and the final verdict. They contain subsequent court papers such as correspondence regarding legal aid. Some trial files also contain information from the sentencing. Trial and sentencing information was usually separated into different files from 1940 onwards though there are some exceptions to this rule. Apart from Blenheim files (which are over 100 years old, unrestricted and searchable on Archway), files are accessed through Criminal Trial and Sentence Registers.

Blenheim

Trial Files (listed by surname) 1876-1910 [ABYB 23218/3-16]

Masterton

Trial and Sentence Files 1910-1913, 1915-1930 [AAOF 22080 W5447/374-376]

Napier

Trial Files 1951-1991 [AAOW W5482/213-367]

New Plymouth

Palmerston North

Wellington

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Crown Books

These volumes summarise Supreme Court criminal proceedings. Information includes charge, plea, verdict, sentence, and a list of exhibits. Names given are: parties in the case, judge, legal counsel, court officers present, jury members and witnesses heard. Each stage of the hearing is listed, with a time. Volumes are often indexed.

Blenheim

Masterton

Crown Book 1910-1931 [AAOF 21970 W5447/387]

New Plymouth

Crown Book 1964-1990[ABAJ 21921 W5395/432-433]

Pahiatua

Crown Book 1904-1909 [AAOY W3298/1001-1002]

Palmerston North

Whanganui

Crown Book 1892-1936, 1938-1983 [ABCG 23382/1-8]

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Returns of Prisoners Tried

These Returns include cases tried in both Magistrates’ and Supreme Courts but referred to a Supreme Court for sentencing. Arranged chronologically, the records are sometimes indexed. They give name, age, nationality, and religion (until 1942) of the accused, and include a summary of offences, court dates, verdict and sentence, if applicable, and the file number for the criminal case file which can contain a detailed record of the event.

Auckland

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS 16225 W1190/261, 264-265, 269]

Blenheim

Christchurch

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190//261, 264-265, 267]

Dunedin

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/261, 264-265, 269]

Gisborne

Return of Prisoners Tried 1919-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262, 265, 269]

Greymouth

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262, 264-265, 269]

Hamilton

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262, 264-265, 269]

Hokitika

Return of Prisoners Tried 1918, 1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/264,269]

Invercargill

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262,264-265,269]

Masterton

Napier

Nelson

New Plymouth

Palmerston North

Timaru

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262,264-265,269]

Wanganui

Wellington

Westport

Return of Prisoners Tried 1917-1920 [ACGS16225 J40 W1190/262, 264-265, 269]

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Court of Appeal

Court of Appeal criminal case files for the whole of New Zealand are accessed through Criminal Case Registers (see below). The files are listed on Archway by date but not name. Access permission is needed from the Minister of Courts for Archives NZ staff to search the registers and case files for a researcher.

These are files for criminal cases where an appeal went from the High Court /Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal. Appeals could be based on various grounds.

Court of Appeal

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Court Calendars

Court calendars contain similar information to Returns of Prisoners Tried but are Prisons Branch records, included in their general correspondence (mainly from officers in charge of penal institutions to the Inspector of Prisons). Court Calendars are held only in Wellington and relate to prisons all over New Zealand for the period 1921-1937. It is necessary to search for alternative spellings: ‘Court Calendars’ and ‘Court Calendars’ to access all records.

Auckland

Blenheim

Christchurch

Dunedin

Gisborne

Greymouth

Hamilton

Hokitika

Invercargill

Masterton

Napier

Nelson

New Plymouth

Oamaru

Palmerston North

Timaru

Wanganui

Wellington

Westport

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Police Files

Police files, which may complement court files, are held for a number of high profile cases, such as murder, as well as lesser cases. Sometimes there was no court case, but the police file covers the investigations made.

These are Police Correspondence files. Some more prominent cases are individually listed on Archway, found by name (accused and/or victim), by place name or by year. The police officer involved may be listed. However there are many gaps between 1900-1940 because most records were destroyed. The records that exist are listed on Archway, otherwise researchers need to consult the Registers of Correspondence to see what files used to exist.

Indexes to Police Correspondence 1871-1951 R100 [ACIS 17636 P3 3/3-40/48]

Up to 1877 volumes contain entries listed alphabetically

From 1877 an annual single number system was used

Registers of Police Correspondence 1869-1951 R100 [ACIS 17633 P2/1-44]

1869-1877 & 1901-1951 inwards and outwards

1877-1901 inwards only

Files – Police Correspondence 1877-1972 R100 [ACIS 17627 P1]

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Special Branch and NZSIS Files

Old Police Records - OPRs

This series contains records that were known as Old Police Records (OPRs) in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). The OPRs index the reports of the New Zealand Police Special Branch, which existed from 1920 to 1956 to monitor organisations and persons of interest. They are organised by year and summarise the subject matter of the reports received. They list people considered “leftist” and those attending political meetings and rallies, as well as members of pacifist and union organisations. For the years 1932 to 1940 only year and order of receipt are noted with no other information except file references. The reports themselves are in Series 21007, however the Personal Files (P/F) referenced in the Sheets have not survived.

Special Branch Recording Sheets 1920-1956 [24890]

NZSIS Central Filing System

The files in this series are part of the central filing system used by the Headquarters of the NZSIS based in Wellington. Files transferred to Archives New Zealand predominately contain former Police Special Branch documents dealing with the 1951 Waterfront Dispute, the Communist Party and other socialist groups, the Unemployed Workers’ Movement (including photographs), nationalists groups, Friends of the Soviet Union, various strikes, and activities of the Christian Pacifist Society. The OPRs Special Branch Recording Sheets can be used as an Index to the files, but the files themselves are listed on Archway.

NZSIS Central Filing System 1919-1992 [ADMO 21007]

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Other

Finger Print Branch/Criminal Registration Branch

These files deal with various matters: individual crimes; criminal histories of individuals; correspondence with overseas police organisations on cases; general correspondence (fingerprinting techniques etc); appeals made by convicted criminals. In some instances files in this series are cross-referenced to registered Police files.

Unregistered Photographs/Items Criminal Registration Branch

This is an artificial series [6811] created to control photographs and items found in accessions W3289, W4513 and W4758. It consists of loose photographs, framed portraits, fingerprints mounted on cards, negatives and lantern slides.

Photographs and Items (mostly undated) [AAXZ 6811 W4758/1-2 & W4513/1]

New Zealand Fingerprints

Each prisoner form has a fingerprint number based on the Henry system of classification developed by Edward Henry, Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police Criminal Intelligence Department. By 1903 this system was being used by New Scotland Yard and worldwide.

The forms include a signature and impressions of all fingers and thumbs of the prisoner, with biographical and descriptive details, their crime/conviction, where gaoled and details of the officer taking the impressions.

Forms1903-1911 [AAXZ 7885 W3289/1-3 & W4758/2]

Foreign Fingerprint Registration Forms

Foreign fingerprint registration forms were sent to New Zealand Police from overseas Police departments and contain details about criminals, offences and impressions of their fingerprints. Each of the forms has the prefix FGN to indicate that the fingerprints are from a foreign source rather than generated by the New Zealand Police (see series 7885 above). They contain the same kind of information as the New Zealand ones.

Forms 1904-1954 [AAAJ 6812 W4513/1 & W3289/13-15]

Photographs of Prisoners

These collections of photographs of prisoners often include basic life data: details of aliases, place of birth or date of arrival in New Zealand, height, weight, hair, eyes, occupation, marks and peculiarities, previous convictions and where gaoled.

Photographs of Prisoners 1873-1896, 1902-1907 [ACIS 17671 P27/1-4]

Wellington Prison – Photo Album of Inmates 1890-1893 [ABGU W3777 Box 21/ 124]

Habitual Criminals Registers

The registers provide a comprehensive central collection of information on habitual offenders from Police Gazettes and from the penal records of discharged prisoners. The information is not alphabetical but chronological, according to when people were declared habitual criminals. There are no indexes to these registers.

Unlike most other registers, each volume contains a wide range of dates (eg 1904-1968) meaning that access is unlikely to be granted to a researcher even if the case sought is over 100 years old. Access is likely to involve an archivist searching on behalf of the researcher and providing a copy of the relevant entry.

Habitual Criminal Registers 1865-1971 R100 [AAXZ 7352 W4758/1-6 & AAAJ 7352 W3287/31-33]

Police Station Records

Local Police Station Incident Books, or Diaries of Duties and Occurrences (search on Archway by place), may include brief references to crimes. Only a limited number of such records are held.

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