gaol delivery

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gaol delivery. Henry II, in the Assizes of Clarendon and Northampton, instituted the system of presentment by the men of each hundred to the travelling justices of the curia regis. The commission of gaol delivery issued to the royal justices instructed them to empty the gaols, which they would do by taking the presentments and then, before 1215, deciding whether the accused should be put to the ordeal and, if so, which ordeal. After 1215 they presided at the trial which became trial by jury. After the decline and eventually the end of the General Eyre in the 14th cent., the commissions of oyer and terminer and gaol delivery were the usual commissions, under which the justices of assize dealt with charges of serious crime. They were read out at the opening of the assizes until their abolition by the Courts Act 1971.

Maureen Mulholland