Medway Council Heritage Services catalogues
  • Title
    Court of Petty Sessions
  • Reference
  • Date
  • Level of description
  • Administrative history / biography
    The court of Petty Sessions was, as a general rule, held at the Guildhall, Rochester. From time to time alternative accommodation was used at the Bridge Chamber on the Esplanade and the Police Station at Castle Hill. There were usually two courts held, presided over by stipendary magistrates. The Petty Sessions for areas outside the City, including Chatham, were held by County Justices within the Petty Session division of North Aylesford (see PS/NA). These courts held the power to give judgement or make an order immediately, especially in criminal cases. The magistrates had the power to hear or dispose of a case without sending it for trial at the Crown Court. Defendants could choose to be tried by jury rather than the magistrates, in which case they were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. The business of the court includes orders for the water rate, general district rate and, until 1929, the poor rate, as well as removal orders. Prosecutions include: larceny; theft; vagrancy; offences against Weights and Measures Act 1878, such as an unstamped machine; The Town Police Act 1847 e.g. exposing a pony for sale and chimneys on fire by neglect; byelaws e.g. using obscene language; Food and Drugs Act e.g. selling milk deficient of cream; Road Transport Acts e.g. no rear light or reflector and from 1930 no effective third party insurance; Medway Conservancy Act, 1881; Oyster Fishery Act, 1865. Orders were also made in respect of cruelty, desertion and adultery. From 1942 the court business included applications for licensed premises (names of public houses and halls are given, e.g. a licence was granted to hold a Jitterbug Ball at the Casino) and applications to make alterations to licensed premises. From 1939 to 1945 the prosecutions reflect the country's state of war. They include failing to comply with notice to submit to a medical examination, being liable to be called up for service, offences in food & fuel rationing, unlawful entry into a regulated area; unlawful use of gas & electricity, being absent from essential work without sufficient reason (notably from Short Seaplane Works). Post-war changes include the issue of cinematograph licences for Saturday morning performances for children from 1945 and club registration licences from 1962. The following year the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act resulted in betting licences being issued. From 1934, juvenile courts were held under summary jurisdiction (Children and Young Persons, Rules, 1933), for which the records are separate.
  • Related material
    See also North Aylesford Petty Sessions (1964-1974) and Medway Petty Sessions (1974-1976) under reference PS.