Warwick’s Court Leet was established by Royal Charter in 1554, giving the Earl of Warwick authority to ensure good practice in trade and also to try by jury, and punish, all crimes committed within the jurisdiction. Only the most serious crimes were committed to the King’s Justices.
In the Court Leet the Earl was assisted by a Jury of twelve or more Burgesses. These Jurors also had a duty to ‘present’ to the Lord or his Steward, all matters amiss within the Borough or matters which they considered to be for its improvement or good government.
The criminal jurisdiction of Courts Leet was gradually superseded by a more convenient jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace. Courts Leet finally had their legal criminal jurisdiction abolished in 1977 by section 23 of the Administration of Justice Act 1977.
Warwick, along with a number of other places, retained its Court Leet as part of its long tradition. The Warwick Court Leet has always been used, and still is today, as an advisory body in calling attention of the elected representatives to anything amiss or for the betterment of the town. The present Jury is fixed at 24 persons.
More detail of Warwick’s Court Leet is provided by the document ‘The Court Leet of the Worshipful Town Mayor and Chief Burgesses of Warwick’ (PDF).
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