Mid-February I was offered a chance to go and visit The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, which we all know as The Old Bailey. I am a current law student with the Open University and I am also a member of the Open University Law Society (OULS) it was thanks to the OULS that I was able to have this opportunity. As soon as I received the email, I was so excited, mostly because I love watching Criminal documentaries. If you’re anything like me then you would understand my excitement.
At this point, I started to do research on the Old Bailey, on where it was based, nearest train stations, routes, opening times, what I can and cannot bring (there is a long list!) and generally looking around the streets on google maps to see what nearby places there were for lunchtime.
When I received another email to say that I have been put on the list with others that are attending, I was full of joy! Also, in that email, I was told that we would be doing case reports on the cases taking place in the Old Bailey.
One week before the trip everyone who was attending had a crash course in case report writing, the crash course was very helpful as I have made case bundles for Mooting and have read case reports, but I have never written one myself. Even though I didn’t get to write a report in the end it was still helpful to know how to. I will explain why I didn’t write a report, unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own and I will explain why.
On the 20 March, I travelled from Hertfordshire to City Thameslink in London to meet the others that were also joining the visit to the Old Bailey. I arrived at 8:30 am and met a few others. While we were waiting, we all had a chat and discussed the cases we were looking forward to. After everyone had arrived, we made our way to the Court and queued up to go inside, there was a large queue including friends and family of the defendants and applicants, who went inside first.
The Old Bailey
Before you could go in you had to remove any belts and watches to make it easier to get through the security. I forgot what I could not take inside the court. I had already left my phone with the gentleman who organised the trip, and the other belongings I thought were fine to take (I was wrong). So, after I went up to security, they took my bag and put it into an x-ray box so they could scan the inside to make sure there were no electronics. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I had my wireless headphones in there and I had to leave and find a shop to store my belongings.
Here is information on what you are able to take into the Old Bailey.
After finding somewhere to store my belongings, all I could take was my notebook, a pen and my bank card. So again, I took off my watch and gave it to security along with my card and notebook and walked through. I was clear this time and waited for my group to come through as well. Once we were all together we tried to find a court to enter, so we went up and down the stairs (there were a lot) and after about 20 minutes we finally found one. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take notes of this case due to the defendants being under 18 years old so instead, we sat and watched the barristers do their job. The judge was incredible to watch and how she kept control of her courtroom was smooth and steady.
There were 12 barristers and one was cross-referencing the witness. All the others were on laptops writing case notes I suspect. There was one junior barrister who was helping the others with evidence for cross-referencing. The whole scenario within the court was amazing to watch. Some of the jurors looked bored whilst others were deep into listening and looking at the evidence. Unfortunately, due to us not being able to take notes, I couldn't write up a case report which is a shame but I respect how the courts work. I cannot say much about the case I watched, except a barrister trying to push the judge towards dismissing a juror. The judge was not open to having that conversation due to being so far into the proceedings and having already lost one juror she did not want to lose another.
The Old Bailey is certainly an experience to see as a building, let alone watch cases. It was a memorable place and I felt so lucky to be able to be inside there. I am going to go and see some more cases in the future and this time I will be more prepared. My only advice would be to make sure you read the prohibited items as they’re not very well laid out on the internet unless you really search. Also, make sure your lungs are ready for numerous stairs.
If you are interested in legal proceedings, especially criminal ones, then the Old Bailey is certainly worth the visit.