How to look for records of... Criminal court cases: Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court)

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide for advice on how to find the records of trials held at the Old Bailey, later known as the Central Criminal Court, as well as records of prisoners and convicts tried and held there.

This guide will help you to understand:

  • The types of cases heard by the Court.
  • The records created, what has survived, and the sorts of information contained in the records.
  • How the records were organised and filed, and how that affects how you search for them today.

Note, records relating to trials which took place fewer than 100 years ago may be closed in whole or in part. To view such records you will need to make an FOI request.

2. The history and business of the Old Bailey

The Old Bailey is a criminal court sitting in central London. Since 1834 it is properly referred to as the Central Criminal Court, but its former name, derived from the building in which it sits, remains that by which it is more commonly known.

From 1834 to 1971 the Old Bailey was Assize Court for London, in 1972 the Old Bailey became one of the Crown Courts of England and Wales. This means that it hears criminal cases which must be tried by a judge sitting with a jury. These are the most serious offences, known previously as felonies and now referred to as indictable offences.

Before 1834, the Quarter Sessions for London and Middlesex and for the City of London, dealing with a broad range of less serious offences, were also held at the Old Bailey. Records for these are at the London Metropolitan Archives, see section 7 below for more details.

A trial at the Old Bailey in London as drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin 1808-1811 (source: Wikimedia Commons).

Though the Old Bailey has always been primarily concerned with London cases, it has come to play a wider role in the Criminal Justice System where there are fears that trying a case in the local area would make it difficult to secure a prompt or fair trial. The Central Criminal Court Act 1856 (19 & 20 Vict., C.16) provided for cases to be transferred for trial at the Old Bailey in these circumstances, meaning that some of the most notorious cases in criminal justice history have been, and continue to be, heard there.

The court’s geographical area of jurisdiction has changed over time, gradually expanding to cover the Greater London area:

Date Jurisdiction
Before 1834 City of London and Middlesex – NOT London south of the Thames
1834 – 1963 London, Middlesex, parts of Essex, Kent and Surrey
From 1964 Greater London area

Note, for trials of crimes committed in London south of the Thames before 1834 see the records of assize courts for Surrey.

Although the High Court of Admiralty also sat at the Old Bailey, their records are kept separately, see our research guide for more information.

3. Records of trials heard before 1972

3.1 Printed and published materials – transcripts and proceedings

The easiest place to start your research, and the richest potential source of information on specific trials, will be found in printed proceedings and accounts. Old Bailey online and online newspaper accounts are a useful way to establish if a trial was held at the Old Bailey or in another court.

Source Information Given Date Range How to Search
Old Bailey Online Printed and published proceedings providing summaries of trials and what was said in court. , from reports of a few dozen words to detailed transcripts. They will usually include the names of the defendant, prosecutor, witnesses, the charges, verdict and sentence. 1674 – 1913 By defendant name or offence.
Newspaper reports, see:


Times Digital Archive

British Newspaper Archive

British Library Newspapers

(Free to access in our reading rooms at Kew)

Alternatively, visit the British Newspaper Library

Newspapers often reported proceedings in trials in great detail. 18th – 20th centuries By defendant name, location, offence etc.
Chadwyck Healey microfiche collection of British Trials 1660-1900

Available in The National Archives reading rooms and in some major libraries.

Unofficial contemporary accounts of selected trials which were originally published as pamphlets and sold to the general public. 1660 – 1908 Use separate but accompanying indexes

Other, similar, sources of information include:

Document Type Information Given Document Series Date Range How to Search
Printed Old Bailey Session Papers As per Old Bailey Online PCOM 1 1801 – 1904 By date to identify the volume and then use volume index to find the case by defendant name.
Printed shorthand notes of proceedings Will duplicate the information in the printed sessions papers CRIM 10 1834 – 1912 By defendant name.
Transcripts of selected trials Transcripts of trials for selected cases concerning murder, robbery, treason and sedition. DPP 4

TS 36

1846 – 1958

1812 – 1963

By defendant name or offence.

3.2 Finding other trial records at The National Archives

A search for trial records held at The National Archives will require a visit to our reading rooms in Kew as none of the records are viewable online – though you can begin your search in our online catalogue.

Different stages or aspects of the trial process are recorded in different types of documents, each of which will typically have been archived separately and may be searched by different means. The key document types/series are set out below.

Document Type Information Given Series Date Range How to Search
Index to Indictments Defendant name, charge, date of conviction, sentence, appeal outcome (if applicable). CRIM 5 1833 – 1971 Browse by year.
Indictments As above and but includes list of jurors and full details of charges. CRIM 4 1834 – 1971 Using the indexes or browse by date in the catalogue.
Court Books Defendant name, victim name (not always), plea, verdict, sentence, names of jurors. CRIM 6 1834 – 1949 Browse by year.
Depositions Written records of oral witness statements given under oath. Typically concerned with trials for murder, sedition, treason, riot and political conspiracy and other trials deemed to be of historical interest, but includes a 2% random sample of other trials. CRIM 1


1839 – 1971

1923 – 1966

By defendant name or offence. There are alphabetical indexes of depositions in cases sent up from coroners and police courts.
Treasury Solicitor files Case papers of different types relating to cases in which the government law officers (Attorney General and Solicitor General) were involved Various, including:

TS 11


TS 22

TS 36

Various By defendant name or offence.
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) files Case papers relating to cases in which the DPP was

involved from 1879.



1889 – 1930

1931 – 1997


By defendant name or offence.


Image of Central Criminal Court deposition case file 1883 (catalogue reference: CRIM 1/1/1)

4. Records of trials heard after 1971

For cases heard after 1971 you may find it useful to consult our research guide on Crown Courts.

4.1 Working out where records will be held

Records are not transferred to the National Archives until at least twenty years after trial and transfer may happen significantly later than this. As a rule of thumb, they remain with the court for seven years and are then transferred to storage with HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

4.2 Finding trial records held at The National Archives

A search for trial records held at The National Archives will require a visit to our reading rooms in Kew as none of the records are viewable online – though you can begin your search in our online catalogue.

From 1972 there are two main record types relating to trials heard at the Old Bailey – case files and indictment files. All indictment files are selected for permanent preservation, but more detailed case files are only created for a small number of cases. To understand how these case files are selected see our Operational Selection Policy for Crown Courts.

Almost all indictment files, and many case files will be closed or have closed extracts.

Indictment files

Search for indictment files in our online catalogue in J 268 by date using the indexes in J 336 for 1972-1980 – after that by indictment number (see section 4.3 for guidance on indictment numbers).

All indictment files contain:

  • Defendant’s name, sex and date of birth
  • Decision re bail or remand
  • Dates of committal, trial, conviction and sentence
  • Name of judge
  • Names of counsel and solicitors
  • Offences charged listed as separate ‘counts’
  • Plea
  • Verdict
  • Sentence
  • Appeal details and outcomes

Case files

Search for case files in our online catalogue in J 267 by defendant name or offence.

For selected cases (typically the most serious), the records provide:

  • Committal proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court
  • Court logs (recording brief case histories, such as dates of hearings)
  • Police statements
  • Copy indictment
  • Prosecution evidence
  • List of witnesses and their statements and depositions
  • List of exhibits produced in court
  • Photographs of the crime scene
  • Sentence
  • Appeal details and outcome

4.3 Identifying the indictment number

You will see that, to find an indictment file, you will need to know the indictment number as indictments are filed by number and not by name. There are three ways of obtaining/working out the indictment number:

1. Search by name for a corresponding case file – this will include the case number, which can then be used to work out the indictment number.

2. If you already have a case number then this tells you the year and number of the indictment as follows:

  • The first two digits represent the year of indictment.
  • The remaining digits tell you the indictment number.
  • So, if the case number is 721717 then the indictment was made in 1972 and the indictment number is 1717.

3. If you do not already have a case number then you can contact HM Courts and Tribunal Service who can provide you with a case number in most cases.

Note, the indictment may have been made in an earlier year than that in which the case was heard, particularly in periods where the courts were especially busy or prone to delays.

4.4 Records of the Director of Public Prosecutions

In addition, you may also be able to find a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) file, particularly for the most serious or high profile offences/trials.

Search by date, defendant name or offence in DPP 2 , for case files of the Director of Public Prosecutions, 1931-1997. Papers relating to the prosecution of the case – may include maps, plans and photographs.

Browse by date in DPP 9 for prosecution books of the Director of Public Prosecutions, 1905-1986. These records provide:

  • Defendant name
  • Police officer
  • Prosecuting counsel
  • Police court and name of the clerk who conducted the case
  • Result of the case

A note on the dates of these records:

  • From 1905-mid-1965 the dates given are those of the court sitting
  • From 1965-1973 the date refers to the court sessions
  • From 1974-1986 the date is the date of committal

5. Records relating to appeals and criminal petitions, 1848-1990

See also our research guide on criminal appeal cases.

There are four main series relating to appeals and criminal petitions, see the table below, but an advanced search within “TS” and/or “DPP” may also yield results.

CRIM 11 Submitted Draft Pleadings, 1848-1893

Draft pleadings of cases originally heard at the Central Criminal Court but reserved on questions of law etc. for the opinion of Judges of the Court for the Consideration of Crown Cases Reserved.

Search by defendant name or offence.

CRIM 12 Received Orders of Court, 1848 – 1908

Certificates from the Court for the Consideration of Crown Cases Reserved in notification of judgments and orders on cases referred to it from the Central Criminal Court.

Also includes a list of cases referred from the Central Criminal Court, 1848 to 1852, and a note of their outcome.

Search by defendant name or offence.

J 81 Court of Criminal Appeal, registers, 1908 – 1990


  • Appellant’s name
  • Offence, place and date of conviction and sentence
  • Nature of the application or appeal and its outcome

Browse by date.

J 82 Case files, 1945 – 1998

For selected cases – information as per other case files.

Search by defendant name or offence.

Image of Central Criminal Court draft pleading from 1848 case (catalogue reference: CRIM 11/1)

6. Records of prisoners, 1782-1971

The Old Bailey contains a network of cells used to hold prisoners awaiting trial and those convicted of crimes.

6.1 Lists of prisoners awaiting trial and criminal registers, 1782-1892

The National Archives holds the following records:

HO 16, Lists of prisoners awaiting trial at the Old Bailey, 1815 – 1849 Defendant name, charge and outcome of trial.

Browse by date

HO 77, Calendars and lists of prisoners at Newgate Gaol, 1782 – 1853 Printed lists of the prisoners held at Newgate for trial at the Old Bailey. From July 1822 includes results of the trials.

Browse by date – or see digital images available on Findmypast (charges apply).

HO 26 & HO 27, Criminal registers, 1791 – 1892 Lists of defendants charged with indictable offences at Middlesex Sessions – gives verdict and sentence.

Search by defendant name at (charges apply).


Image of court book from the Central Criminal Court 1834-1837 (catalogue reference: CRIM 6/1)

6.2 Details of prisoners in after-trial calendars, 1855-1971

Records of convicted criminals held prisoner at the court exist in the form of after-trial calendars for the period up to 1971 but many records for the last 100 years are closed for varying periods. Similar records for later periods have not been selected for permanent preservation.

They typically include the following details:

  • Name and age of prisoner
  • Previous convictions
  • Date of trial
  • Charges on the indictment against them
  • Verdict and sentence
  • Details of magistrates and jury

After-trial calendars of prisoners can be searched/browsed by date in our catalogue, Discovery, in the series

CRIM 9, Central Criminal Court after trial calendars, 1855-1949

HO 140, Home Office calendars of prisoners, 1868-1971. Contains:

  • Records for London and Middlesex cover Quarter Sessions as well as the Central Criminal Court cases.
  • 1868-1897 there are separate sections for the City, Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Surrey and Admiralty jurisdictions.
  • After 1898 there are separate sections for London (North of the Thames), London (South of the Thames) and Middlesex.

Calendars for 1855-1915 can also be searched by name and viewed online at Findmypast.

7. Other sources of information

The Quarter Sessions for London and Middlesex, including the Sessions of Gaol Delivery for the City of London and Middlesex, were held at the Old Bailey until 1834. The London Metropolitan Archives holds these records, but we have the following printed and published calendars in our library:

In addition, there are excellent resources, including a wide range of digitised records, freely available at the following websites:

8. Further reading

A range of books can also be purchased from the National Archives’ shop.

The following publications are available at The National Archives library at Kew:

Clive Emsley, The Newgate Calendar (Wordsworth, 1997)

W Eden Hooper, History of Newgate and the Old Bailey (Underwood Press, 1935)

Caroline Jowett, The History of Newgate Prison (Pen & Sword, 2017)

A Knapp and W Baldwin The Newgate Calendar (4 vols) (J Robins and Co, 1824-1828), describing ‘notorious’ cases 1700-1825