VENUE (derived through the French, from Lat. venire, to come), in English law the term denoting the place from which a jury must come for the trial of a case. The word occurs early in constitutional documents, for it was for a long time one of the essentials of trial by jury that the jury should belong to the neighborhood (vicinetum, visne) in which the cause of action arose or the alleged crime was committed (see Jury). This was founded on the idea that the jurors were in the nature of witnesses for or against the character or innocence of the party. The phrase duodecim legales homines de vicineto, or its equivalent, is found in the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164), the Assize of the Forest (1184) and in Glanvill.
Civil Matters.—Civil actions came to be classified as local and transitory, the former where the cause of action could only arise in a particular county, such as trespass to land, the latter where it might have arisen in any county, such as debt. In the latter case the plaintiff might lay the venue where he pleased, i.e. try the cause in any part of England subject to the power of the court or a judge to change the place of trial. The law on the subject is now only of antiquarian interest, for under the rules of the Supreme Court (Ord. xxxvi. r. 1), " there shall be no local venue for the trial of any action, except where otherwise provided by statute, but in every action in every division the place of trial shall be fixed by the court or a judge.” All local venues created by statutes prior to 1875 were superseded by the rules of the Supreme Court and have not been revived by the present rules; and many of such statutes have been expressly or impliedly repealed by the Public Authorities Protection Act 1893. The present practice is to fix the place of trial in the order for directions now made in every civil action in the High Court. The place is selected by reference to the wishes of the parties, the residence of the witnesses, and with a view to reducing the costs of litigation.
Criminal Matters.—Proceedings by indictment or criminal information are not affected by the changes of procedure as to civil actions; and it is necessary to ascertain in the case of each offence the venue, i.e. the proper place of trial, which, unless otherwise provided by statute, must be the county or other jurisdiction in which acts constituting the offence have been done. Numerous acts provide for the place of trial of offences committed partly in one county and partly in another, or on the high seas or abroad, and of special offences such as those under the Post Office, Merchant Shipping, Slave Trade, and Foreign Enlistment Acts. The place of trial may be changed by the king's bench division, where it is probable that a fair trial could not be had in the county of the venue. Until 1825 it was necessary to have as juries in criminal cases jurors from the hundred in which the offence was said to have been committed, and to be very particular to specify the venue as to each act imputed to the accused. This strictness continued to some extent until the passing of the Criminal Procedure Act 1851, which makes it unnecessary to state any venue in the body of an indictment, and no indictment is to be held bad for want of a proper perfect venue. Since this enactment (which applies to Ireland as well as to England) it is sufficient to state the venue in the margin of the indictment in this form, “Middlesex to wit,” and it is unnecessary to mention the venue in the body of the indictment or information, though in certain cases such as burglary it is usual, if not essential, to give a “local description.” Scotland.—In Scottish law venue is not used as a technical term, but there are statutory provisions for changing the place of trial in both civil and criminal cases.
United States.—In the United States venue may generally be changed by the courts; but in some states it is provided by their constitutions that provision for change of venue is to be made by the legislature. In other states the passing of local or special laws for change of venue is forbidden. (W. F. C.)