Frequently Asked Questions

FAQS | Glossary of Terms | Glossary of Abbreviations | Trial Documents – Guide to transcription

The QA box can be ticked to indicate that a particular piece of data needs checking.For example, the QA box beside a defendant’s surname might be ticked to indicateuncertainty around the name’s spelling. All items where QA boxes are ticked arethen placed in a queue for checking by our administrative staff. Other examplesof instances where you might tick the QA box include where the sex of the defendantis not clear from their name, where you are not certain what the total number of chargesor total sentence should be, or where the information given is illegible ordifficult to understand.
Sometimes there will be details missing from the register. You can record the absenceof this material in the notes field. This is particularly important if the missing detailsinvolve the offence, trial date or verdict. However, there will be no trial date givenwhere cases resulted in a no true bill, no presentment filed or nolle prosequi. In theseinstances, you can enter the date 1 Dec 1999 to indicate these special circumstances.
The notes field can be used to type in any additional information included about the casein the register, such as details about appeals, the name of the Crown Prosecutor or anyco-accused, additional offences the defendant was charged with and their outcomes.It can also be used to indicate difficulties you encountered with the register, such asuncertainty around the spelling of a name or the absence of key details from the register.
You should only enter information into ONE of the sentence duration fields, that is thefields asking for the sentence in years, months or days. If the defendant was sentencedto '18 months hard labour' you would type this sentence exactly as it is described inthe register into the sentence field and then also key '18' into the months field.
The database only allows for a first and second offence, and verdicts in relation tothese offences, to be typed into separate fields. Where a defendant has been chargedwith additional offences, these should be recorded along with their verdicts in thenotes field. Likewise, if a defendant has been charged with multiple counts of the sameoffence, such as three counts of larceny, then larceny should be noted as being boththe first and second 'offence' in these fields, with the outcome in relation to thethird count in the notes field, e.g. "3rd charge larceny found not guilty".
Sometimes a register page will show a case in which a defendant is charged with anoffence under one case number, but is also involved in one or more other cases listedbelow it. If the cases were tried on the same day these can be noted in the same entry,with all the relevant case numbers included in the case number field.
In some instances the verdict field will simply list "guilty" or "not guilty" eventhough the defendant appeared on a number of charges. If the verdict was not guiltyand no sentence appears it is safe to assume the defendant was found not guilty of allcharges. If it is not clear, however, of which charges a defendant has been found guilty,simply record this in the notes field.
The main prosecution project website allows you to search the cases currently enteredinto the database and will return details such as name, offence, trial date andjurisdiction. We at the prosecution project are not in a position to facilitate furthersearching. However, you might find further information on the individual you are lookingfor through the digitised newspapers available through the Trove website(,or at the various State Archives, links to which can be found on our website.
Our approach is to have a separate entry for each person who has been tried. If more thanone person has been charged for a particular offence or group of offences you should dothe following:
  1. Enter the details of the case for the first person listed, including noting the‘number of co-accused’ in the relevant box (ie the number of other people listed),and in the Notes box include the names of the co-accused in the form"Co-accused John Smith, Bill Sykes…"
  2. When this record is completed, click ‘Create and Duplicate’. This will take youto a duplicate entry for the previous case – change the names of the accused asappropriate, and amend the Notes box to register the different co-accused (ie thefirst person in place of this accused etc). It is important to register carefullywhether the co-accused had the same offence charged, same verdict, same sentence etc.Alter the information as needed.
  3. If there is more than one co-accused, then click "Save and Duplicate" – andcontinue for however many co-accused there are (we have seen cases of up to 20persons listed). After the final co-accused just click "Save" and this will thenbring up the next blank page and relevant image.

Glossary of Terms

Nolle Prosequi

A nolle prosequi could be entered into the legal record either before or during a trial; it indicates that the prosecution decided not to proceed with the case.

Conviction quashed

Indicates that the conviction was overturned on appeal.


The offence of knowingly using or tendering counterfeit coin or forged documents with intent to defraud. 

True Bill

A decision of 'No True Bill' could be entered into the legal record if it was decided before the trial that there was not enough evidence to prosecute; only those for which a 'True Bill' was returned would proceed to court.

Partial Verdict

A partial verdict is one in which the defendant was found guilty of a lesser offence to that with which they were charged. For instance, a defendant might be charged with forgery but found guilty of the lesser offence of uttering (using) counterfeit coins.

Imprisoned until the rising of the court

This sentence meant the defendant would only be detained until the end of that day's court session. It was usually implemented where the defendant was clearly guilty but the circumstances of the case compelled sympathy, such as attempting suicide.

Death recorded

By 'recording' a sentence of death against a defendant in capital cases, rather than 'passing' a sentence of death against them, the judge was indicating that the circumstances of the case were such that the defendant might be considered for clemency and the sentence commuted.

Not guilty by direction

Indicates that the judge directed the jury to find the defendant not guilty based on a want of evidence or other exonerating circumstances.


When a defendant or witness in a case was instructed to attend court on a particular day for the trial they were said to have entered into a recognizance, that is a contractual obligation recognising their responsibility to appear (sometimes one secured by a monetary bond). Failure to show up for the trial meant their recognizance (bail money or other security) was forfeited.


The seizure or forfeiture of bond money where a defendant released on bail or a witness who had entered into a bond to appear in court failed to do so.

Glossary of Abbreviations


Sometimes used to indicate the name of the Crown Prosecutor; could also be used to indicate that a defendant had been given a conditional pardon.


Used to indicate that a defendant was an 'expiree', that is a convict whose sentence had expired.


Used to indicate that a defendant was a convict who had been given a ticket-of-leave.


Will sometimes appear next to a witness's name to indicate that the witness was a medical doctor.


Will sometimes appear next to a witness's name to indicate that the witness was a police detective.


Will sometimes appear next to a witness's name to indicate that the witness was a police constable.


Will sometimes appear next to a witness's name to indicate that the witnesses was a police sergeant.


Will sometimes appear next to a name to indicate that they appeared in court as an interpreter.


Hard labour; indicates the type of work to which a prisoner was to be put.


Penal servitude.

ABO or Ab. or Ab. N.

Aboriginal or Aboriginal Native




Quarter Sessions


Supreme Court


Special Sittings


District Court


Supreme Court on Circuit

Trial Documents – Guide to transcription

Trial documents include a variety of materials (e.g. witness depositions, writs, police correspondence) relating to a particular prosecution. In some cases they may relate to the prosecution of more than one person where two or more persons were tried together. The bulk of the records are handwritten.

Trial documents are to be transcribed to produce an accurate, easy-to-read record that gives as much information as possible about the appearance and contents of the original record. For this reason we offer the following rules for transcription.

Missing data

If part of a record is missing (e.g. page has been torn or damaged so writing is obscured) then indicate the missing data by using <[…]>

Indecipherable data

If you cannot decipher a word or phrase, and have taken your best guess, transcribe what you are sure of and use <[?]> to indicate the indecipherable part.

Formatting and pound symbol

In the transcription window you will see some toolbar buttons from which you are able to select formatting, e.g. bold, underline, italics, strikethrough, or insert pound symbol. This should be used only where the original document appears to have such variation.

Left and right annotations

Trial documents may include pages with annotations on the left or right hand-side of the page (e.g. ‘examined by ‘ or ‘xxd’ or ‘by the pris.’ to indicate that the information related had been elicited in response to a question by the defendant or another). Any annotations to the sides of the main text are to be indicated by superscript and subscript fonts that can be selected from top of the transcription window: red for left side annotations (which will be produced in superscript on the transcription page) and blue for right side annotations (which will be subscript).


Concluding materials such as signatures should be entered as given – e.g. Signed by, or Signature of, with the name of the person if given. The signature of illiterate persons may be designated by a cross or a notation such as ‘his mark’ and so should be entered as such.

Vertical writing

Some documents will have vertical script along the side of the page, even sometimes written across the original horizontal text – in most cases this should be transcribed at the end of the page, with an indication such as [[in vertical]]

Long records

Some trial documents may include more than 100 images. They are generally best approached sequentially, but in some cases it may be useful to view or transcribe images out of order in order to interpret names or events that appear obscure in the earlier pages. The PP system allows this – your transcription will be saved as you exit the current image to view the next page; you can return to it later to edit or complete.

Saving and completing records

An automatic save is run on the transcription every five seconds. However, you also have the option of hitting a manual save button at the top of each image. Progress on images within the document are colour coded: images that have not yet been worked on are coloured red; images in progress are coloured orange; and once you have clicked save and complete on a particular page image it will be coloured green. Trial documents as a whole are only ‘completed’ when all pages have been transcribed. If you wish to stop transcribing a document then you can ‘create and complete’ in the usual way, but please add a note that a document is ‘not completed’ if that is the case. If you want to undo your most recent change to transcription this can be done by pressing CTRL+Z.

Trial IDs

Trial documents will usually be linked to a record of basic details about the trial (e.g. accused’s name, offence, verdict) taken from the court register. You will be able to see this record by clicking on ‘Trial ID’, but in most cases will not be able to edit the information from this record. If you notice any disagreement in the details between the trial documents and the Trial ID record, such as a misspelling of an accused’s name, please feel free to notify us by email or make a note when you submit the completed image.