September 5th , 2007
I’ve always wanted to attend a court case and see how much it resembles those on TV but I never thought I would get to the Old Bailey. When I left my folks and returned to my son’s flat in London, I just got on a bus and went. A little different from Dickens’s time, so quiet almost like being in church, but very impressive nonetheless. The sheer politeness of the proceedings and the dignity of the bewigged judge and lawyers and their black gowns are enough to intimidate. There are 18 courts and not many cases were being heard but I spent an hour in one court listening to two police witnesses and hearing statements of absent witnesses read. The prosecuting counsel and the policeman played the parts of the accused and the interviewing policeman – who really got into his role. The wheels of justice grind slowly however and every painstaking detail has to be dissected. This was a case of assault, boyfriend/girlfriend. I see that everyone keeps themselves awake by taking copious notes, this includes the judge, jury and all the lawyers. No cell phones or computers allowed except for the Clerk of the Court who keeps his eyes glued to a screen. The elderly lady judge had a quiet authoritative presence interjecting occasionally to explain things in a kindly way to the jury. At one point the two opposing counsels were whispering to each other for a number of minutes which occasioned the judge to point out that if they carried on much longer, she would have to “rise”. When there was a 10 minute procedural break, she did indeed ‘rise’ and the Public Gallery was emptied – we are not allowed inside if the judge is not present. I left at this point, before the doctor’s testimony was read, the judge commenting with some asperity that she didn’t know why he couldn’t be present as defence counsel would have liked to question him. I went to collect my cell phone from the sandwich kiosk across the road (a profitable sideline business) where it had resided safely all day in a packet with my name on it. I love London.