During court cases, records are kept of everything that is said by the judge, jury and witnesses while court is in session. These records are sometimes freely accessible online. For example, selected transcripts from the High Court of Australia are available on AustLII.

The Library also holds a selection of transcripts in our collections.   

Transcripts not held by the Library may be purchased from the transcribing agency of the appropriate court, usually Auscript. Transcripts do not usually contain the judges' reasons for decision as these are not always read out in court.


Not sure where to start?

What are court records? 

Court records include unpublished decisions, transcripts of proceedings (a verbatim account of statements given during proceedings), letters, lists of trials, depositions, circulars, and bench books et cetera, and may cover the topics of wills (grants of probate or letters of administration); divorce; bankruptcy; civil and criminal cases; naturalisation; newspaper registrations; and conscientious objectors. 

Accessing court records 

When it comes to recent cases, records may not be accessible for privacy reasons. Original court records are usually closed from time of creation for 75 years for adults and 99 years for children. Many original court records are held at the relevant National or State/Territory archives. 

Summaries of court proceedings are sometimes reported in daily newspapers. You can search for newspaper reports in Australian historic newspapers on Trove, generally up to 1954. For more recent reports go to our eResources portal, click on “browse eResources” and click on Newpapers & Media under category to find a list of online full-text newspaper databases to search. 

If you’re finding it difficult to find court records, check to see if a law report (a summary of the judge’s decision) exists, as it may provide some details. Only legally significant cases are reported on. 

What you can find in the Library 

The Library does not hold original court records.  However, some indexes and transcriptions of historic records can be found online and/or at the Library.

You can’t browse the Library’s shelves in person, but you can use the Catalogue to search by title, author, subject or Dewey number.

To search for indexes and transcriptions of court records, try searching either by subject or keywords. Some examples are: 

  • Court records--[Jurisdiction]
  • Divorce records--[Jurisdiction]
  • Probate records--[Jurisdiction]
  • Criminal registers 
  • Convicts--[country/state]--Registers 

Finding historical records

Ancestry (Library Edition) and Findmypast 

A range of court and criminal records are available on both Ancestry (Library Edition) and Findmypast. You can access either of these databases in our reading rooms by visiting our eResources portal and searching for each under the "browse eResources" tab.   

The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) 

The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) is a collection of unique historical material relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific dating from 1560 to 1984. It located, described and filmed thousands of classes and collections of records from all over Britain and Ireland, including court records.   

Use the AJCP portal to find court records under various county Public Record Offices, Old Bailey Sessions returns of convicted prisoners, and several criminal, convict and prison registers for the late 1700s to the mid 1800s.

For more information see the Library’s Convicts Research Guide – Trial records

Records relating to the Privy Council in London