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Prior to 2000 a number of commonly accessed records of the courts (Supreme GRG36, Adelaide Police GRG65, Adelaide Local GRG3, Local GRG4, Youth) were available on open access at State Records of SA. The balance were on restricted access only and a case had to be made to access the material. Since then all records are restricted and the only way to access the material is via the Supreme Court Registry at 1 Gouger Street Adelaide.
Access to the court records is governed by the Supreme Court Act Section 131*, Rule 18 of the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court Practice Direction 1.1 and 16. Although researchers will need to test every case they wish to pursue, the above Rule and Directions seem to relate mainly to the material previously available on open access. These cover material previously presented in open court and include:
RegistryGRG36/1 Supreme Court Indictments and some Depositions 1837–1924
GRG36/3 Supreme Court Depositions 1837–1892
GRG36/8 Supreme Court Depositions 1839–1853
GRG36/57 Supreme Court Correspondence 1838–1852
GRG 36/53 Supreme Court Lunacy petitions
GRG65/1 Adelaide Police Court Minutes 1847–1927
To access these records the researcher needs to approach the Supreme Court Registry. However, if unsure of what records are available then a consultation of the series lists held at State Records of SA may be required as the first step. The Supreme Court Registry will determine if the request for records is appropriate. It will then order the records from State Records of SA and vet them before allowing the researcher access for a fee. If the researcher is denied access they can seek access by an application to the court.
The Supreme Court Library that dates from 1837 may also hold records of interest to family historians. Of particular interest are Supreme Court judges' notebooks dating from the 1840s. The notebooks are often the only surviving record of some court proceedings as a number of early records were subjected to sampling a number of years ago.
Note that records generated by the Sheriff and Correctional Services Department (GRG54) are not restricted:
GRG54/10 Supreme Court Sentence Book 1905–1923
GRG54/9 Sheriff's Department Writ Books 1837–1850, 1921–1955
- Supreme Court Act 1935: Sect 131—Accessibility of evidence etc
(1) Subject to this section, the court must, on application by any member of the public, allow the applicant to inspect or obtain a copy of—
(aa) any process relating to proceedings and forming part of the court's records;
(a) a transcript of evidence taken by the court in any proceedings;
(b) any documentary material admitted into evidence in any proceedings;
(c) a transcript of submissions by counsel;
(d) a transcript of the judge's summing up or directions to the jury, in a trial by jury;
(e) a transcript of reasons for judgment (including remarks made by the court on passing sentence);
(f) a judgment or order given or made by the court.
(2) A member of the public may inspect or obtain a copy of the following material only with the permission of the court:
(a) material that was not taken or received in open court;
(b) material that the court has suppressed from publication;
(c) material placed before the court during sentencing proceedings (including material furnished under section 7 of the
Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988);
(d) documentary material filed in connection with a preliminary examination;
(e) a transcript of any oral evidence taken at a preliminary examination;
(f) a photograph, slide, film, video tape, audio tape or other form of recording from which a visual image or sound
can be produced;
(fa) a report prepared to assist the court in determining a person's eligibility for, or progress in, an intervention program
(within the meaning of the Bail Act 1985 or the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 );
(g) material of a class prescribed by the regulations.
(3) The court may permit inspection or copying of material referred to in subsection (2) subject to any condition it considers
appropriate, including a condition limiting the publication or use of the material.
(4) A decision by the court on an application under this section is administrative and is final and not subject to any form of review.
(5) The court may charge a fee, fixed by regulation, for inspection or copying of material under this section.