How to use this Series:
There are no indexes to this series. In order to find a specific court case the name of the accused/defendant must be known and the approximate date of hearing. Having located the volume covering the required period the chronological entries will need to be systematically examined until the case is found. The case will have been given a number and subsequent hearings, adjournments etc. for this case will have the same number. The first entry will also provide the date of any subsequent hearing and hearings can be followed in this way.
Berwick Magistrates' Court did not close until 1990, however no Children's Court Registers for the period 1975 to 1990 had been found at the time of transfer (November 1993).
Please note the access restrictions which apply to these records.
Background: Children's Courts
Children's Courts were established in Victoria by the Children's Courts Act 1906. This Act came into operation on 1 December 1906.
Children's Courts could sit at any place where a Court of Petty Sessions/Magistrates' Court sat and each was presided over by a Police Magistrate appointed by the Governor in Council as a "special magistrate" for Children's Courts. The Courts had exclusive jurisdiction with regard to persons under the age of seventeen to:
inquire into charges of indictable offences (ie more serious offences) and determine whether the child should stand trial in a court of higher jurisdiction. (With the permission of the child's parents or guardian, and where the child was under the age of twelve, the children's court could itself determine charges involving indictable offences, except charges of murder and manslaughter.)
inquire into and determine charges of summary offences (ie less serious offences) in the same manner and with largely the same rules of procedure as Courts of Petty Sessions.
hear and determine applications for children to be committed to the care of the state.
Further information about the jurisdiction of Children's Courts is available in the Inventory of Agencies for VRG 4, Courts, in the Summary Guide to the Public Records of Victoria.
Children's Court Registers
The 1906 Children's Court Act and subsequent legislation of the same name required clerks of Children's Courts to keep a Register of all cases and decisions of the court. Prior to this time entries for Children's Court Cases were made in the Petty Sessions register of the court. This Act also set out the form that the register should take. The Registers record details of the case number (see below), the name of the informant or applicant, the name of the accused or defendant, his or her age or apparent age, how the defendant was brought to court (arrest warrant or summons), the court fees due, the nature of the information, charge or application, the courts decision and order and any remarks. The payment of fines or fees is often recorded in the remarks column.
Entries in the volumes were made in chronological order of the date they came before the court and each case receives a consecutive number. An annual single numbering system was usually used, thus the numbering sequence reverted to 1 at the beginning of each year. This number, allocated at the time of entry in the register, was also annotated onto all documents lodged with the court during the case.
Other Children's Court Records
Several types of warrants, summonses, and other documents were also lodged with or created by the court in the process of administering each case. The documents were known as "process" and were placed together to create a case file. In most instances these files were destroyed about fifteen years after the completion of the case to which they related.