This film is part of Free


The earliest known police surveillance film to be used as evidence captures some illicit activities - and circus animals - in Chesterfield marketplace.

Government sponsored film 1935 14 mins Silent


PC Saunders of Chesterfield Borough Police spent the best part of a week filming the shenanigans of a posse of illegal street bookies from a first-floor shop window, overlooking Chesterfield marketplace. This surveillance footage became the first film to be used as evidence in a British court. Following the Chesterfield case, police units in Glasgow, Lancashire and Bradford followed suit.

The unique 16mm reversal print, now preserved in the BFI National Archive, is the same artefact that was screened in Chesterfield Police Court. A contemporary Derbyshire Times article described the dramatic atmosphere as the courtroom was "temporarily turned into a cinema", much to the amusement of the defendants and the magistrates. 25 of the 39 defendants were discharged while the other 14 received fines between £2 and £20, or bind-over orders. Look out for the troop of elephants ambling across the marketplace - they were performing at a circus in the town. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.