Old Bailey

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Central Criminal Court of England and Wales
Old Bailey
Oldbaileylondon-900.jpg
The Old Bailey in 2004
Jurisdiction England and Wales
Location London, EC4
Coordinates 51°30′57″N0°6′7″W / 51.51583°N 0.10194°W / 51.51583; -0.10194 Coordinates: 51°30′57″N0°6′7″W / 51.51583°N 0.10194°W / 51.51583; -0.10194
Recorder of London
Currently Nicholas Hilliard
Since6 January 2015

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales (commonly called the Old Bailey, after the street on which it stands) is a court in London and one of a number of buildings housing the Crown Court. Part of the present building stands on the site of the medieval Newgate gaol, on a road named Old Bailey that follows the line of the City of London's fortified wall (or bailey ), which runs from Ludgate Hill to the junction of Newgate Street and Holborn Viaduct. The Old Bailey has been housed in several structures near this location since the sixteenth century, and its present building dates from 1902, designed by Edward William Mountford.

England and Wales Administrative jurisdiction within the United Kingdom

England and Wales is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. ’England and Wales’ forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows a single legal system, known as English law.

Court judicial institution with the authority to resolve legal disputes

A court is any person or institution with authority to judge or adjudicate, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law. In both common law and civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute resolution, and it is generally understood that all people have an ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before a court.

Crown Court part of the Senior Courts of England and Wales

The Crown Court of England and Wales is, together with the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal, one of the constituent parts of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. It is the highest court of first instance in criminal cases; however, for some purposes the Crown Court is hierarchically subordinate to the High Court and its Divisional Courts.

Contents

The Crown Court sitting at the Central Criminal Court deals with major criminal cases from within Greater London and in exceptional cases, from other parts of England and Wales. Trials at the Old Bailey, as at other courts, are open to the public; however, they are subject to stringent security procedures.

Greater London County of England

Greater London is a ceremonial county of England that forms the London region. This region forms the administrative boundaries of London and is organised into 33 local government districts—the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, which is located within the region but is separate from the county. The Greater London Authority, based in Southwark, is responsible for strategic local government across the region and consists of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The City of London Corporation is the principal local authority for the City of London, with a similar role to that of the 32 London borough councils.

History

Newgate gaol in 1810. For much of its history, the "Old Baily" court was attached to the gaol. West View of Newgate by George Shepherd (1784-1862).jpg
Newgate gaol in 1810. For much of its history, the "Old Baily" court was attached to the gaol.
An Old Bailey trial, c. 1808. Old Bailey Microcosm edited.jpg
An Old Bailey trial, c. 1808.
Plaque commemorating Bushel's Case of 1670 William Penn & William Mead - plaque - 01.jpg
Plaque commemorating Bushel's Case of 1670
Lady Justice statue on the top of the court building Justice (3643291515).jpg
Lady Justice statue on the top of the court building
South Block extension Southblockoldbailey.jpg
South Block extension

The court originated as the sessions house of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City of London and of Middlesex. The original medieval court was first mentioned in 1585; it was next to the older Newgate Prison, and seems to have grown out of the endowment to improve the gaol and rooms for the sheriffs, made possible by a gift from Richard Whittington. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and rebuilt in 1674, with the court open to the weather to prevent the spread of disease.

The Lord Mayor of London is the City's mayor and the leader of the City of London Corporation. Within the City of London, the Lord Mayor is accorded precedence over all individuals except the sovereign and retains various traditional powers, rights and privileges, including the title and style The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London.

Two sheriffs are elected annually for the City of London by the Liverymen of the City Livery Companies. Today's sheriffs have only nominal duties, but the historical officeholders had important judicial responsibilities. They have attended the Justices at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, since its original role as the Court for the City and Middlesex.

Middlesex historic county of England

Middlesex is a historic county in southeast England. Its area is now almost entirely within the wider urbanised area of London. Its area is now also mostly within the ceremonial county of Greater London, with small sections in other neighbouring ceremonial counties. It was established in the Anglo-Saxon system from the territory of the Middle Saxons, and existed as an official administrative unit until 1965. The county is bounded to the south by the River Thames, and includes the rivers Colne and Lea and a ridge of hills as the other boundaries. The largely low-lying county, dominated by clay in its north and alluvium on gravel in its south, is the second smallest by area of England's historic counties, after Rutland.

In 1734, it was refronted, enclosing the court and reducing the influence of spectators: this led to outbreaks of typhus, notably in 1750 when 60 people died, including the Lord Mayor and two judges. It was rebuilt again in 1774 and a second courtroom was added in 1824. Over 100,000 criminal trials were carried out at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1834. [1]

Typhus group of infectious diseases

Typhus, also known as typhus fever, is a group of infectious diseases that include epidemic typhus, scrub typhus, and murine typhus. Common symptoms include fever, headache, and a rash. Typically these begin one to two weeks after exposure.

In 1834, it was renamed as the Central Criminal Court and its jurisdiction extended beyond that of London and Middlesex to the whole of the English jurisdiction for trials of major cases. Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service manages the courts and administers the trials but the building itself is owned by the City of London Corporation, which finances the building, the running of it, the staff and the maintenance out of their own resources. [2]

Her Majestys Courts and Tribunals Service an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. It was created on 1 April 2011 by the merger of Her Majesty's Courts Service and the Tribunals Service.

City of London Corporation municipal corporation of City of London

The City of London Corporation, officially and legally the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London, is the municipal governing body of the City of London, the historic centre of London and the location of much of the United Kingdom's financial sector.

The court was originally intended as the site where only criminals accused of crimes committed in the City and Middlesex were tried. However, in 1856, there was public revulsion at the accusations against the doctor William Palmer that he was a poisoner and murderer. This led to fears that he could not receive a fair trial in his native Staffordshire. The Central Criminal Court Act 1856 was passed to enable his trial to be held at the Old Bailey.

William Palmer (murderer) English doctor found guilty of murder

William Palmer, also known as the Rugeley Poisoner or the Prince of Poisoners, was an English doctor found guilty of murder in one of the most notorious cases of the 19th century. Charles Dickens called Palmer "the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey".

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders with Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Central Criminal Court Act 1856 United Kingdom legislation

The Central Criminal Court Act 1856, originally known as the Trial of Offences Act 1856 and popularly known as Palmer's Act, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act allowed a crime committed outside the City of London or the County of Middlesex to be tried at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, rather than locally.

In the 19th century, the Old Bailey was a courtroom adjacent to Newgate Prison. Hangings were a public spectacle in the street outside until May 1868. The condemned would be led along Dead Man's Walk between the prison and the court, and many were buried in the walk itself. Large, riotous crowds would gather and pelt the condemned with rotten fruit and vegetables and stones. [2] In 1807, 28 people were crushed to death after a pie-seller's stall overturned. A secret tunnel was subsequently created between the prison and St Sepulchre's church opposite, to allow the chaplain to minister to the condemned man without having to force his way through the crowds. [2]

The present Old Bailey building dates from 1902 but it was officially opened on 27 February 1907. It was designed by E. W. Mountford and built on the site of the infamous Newgate Prison, which was demolished to allow the court buildings to be constructed. Above the main entrance is inscribed the admonition: "Defend the Children of the Poor & Punish the Wrongdoer". King Edward VII opened the courthouse.


On the dome above the court stands a bronze statue of Lady Justice, executed by the British sculptor F. W. Pomeroy. She holds a sword in her right hand and the scales of justice in her left. The statue is popularly supposed to show blind Justice, but the figure is not blindfolded: the courthouse brochures explain that this is because Lady Justice was originally not blindfolded, and because her "maidenly form" is supposed to guarantee her impartiality which renders the blindfold redundant. [3]

During the Blitz of World War II, the Old Bailey was bombed and severely damaged, but subsequent reconstruction work restored most of it in the early 1950s. In 1952, the restored interior of the Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court was once again open. The interior of the Great Hall (underneath the dome) is decorated with paintings commemorating the Blitz, as well as quasi-historical scenes of St Paul's Cathedral with nobles outside. Running around the entire hall are a series of axioms, some of biblical reference. They read:

"The law of the wise is a fountain of life"
"The welfare of the people is supreme"
"Right lives by law and law subsists by power"
"Poise the cause in justice's equal scales"
"Moses gave unto the people the laws of God"
"London shall have all its ancient rights"

The Great Hall (and the floor beneath it) is also decorated with many busts and statues, chiefly of British monarchs, but also of legal figures, and those who achieved renown by campaigning for improvement in prison conditions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This part of the building also houses the shorthand-writers' offices.

The lower level also hosts a minor exhibition on the history of the Old Bailey and Newgate featuring historical prison artefacts.

In 1973, the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional IRA exploded a car bomb in the street outside the courts, killing one and injuring 200 people. A shard of glass is preserved as a reminder, embedded in the wall at the top of the main stairs. [2]

Between 1968 and 1972, a new South Block, designed by the architects Donald McMorran and George Whitby, was built to accommodate more modern courts. There are 18 courts in use at present. Court 19 is now used variously as a press overflow facility, as a registration room for first-day jurors or as a holding area for serving jurors.

The original ceremonial gate to the 1907 part of the building in Warwick Square, on the western side of the complex, is the "Lord Mayor's Entrance" and only used by the Lord Mayor and visiting royalty. The general entrance to the building is a few yards down the road in the South Block and is often featured as a backdrop in television news reports. There is also a separate rear entrance, not open to the public, which permits more discreet access.

A remnant of the city wall is preserved in the basement beneath the cells.

Management

Until 2017 the court manager was known by the title of the Secondary of the City of London, an ancient title of a City officer. [4] Today the more prosaic 'Head of Operations' is used.

Judges

All judges sitting in the Old Bailey are addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady" whether they are High Court, circuit judges or recorders. The Lord Mayor and aldermen of the City of London are entitled to sit on the judges' bench during a hearing but do not participate in hearings. By tradition the judge sits slightly off-centre in case the Lord Mayor decides to come in; if he did he would take the centre chair.

The most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court has the title of Recorder of London, and his deputy has the title of Common Serjeant of London. The position of "Recorder of London" is distinct from that of a recorder, which is a part-time judicial office, holders of which sit part-time as judges of the Crown or county courts. Some of the most senior criminal lawyers in the country sit as recorders in the Central Criminal Court.

As of 2015 the Recorder of London is Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, MA, [5] who took over as the Recorder of London on the retirement of Judge Brian Barker who took over on the retirement of Judge Peter Beaumont CBE QC, appointed in December 2004 following the death of his predecessor, Judge Michael Hyam. From 1975 to 1990 the very outspoken Sir James Miskin served as the Recorder of London with a number of controversial cases coming before him. [6]

Civic role

Entrance to the original block of the Old Bailey, now only used for ceremonial purposes. Old Bailey entrance.JPG
Entrance to the original block of the Old Bailey, now only used for ceremonial purposes.

The court house originated as part of the City of London's borough judicial system, and it remains so. The Recorder and the Common Serjeant are both City officers, and the Recorder is a member of the Common Council because he is also a member of the Court of Aldermen. The City's sheriffs and the Lord Mayor are justices there, but their jurisdiction is now nominal. The sheriffs are resident with the senior judges in the complex. In Court Number 1, there are several benches set aside for the committee of the Bridge House Estates, which is the actual owner of the building.

Old Bailey street name sign Old bailey sign.jpg
Old Bailey street name sign

As the court in which the most serious criminal cases in London, and often the whole of England and Wales, have been heard for centuries, there are many references to the Old Bailey.

See also

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References

  1. Gugliotta, Guy (April 2007). "Digitizing the Hanging Court". Smithsonian . Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 James, David (31 January 2010). "It's murder every day in the Old Bailey". The Sunday Times Magazine . London. pp. 20–26. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  3. Colomb, Gregory G. (1992). Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic. University Park, Penn.: The Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 50. ISBN   9780271039640. OCLC   463716684.
  4. Secret London: The Secondary
  5. "Next Recorder of London announced".
  6. "Obituary: Sir James Miskin". The Independent.