Being of an inquisitive disposition (some might prefer to call it nosey), I couldn’t resist the temptation to enter the doors of The Supreme Court in Parliament Square to see what goes on in there.
One of the good things about living in a free and democratic country is that any member of the public can enter a courtroom to witness the proceedings, and so after passing through security checks I made my way up to Court No 1 to listen to a case about which the highest court in the land was sitting in judgement.
The UK Supreme Court was only created in 2009 believe it or not. Before that a committee in the House of Lords was responsible for passing judgement.
Before I go any further I have to admit that the rules of law are way above my head. All I know is that the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand and the Central Criminal Court (better known as the Old Bailey), preside over the major court cases in the capital (and beyond). Sometimes though these courts come up against points of law which may not have cropped up before, or, as is often the case, their judgement is brought into question, and this is where the Supreme Court comes in. If there are any legal eagles out there then please let me know if I haven’t got that right, but that’s what I believe is the gist of it.
I sat in on a case that was brought about by a couple of British citizens living abroad who were appealing against a ruling that denied them the right to vote in the British EU referendum of June 2016.
Just for a moment though I’m going back to the building itself. From the outside it looks as though it’s been here for centuries with sculptures of King John granting the Magna Carta, Henry III granting the charter to the Abbey of Westminster, and even Lady Jane Grey (the nine day Queen) being offered the English crown by her father in law, the Duke of Northumberland.
When you get inside though it’s obvious that the building isn’t that old. The court is housed in what used to be the Middlesex Guildhall and the present building only dates from 1912/13.
There are three courtrooms, the most important being Court No. 1 of course, but there’s also an exhibition on the Lower Ground Floor where there’s also a café.
The courtrooms don’t hold trials with a jury and witness stand and the main players at the top table aren’t dressed up in wigs and regalia either. There’s no prosecution and defence and the proceedings are filmed for all to see.
I’m not particularly interested in sitting through hours of a court case that I have no affiliated interest in, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to pop in and take a look at how the judicial system works, although I have to say the Royal Courts of Justice is a better experience.
So – I expect you’re all on the edge of your seats wondering whether the ex-pats won their case or not.
In a word – No!