Lunch with the Judges at the Old Bailey

Wednesday 17th February 2016

I was invited by Sheriff Christine Rigden to lunch as her guest at the Old Bailey. In time honoured tradition all the judges on duty lunch together with the duty Sheriff in the chair who invites a handful of guests. It was my great pleasure to be one of her guests. You might be relieved to know that lunch itself is alcohol free which means we all rise promptly at 2:00pm with a clear head and we the guests are invited to sit in on one of the cases currently being heard. I chose a murder trial which was just beginning and saw the swearing in of the jury and the opeing statement of the prosecution. Not perhaps as thrilling as Perry Mason but very absorbing nevertheless. Conversation round the lunch table is as you might expect stimulating and interesting. This is a rare opportunity to get to know the Old Bailey judges in the relaxing atmosphere of lunch. The judges find it easier not to remove their gowns and wigs for their brief lunch break so we sit in the splendour of the Old Bailey dining room surrounded by the elegant wigs of the judges and recorders ,who are barristers sitting as judges on a part time basis. At close quarters I was able to see the difference between a judge's wig and a barrister's wig. Barristers' wigs have curls, judges' do not. It is that simple. It was a pleasure to renew my acquaintance with Nicolas Hilliard, Recorder of London and the most senior judge at the Old Bailey, who was our guest of honour at the January dinner. The recorder, by the way, wears a splendid red gown and stood out in a sea of black and white.