Catalogue description Criminal Department

Details of Division within HO
Reference: Division within HO
Title: Criminal Department

Records of the Criminal Department.

Calendars of prisoners are in HO 77, HO 130 and HO 140; convict records in HO 7, HO 10 and HO 11; entry books of criminals in HO 13, HO 25, HO 145, HO 146, HO 163 and HO 169; papers on criminals in HO 12, HO 14 and HO 64; petitions of criminals in HO 17-HO 19; registers of criminals in HO 26 and HO 27; warrant books of criminals in HO 15, HO 145 and HO 147.

Coroners' papers are in HO 84; Home Office 'symbol' series files in HO 291, HO 293, HO 302 and HO 306, HO 410; judges' returns in HO 6 and HO 47; Metropolitan Police papers in HO 61, HO 62 and HO 395; police magazines in HO 75; police court papers in HO 59; remissions and pardons in HO 188; returns of committals in HO 16; and Roger Casement's diaries in HO 161.

Crime survey datasets in HO 400.

Criminal Policy registered files (CP series) in HO 495.

Criminal Legislation (CL series) in HO 558.

Data Protection (DA Symbol Series) in HO 562.

Criminal Justice Bill (CJB series) in HO 566

Date: 1782-2001
Related material:

For records of the Prison Commission see PCOM

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Home Office, C Division, 1913-

Home Office, Criminal Department, 1793-1913

Physical description: 41 series
Administrative / biographical background:

In 1782 there was already a tradition of separating the criminal from the general (or domestic) and departmental correspondence of the Secretary of State. A separate Criminal Department seems to have originated around 1800, when a supplementary clerk was paid for 'executing the Criminal Branch'. The post of Clerk for Criminal Business became permanent and by 1822 he had an assistant clerk. From 1815 the Clerk for Criminal Business also held the office of Superintendent of Convicts. From 1796 to 1813 there was also a Counsel for Criminal Business.

From the work of the Clerk for Criminal Business there gradually emerged a distinct Criminal Department engaged in matters relating to criminals, prosecutions, prisons and police. The division of work between this department and the Domestic Department was not always clear and was subject to change. In general, the Domestic Department remained concerned with the administration of local and police courts, with magistrates, coroners, clerks of the peace and local officials, while the Criminal Department dealt with criminals, criminal lunatics, prisoners, extradition, the prerogative of mercy and criminal and police statistics. The concern of the department with prison policy continued after the formation of the Prison Commission in 1877, though by 1963, when the Prison Commission became the Prison Department of the Home Office, oversight by the Criminal Department had virtually ceased. The department took over responsibility for coroners from the Domestic Department in about 1912.

Police affairs were attached to the post of Keeper of the Criminal Register, which originated in 1793 and was loosely attached to the department, its holder becoming head of the separate Police and Statistical Branch in 1856. On the dissolution of this branch in 1865 the Criminal Department regained responsibility for police, but in 1900 the Domestic Department took charge of this work. The Home Office exercised direct control over the Metropolitan Police and police forces established in 1839 under commissioners of police at Birmingham, Manchester and Bolton, which were soon taken over by the local authorities. Local police forces were also subject to some Home Office supervision exercised largely through an Inspectorate of Constabulary appointed by it from 1856 under the County and Borough Police Act. Later a separate police department was formed. Responsibility for reformatories and industrial schools under acts of 1854 to 1861 was transferred to the Domestic Department in 1887 but later passed to the Children's Department.

Until c1981 the Home Office was responsible for the provision of legal aid in criminal cases by administering such acts as the Poor Prisoners Defence Act 1930 c32. The function then passed to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

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