Last Thursday, we domestic journalism students were fortunate enough to be taken to the Old Bailey, for a brief introductory tour and a chance to sit in on current trials.
Whilst the trials we attended can’t really be discussed on here, due to their ongoing nature, we were quite unfortunate when it came to really seeing any real court work. By real, I mean cross-examining of witnesses, barristers pitting their wits against each other.
Instead, we saw one trial adjourned for the entire day, another break for lunch just as we got there, and the very beginnings of a third trial (the details of which had appeared on the BBC News home page by the time I got home.
So, aside from the trials themselves, what really impressed me was the building. Constructed in 1907, the Old Bailey reeks of an England past, where grandeur and authority walked hand in hand, today’s austerity far enough in the future that it basically isn’t even a thing yet.
It’s an impressive sight to behold, stuffy corridors hidden beneath elaborate, ornate entrance foyers – basically, it is exactly what I had hoped the great bastion of the English law would be.
Furthermore, the code of conduct expected in such a place is also impressive. In an age where it seems you can never be farther than a few yards or seconds from the latest form of technology, it was refreshing that mobile phones couldn’t be taken inside the building at all, much less cameras or laptops.
Authoritative figures in England often take some criticism for being behind the times or antiquated (I’m looking at you, FA), but I was pleased to see that at least when it comes to applying and upholding the law, we are reliably old-fashioned.