The Central Criminal
Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to
Old Bailey from 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.
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.
4 Civic role
5 In popular culture
6 See also
8 External links
Newgate gaol in 1810. For much of its history, the "Old Baily" court
was attached to the gaol.
Old Bailey trial, circa 1808.
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
gaol, 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.
Bushel's Case of 1670
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.
In 1834, it was renamed as the Central Criminal
Court and its
jurisdiction extended beyond that of
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.
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.
In the 19th century, the
Old Bailey was a courtroom adjacent to
Newgate gaol. 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. 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.
Old Bailey building dates from 1902 but it was officially
opened on 27 February 1907. It was designed by
E. W. Mountford
E. W. Mountford and
built on the site of the infamous Newgate gaol, 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
King Edward VII opened the courthouse.
Lady Justice statue on the top of the court building
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, however, 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
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.
South Block extension
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 presently 18 courts in use.
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 gates to the 1907 part of the building are
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. In Warwick Square, on the western side of the
complex, is the "Lord Mayor's Entrance".
A remnant of the city wall is preserved in the basement beneath the
The court manager is known by the title of the Secondary of the City
of London. As of 2012, the Secondary is Charles Henty.
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[update] the Recorder of
London is Judge Nicholas Hilliard
QC, MA, 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.
Entrance door to the Old Bailey.
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.
In popular culture
Old Bailey street name sign.
This article contains embedded lists that may be poorly defined,
unverified or indiscriminate. Please help to clean it up to meet
Wikipedia's quality standards. Where appropriate, incorporate items
into the main body of the article. (October 2016)
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.
In the book
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the
Old Bailey is
the courthouse named in the book where Charles Darnay is put on trial
In Act Two of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, after
the pirates defeat the police in a brief struggle, the two sides sing
that "No pirate band will take its stand/At the Central Criminal
In the movies
The Paradine Case
The Paradine Case and Witness for the Prosecution, the
court scenes are set in the Old Bailey.
In the novel
Patriot Games and the eponymous film, terrorist Sean
Miller is tried in the
Old Bailey for the attempted kidnapping of the
Prince & Princess of Wales (which killed two guards), and
sentenced to life in prison after Jack Ryan's testimony. (Ryan foiled
the plot by disabling Miller and using Miller's gun to kill Miller's
In the book
Season of Migration to the North
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, Mustafa
Sa'eed was tried in the
Old Bailey for the crime of murdering his
English wife Jean Morris and was sentenced to seven years
Old Bailey is destroyed with explosives by the vigilante V in the
V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta and its film adaptation. In the graphic
novel, V entertains a long, one-sided conversation with the statue of
Justice on the roof, in which he professes his love for her but
accuses her of being a whore for the fictional fascist government, and
tells her of his new mistress named Anarchy.
The television series Rumpole of the Bailey, which starred Leo McKern,
concerned a defence lawyer who works at the Bailey. Sir John Mortimer,
a criminal barrister and author, often appeared at the Old Bailey. His
courtroom experiences led him to create the fictional character Horace
In N. F. Simpson's play One Way Pendulum, Arthur Groomkirby builds a
replica of the
Old Bailey in his living room, in which his son Kirby
is later tried for mass murder.
In the popular Australian folk song "Botany Bay," the first verse
references the "well-known Old Bailey." The song tells the tale of a
group of prisoners being taken from Britain to the penal colonies of
Australia, to be exiled there.
In the television series Bad Girls, the character Nikki Wade's
successful appeal took place at the Old Bailey.
The book Neverwhere, written by Neil Gaiman, has a character named Old
In the television series Law & Order: UK several interior scenes
are shot in the Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court, with the
murals and axioms clearly visible.
The entire sketch "
Court Charades" from the British comedy show Monty
Python's Flying Circus happens at the Old Bailey, appearing when it is
showing the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition.
It is featured in the rhyme "Oranges and Lemons," which, in turn, is
featured in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, the
Old Bailey has been renamed the "Palace of Justice" where
"thoughtcriminals" are periodically tried, convicted and sentenced to
Leon Uris novel QB VII, the courtrooms in the Old Bailey
In the novel Error of Judgement, written by Dexter Dias, the Old
Bailey is the court in which the main trial against a mentally ill
murderer is held.
In Leon Garfield's Smith, the setting is at some point in Old Bailey.
In the television series Garrow's Law, a fictional retelling of the
life of an 18th-century barrister, William Garrow, many of the scenes
take place within the Old Bailey.
In the episode "The Reichenbach Fall" of the television series
Sherlock, a BBC adaption of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the
Old Bailey is featured, though interior scenes were actually filmed
In the 2011 murder mystery Death Comes to Pemberley, written by P. D.
James, the 1804 trial for a murder committed in Derbyshire is held at
the Old Bailey, even though, as explained above, venue would not have
been proper at the
Old Bailey at that time for a crime committed in a
In the novel
A Certain Justice
A Certain Justice by P. D. James, the
Old Bailey features
prominently as a site where the murdered barrister Venetia Aldridge
often appeared in court. The primary characters and murder suspects
Mr. Froggett and Mrs. Carpenters watched Ms. Aldridge in action in The
In the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,
Joshamee Gibbs is tried in the Old Bailey, and Jack Sparrow disguises
himself as Justice Smith.
In the historical novel Blackout/All Clear, written by Connie Willis,
World War II child evacuee Alf Hodbin eventually becomes a justice at
the Old Bailey.
In the 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of
Fleet Street and its 2007 film adaptation, the story's antagonist,
Turpin, is a judge working in the Old Bailey.
In the novel A Prisoner of Birth, written by Jeffrey Archer, the trial
of the murder case around which the story revolves is set at the Old
In The Execution of Gary Glitter,
Gary Glitter (born Paul Francis
Gadd) is tried at the
Old Bailey for the sex crimes he was accused of
committing in Vietnam.
In The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Todd Margaret is
tried at the Old Bailey.
In the game Dai Gyakuten Saiban: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Bōken and
Dai Gyakuten Saiban
Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo, the
main protagonist Naruhodō Ryūnosuke defends various clients at Old
Bailey during his stay in London.
Criminal justice portal
Courts of the United Kingdom
Royal Courts of Justice
Bow Street Magistrates' Court
Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court
^ Digitizing the Hanging Court[permanent dead link]. Guy Gugliotta,
Smithsonian Magazine, April 2007.
^ a b c d James, David (31 January 2010). "It's murder every day in
the Old Bailey". The Sunday Times magazine. London: Times Newspapers.
pp. 20–26. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
^ Colomb, Gregory. Designs on Truth, page 50 (Penn State Press, 1992).
^ Secret London: The Secondary
^ "Next Recorder of
^ "Obituary: Sir James Miskin". The Independent.
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: London:
Old Bailey Trials
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Central Criminal Court.
HM Courts Service
HM Courts Service – CCC – Daily
The Proceedings of the
London 1674 to 1913 – Archive of
Court from the City of
Old Bailey photographs at 100 years old (from BBC)
From Rumpole to the Ripper, Crippen to the Krays: The
Old Bailey turns
100, Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, 27 February 2007
View from Google Maps
Copy of Sunday Times article including rare picture of Grand Hall
Voices from the
Old Bailey – BBC Radio 4 dramatisations of 18th
Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
Empire, Leicester Square
Odeon, Leicester Square
Wembley Stadium (national stadium)
Craven Cottage (Fulham)
The Den (Millwall)
Emirates Stadium (Arsenal)
Loftus Road (Queens Park Rangers)
London Stadium (West Ham United)
Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace)
Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)
The Valley (Charlton Athletic)
White Hart Lane
White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur)
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
The Championship Course
The Championship Course (rowing)
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Oval (cricket)
Twickenham Stadium (rugby)
Royal National Theatre
Royal Opera House
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Royal Albert Hall
Royal Festival Hall
10 Downing Street
Bank of England
Palace of Westminster
Royal Courts of Justice
Imperial War Museum
Museum of London
National Maritime Museum
Natural History Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Tower of London
Victoria and Albert Museum
Places of worship
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Bevis Marks Synagogue
Methodist Central Hall
Regent's Park Mosque
St Paul's Cathedral
Fortnum & Mason
The Mall Wood Green
One New Change
Petticoat Lane Market
Westfield Stratford City
Partly occupied by
the Royal Family
St James's Palace
The Queen's Gallery
Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
1 Canada Square
8 Canada Square
25 Canada Square
1 Churchill Place
20 Fenchurch Street
St George Wharf Tower
30 St Mary Axe
Crystal Palace transmitting station
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain ("Eros")
Charing Cross station
Clapham Junction station
King's Cross station
Liverpool Street station
London Bridge station
St Pancras station
Victoria Coach Station
Emirates Air Line cable car
Battersea Power Station
St Bartholomew's Hospital
St. James's Park
Horse Guards Parade
Charing Cross Road
Kensington High Street
Coordinates: 51°30′57″N 0°6′7″W / 51.51583°N