Preserving Court Records in the UK

United Kingdom

Court records under Public Records Act 1958

(1)The Lord Chancellor shall be responsible for the public records of every court of record or magistrates’ court which are not in the Public Record Office or a place of deposit appointed by the Secretary of State under this Act and shall have power to determine in the case of any such records other than records of the Supreme Court, the officer in whose custody they are for the time being to be:

(1A)Records of the Supreme Court for which the Lord Chancellor is responsible under subsection (1) shall be in the custody of the chief executive of that court.

(2)The power of the President of the Probate Division of the High Court under section one hundred and seventy of the M1Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act 1925, to direct where the wills and other documents mentioned in that section are to be deposited and preserved (exercisable with the consent of the Lord Chancellor) shall be transferred to the Lord Chancellor.

(3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(4)Where any private documents have remained in the custody of a court in England or Wales for more than fifty years without being claimed, the Keeper of Public Records may, with the approval of the Master of the Rolls, require the documents to be transferred to the Public Record Office and thereupon the documents shall become public records for the purposes of this Act.

(5)Section three of this Act shall not apply to such of the records of ecclesiastical courts described in paragraph (n) of sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 4 of the First Schedule to this Act as are not held in any office of the Senior Courts or in the Public Record Office, but, if the Lord Chancellor after consulting the President of the Family Division so directs as respects any of those records, those records shall be transferred to such place of deposit as may be appointed by the Secretary of State and shall thereafter be in the custody of such officer as may be so appointed.

(6)The public records which at the commencement of this Act are in the custody of the University of Oxford and which are included in the index a copy of which was transmitted to the principal probate registrar under section two of the M2 Oxford University Act 1860, shall not be required to be transferred under the last foregoing subsection but the Lord Chancellor shall make arrangements with the University of Oxford as to the conditions under which those records may be inspected by the public.


In this Act “public records” has the meaning assigned to it by the First Schedule to this Act and “records” includes not only written records but records conveying information by any other means whatsoever.

Where records created at different dates are for administrative purposes kept together in one file or other assembly all the records in that file or other assembly shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as having been created when the latest of those records was created.


Records of courts and tribunals

4(1)Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, records of the following descriptions shall be public records for the purposes of this Act:—

(za)records of the Supreme Court;

(a)records of, or held in any department of, the Supreme Court (including any court held under a commission of assize);

(aa)records of the family court;

(b)records of county courts and of any other superior or inferior court of record established since the passing of the M5County Courts Act 1846;

(c). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(d)records of courts of quarter sessions:

(e)records of magistrates’ courts;

(f)records of coroners’ courts;

(fa)records of the Court Martial, the Summary Appeal Court or the Service Civilian Court;

(g)records of courts-martial held whether within or outside the United Kingdom by any of Her Majesty’s forces raised in the United Kingdom;

(h)records of naval courts held whether within or outside the United Kingdom under the enactments relating to merchant shipping;

(i)records of any court exercising jurisdiction held by Her Majesty within a country outside Her dominions;

(j)records of any tribunal (by whatever name called)—

(i)which has jurisdiction connected with any functions of a department of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom; or

(ii)which has jurisdiction in proceedings to which such a government department is a party or to hear appeals from decisions of such a government department;

(ja). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(k)records of . . . any Rent Tribunal or Local Valuation Court;

(l)records of the Industrial Court, of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, and of the National Arbitration Tribunal (which was replaced by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal);

(m)records of umpires and deputy-umpires appointed under the M6National Service Act 1948, or the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act 1944;

(n)records of ecclesiastical courts when exercising the testamentary and matrimonial jurisdiction removed from them by the Court of Probate Act 1857, and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, respectively;

(nn). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(o)records of such other courts or tribunals (by whatever name called) as the Lord Chancellor may by order contained in a statutory instrument specify.

(1A)Records of, or held in any department of, the Supreme Court within sub-paragraph (1)(a) of this paragraph include the records of the Chancery Court of the county palatine of Lancaster and the Chancery Court of the county palatine of Durham (which were abolished by the Courts Act 1971).

(1B)Records of county courts within sub-paragraph (1)(b) of this paragraph include the records of the following courts (which were abolished by the Courts Act 1971)—

(a)the Tolzey and Pie Poudre Courts of the City and County of Bristol;

(b)the Liverpool Court of Passage;

(c)the Norwich Guildhall Court; and

(d)the Court of Record for the Hundred of Salford.

(2)This paragraph shall not apply to any court or tribunal whose jurisdiction extends only to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

(3)In this paragraph “records” includes records of any proceedings in the court or tribunal in question and includes rolls, writs, books, decrees, bills, warrants and accounts of, or in the custody of, the court or tribunal in question.