In contrast to the established courts and courtrooms in London, justice was once delivered to the outlying rural areas of England by horseback. For example Cambridgeshire had three towns which hosted periodic courts called “assizes.” The word “assize” refers to the sessions of the judges who traveled across the seven circuits of England and Wales, similar to the original concept of circuit courts in America. Abraham Lincoln was known to have traveled on such circuits during the time that he practiced law in Illinois. In England, these assizes were still active until they were abolished by the Courts Act of 1971, which replaced them with a single, permanent Crown Court.
How many emails do you get every day? Here’s an opportunity to sign up for email alerts that will provide value – and protection – for you and your clients. The Oregon Department of Justice has a free email alert.
Trial resumed with the banging of the gavel at 10:30 a.m., the traditional starting time for court in England. An American court would have ordinarily started at 9:30, or even earlier. Indeed, in my experience, I have often been in court, ready to go by as early as 8:30.
The Crown’s first witness for the day was the CCTV detective. England is awash in CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras. Although the use of CCTV dates back as early as the 1960s, the IRA bombing in Bishopsgate, London in 1993 resulted in the construction of a “Ring of Steel” around the capital, with CCTV cameras playing a major role. And, by 2011 there were an estimated 1.85 million CCTV cameras in use in the UK. These cameras are often very useful in criminal investigations in England.
Just before the proceedings started, the Detective-Sergeant in charge of the murder investigation provided me a short summary of the facts of the case: Two young men, both age 15 at the time of the crime, were charged with the stabbing death of one Shaquan Fearon on September 3, 2015. Just after 6:00 pm on that date, Scott and Dyer attacked Fearon and his companion, Junior Inneh, stabbing both, and killing Fearon.
Everyone has seen an American courtroom on television or in the movies. And, we have seen American lawyers walk freely about the courtroom, sometimes standing right up next to the witness. English Barristers never walk around the courtroom, and never move up next to a witness. Therefor, it should be no surprise that English courtrooms differ in many ways from American courtrooms.
We entered Courtroom No. 9 from a foyer on the third floor reserved for Barristers, witnesses and court personnel. Members of the public who wished to observe the proceedings could access a viewing gallery from the fourth floor. This prevented the general public from mingling with the court officials and witnesses. In an American courtroom, the public, the parties and the court personnel all congregate together.
As we finished our coffee, Sarah Whitehouse, my sabbatical facilitator, said it was time to go to court. We fetched our umbrellas and headed off to the Central Criminal Court located in the famous courthouse, The Old Bailey.
The Old Bailey is a venerable building. The site on which it stands was the principal west gate of the Roman City of Londinium. At the time of the Norman Conquest, circa 1066, the gate was being used as a prison, and during the 12th century the gate was rebuilt, and renamed the “New Gate.”