There are two world-famous landmark buildings in London which represent justice in its two major forms – criminal and civil.
This magnificent building, below, the dome of which you can see from our south-facing windows, is the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey. People usually call it The Old Bailey. Many, many high profile criminal cases have been tried here from all over Britain, not just London cases. It actually sits on the ground previously occupied by Newgate Prison, which was infamous for hangings and terrible conditions for prisoners. The motto over the main doorway says, “Defend the children of the poor & punish the wrongdoer.” It’s accompanied by a relief of Justice reading a (legal?) tome with two maidens, one with a sword, the other with a mirror. The purpose of the sword is obvious enough but the mirror is for reflection – ie thinking about what we are doing.
For major civil cases, such as a celebrity suing a newspaper, a divorce or for appeals, you go to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and this beautiful Victorian Gothic building on the left (the last great Gothic building in London) is where you’ll end up. There are 1000 rooms and 3 ½ miles of corridors. Admission is free and you can wander in and out of the 88 courtrooms very much as you see fit. Since most hearings and trials are public, you can pop in on any one of them, providing there is actually room for you to enter. Look up the list in the central courtyard to see where the most interesting-looking trial is. A half-hour there can be either most entertaining or incredibly boring.
To get to the Old Bailey from Holborn, walk south down Newgate St. To get to the RCJ, go down New Fetter Lane to the end, turn right and walk about 200m. You’ll pass St Dunstan’s and the Old Bank of England on the way. It’s a fascinating walk.