On Thursday 29 June, around 30 Paviors and guests gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand. They were surprised to be confronted with dozens of cameras and journalists. It transpired that they were waiting for the results of the Court of Appeal ruling on the Government’s decision to transport illegal immigrants to Rwanda, which was announced as the Paviors were entering the Courts. In fact, a number of Paviors were shown in the background of the evening TV news coverage of the event – fame at last!
The tour had been arranged by the Liverymen’s Committee and was led by Tim Wood. Tim had spent a 30-year career as a journalist reporting on activities at the London courts and proved to be a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. The Royal Courts of Justice were designed by George Edmund Street, following a design-competition, and opened in 1882. They house 125 courts and the building is the largest of its kind in the world. On entering the building, most participants were immediately struck by the huge cathedral-like hall, reflecting the designer’s aim of producing a structure reflecting ‘God’s justice’. The Paviors visited a number of different parts of the building, including the exhibition of robes, and found out about both its historic past and its current use. They heard about some of the significant legal judgements made, why court officials wear wigs, and learnt why there is such a huge disparity between the massive sums earned by some barristers, whilst others are paid so poorly, they have recently been on strike.
Having spent an hour in the building, the group was led out the back way through the courtyards of Lincoln’s Inn and along Holborn to Ye Olde London hostelry near St Paul’s Cathedral for an excellent buffet lunch and a glass of Prosecco, plus chat with Harry, the barrister. There was a short quiz after lunch about some of the issues covered in the morning, and several participants’ memories were good enough to win prizes of humorous legal books.
The party then dispersed into small groups to visit the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. Members of the public are allowed to sit and watch trials in the public galleries of the various courts: ‘justice being seen to be done’! Guide Tim had provided everyone with a list of proceedings on the day, so participants could choose the courts they wished to visit. Those visiting the ‘old’ courts climbed many flights of stairs to reach the galleries, so were grateful to sit down and observe the trials taking place. It was fascinating to watch and listen to the interactions between the judges, barristers and defendants, and the experience provided an interesting insight into the daily events which take place at the courts.
The participants enjoyed a fascinating day. Thanks are due to the day’s guide, Tim, and to Julia Lofthouse from the Liverymen’s Committee for the excellent organisational arrangements.