Court of King's Bench: Crown Side: Out Counties Indictments Files
King's Bench indictment files covering the whole of England except London and Middlesex.
After some early gaps, the series is almost complete from 1693.
Besides indictments and their associated process, removed from inferior courts, mainly assizes and quarter sessions, under writs of certiorari, the files also contain informations quo warranto, mainly used to regulate the tenure of local officers, and qui tam, used by informers to initiate prosecutions under penal statutes on behalf of the crown, as well as informations by the master and ex officio. Until about 1750 they also contain coroners' inquisitions, which had been handed in to the assize justices and were forwarded by them to the court, but after that date the practice ceased. The files normally bear the name of the king's coroner and attorney, who came more commonly to be called the master of the Crown Office, in addition to the description and date.
Criminal informations are common on files of the seventeenth century but thereafter become less numerous than indictments until the early nineteenth century. The main two categories, informations ex officio, which were exhibited by the attorney general, and informations exhibited by the king's coroner and attorney, or master, are mentioned under KB 10. The two lesser kinds, informations quo warranto and informations qui tam, are more numerous in the files in this series than in the London and Middlesex files.
Informations quo warranto filed by the attorney general were most common in the reign of Charles II, when they were filed against a number of corporations as part of a campaign to encourage them to apply for new charters. Thereafter they are less frequent except at election times, because of the power of the local dignitaries to influence the outcome of elections, but informations in the nature of a quo warranto came to be used as a means of trying the right of a particular individual to a corporate office under an act of 1710 (9 Anne c 25). If it was successful, the usurping office-holder would be removed from office, fined and made to pay the costs of his prosecution. Such informations were exhibited in the name of the king's coroner and attorney, following application to the courtmembers of the corporation and interested parties by affidavit.
Informations qui tam could be filed for any penalty due to the crown or an informer, or an informer alone, under a penal statute specifying that it could be recovered by information in any of the king's courts at Westminster. It was in effect a private prosecution in the form of acting in the king's interest, the name of the procedure deriving from the Latin form of the formula that the informer was proceeding 'as well for the lord king as for himself' (tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso). Informations qui tam were most usually exhibited for offences committed against the game laws; the statutes of 1721 (8 George I c 19) and 1762 (2 George III c 19) explicitly provided for action by information in the courts at Westminster as well as by information before a local magistrate.
In order to proceed an affidavit as to the facts had to be made by a person who saw the offence committed, sworn before a King's Bench justice or commissioner, from which the information was drawn by a clerk in court in the name of an informer, signed by the latter and handed to the king's coroner and attorney in term time, who made a note of the date on the dorse, as he was required to do under a statute of 1588 (31 Elizabeth I c 5). Proceeding by information in King's Bench was popular because it was less expensive to the plaintiff (if successful), speedier and brought a greater punishment on the defendant. Other offences for which this kind of information was occasionally used include those against statutes prohibiting the export of wool.
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