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AU WA S940




  • 1877-01-01 - (Creation)

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Administrative history

A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.

The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).

Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.

In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.

The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

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The Transfer of Land Act, 1874, introduced the Torrens system of land registration. This simplified the title to land, guaranteed it and facilitated dealings with it.
Land granted prior to 1875 could be registered under this Act. If a question arose about the administration of the Act the Commissioner of Titles or the Registrar could prepare a "case stated" for the opinion of the Supreme Court.
When an application was received, it was advertised in a Perth newspaper and often in a local paper in the vicinity of the land in question as well as being published in the Government Gazette, and any interested person had the right to lodge a caveat forbidding the bringing of the land under the Act.
The applicant could then summon the caveator before the Supreme Court or a judge in Chambers to show cause why the caveat should not be removed.
A caveat could also be placed on land being transferred or registered under the Act.
If the certificate or instrument of title was issued in error, the recipient could be summoned. If this person refused to surrender the certificate for cancellation or correction, she/he could be arrested and brought before the Supreme Court.
State Archives does not hold registers for these files.
Currently (2022) Landgate still holds the actual Transfer of Land Act applications. Series 940 only contains files relating to the Supreme Court action in the case of some of these applications. Landgate also holds the certificates of title, deposited plans, diagrams and other documents referenced in the files and noted in this listing.
Further information on Crown Leases, noted in some of the files and in this listing, can be found at State Records Office Acc 3289, listing AN 109/4.


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