The CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT OF ENGLAND AND WALES , commonly known as
the 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
16th 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.
* 1 History
* 2 Judges
* 3 Civic role
* 4 In popular culture
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 External links
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
1666 and rebuilt in 1674, with the court open to the weather to
prevent the spread of disease. Plaque commemorating 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 small court 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 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
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 blindfold redundant.
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.
Old Bailey trial , circa 1808.
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
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
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
, 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.
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.
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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 by
Charles Dickens , the Old
Bailey is the courthouse named in the book where Charles Darnay is put
on trial for treason.
* 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 killing Miller's brother with Miller's gun.)
* In the book
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 graphic novel
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
Horace Rumpole .
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 Bailey.
* In the television series Law border:solid #aaa 1px">
* Criminal justice portal
Courts of the United Kingdom
Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice
* Bow Street Magistrates\'
* Horseferry Road Magistrates\'
* ^ Digitizing the Hanging Court. 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,
* ^ Secret London: The Secondary
* ^ "Next Recorder of
* ^ "Obituary: Sir James Miskin". The Independent.