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Criminal Assize Clerk Criminal Indictment Files (RG 22-392)


Boats on the Avon River in Stratford

For background information about these records, please read the Introduction below. To search an online list of these files, click here to go to our Archival Descriptive Database. Then enter the name and/or crime and/or county in the Keyword(s) field, and RG 22-392 in the Archival reference Code field. Each entry includes the name, the crime, the county, the year and the microfilm number.

Boats on the Avon River in Stratford, [ca. 1920]
Ministry of Education
Black and White Print
Reference Code: RG 2-71 C0S-7
Archives of Ontario, I0004159

Introduction


Criminal indictment case files were the files created by the Crown Attorney in preparing the prosecution's case against people charged with serious criminal offences such as murder, rape, arson, theft and fraud. Under section 10 of the 1859 Act Respecting the Courts of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery and of Assize and Nisi Prius 22 Vict., c.11, local Clerks of Assize in each judicial district were required to send a report to the Crown Office in Toronto giving details about the criminal cases heard during the last sitting of the Assize along with all the prosecution case files created by the Crown Attorney. Upon arrival in Toronto, the Clerk of the Crown and Pleas (after 1881, the Registrar) separated the reports and case files into two series - one for reports (see RG 22-391) and the other for the case files. The practice of sending indictment case files to Toronto was ended about 1927-1929 when the Crown Attorneys for each judicial district began to maintain the files locally.

Most criminal indictment case files usually contain: a grand jury's bill of indictment which sets out the charge against the accused and indicates that there is sufficient evidence to bring the accused to trial; a police report (often called an information) which give details of the initial complaint and the subsequent investigation, and a copy of the petit (trial) jury's verdict. Depending on the seriousness of the offence and the county and year in which the trial was held, a case file may also contain other types of documentation including: transcripts of the trial; a summary of the evidence given by each witness; exhibits including maps, site-plans and photographs; coroner's records; recognizance to prosecute or give evidence; search warrants; the Crown Attorney's trial notes; and correspondence between the Crown Attorney, the defence counsel, police officers and witnesses. It should be remembered that the case files were the creation of the Crown Attorney to assist in the prosecution of the accused and do not contain information, other than that which was heard at trial, about the case for the defence.

The series contains files only on cases brought before the Court of Queen's (later King's) Bench Assize sitting in Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery. It does not contain information on cases heard by lower courts such as the County Court Judges Criminal Court, the Police Court, the Mayors' Court, the Magistrates' Court or those heard by a Justice of the Peace. The series is further limited to only those cases in which the Grand Jury found that the indictment was a "true bill" (meaning that the Grand Jury believed the Crown had sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial). Cases that were on the docket of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery but were found not to be a "true bill" (where the Grand Jury believed that there was insufficient evidence to go to trial) are not included in this series.

There are considerable gaps within this series most notably from 1864 to 1879 and from 1881 to 1891. The two gaps are consistent for every judicial district except York County. As there was no change in the statutory requirement to file case files with the Clerk of the Crown and Pleas/Registrar during these periods, it is likely that these gaps are the result of the accidental destruction of the records sometime after filing. In addition to the two major gaps, a comparison of the Criminal Indictment Clerk reports and case files shows even during the years in which both types of records have survived up to one quarter of the case files may be missing.

In York County the records do not begin until 1870 and run without interruption until 1927. As with other judicial districts it seems that a fairly high percentage of the case files are missing for each year.

The files are arranged in alphabetical order by county, then in chronological order by Assize Session and finally in rough alphabetical order by the surname of the first person named on the bill of indictment.

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