It's not exactly everybody's idea of a fun day out, but watching a court case at the Royal Courts of Justice can be a fascinating experience. Obviously it's not somewhere where you can go for a giggle and a chat -- you have to sit there in silence. But it's quite interesting watching a real-life court case.
Bear in mind that the Royal Courts of Justice is a Civil Court, so you won't see any murders or robberies (unless they're on appeal). It's mainly libel cases, financial disputes, family court, asylum and deportation hearings. If you want big criminal cases then you should watch a court case at the Old Bailey instead. We think the rooms are a lot nicer at the Royal Courts of Justice, though, and the building is certainly better. It's almost like a church inside, with a huge stone entrance hall and crypt-like area at the end. Old oil paintings of white-wigged judges stare down from the walls, and all the courts are wood-pannelled and library-like.
You can see what's happening each day by looking at the 'Cause List' on the Royal Courts of Justice website. The same list is displayed inside a big wooden cabinet once you've passed security. Courts which are marked 'In Camera' or 'In Private' are not open to the public.
Craig has been to see one of these cases himself, and he recommends giving it a try -- if only to see the inside of the beautiful building. Read his review before you go, to give you an idea what to expect. Feel free to ask him some questions, or post a question on the forum. It can be quite an intimidating building to enter for a tourist, and you'll have to pluck up some courage to enter the courts (you can see the barristers and judges talking through the side windows, and you'll stand there wondering whether you're allowed inside!).
Alternatively, you might prefer to go on a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice instead, which will show you around the building and teach you some of its history.
Note: You need to be over 14 years of age to sit in the public galleries, and groups of 12 and above may be asked to split up so as not to cause too much of a disturbance. Make sure you leave your cameras and mobile phones at home as well, because you won't get them past security.
Guest – “Hi,does anyone know the exact link to book tickets? i can't find it and i really want to go!thank you!!”
Admin – “Are you talking about the tour?It's not possible to book tickets online for the tour. But this page provides information about how you do it — justice.gov.uk/courts/rcj-rolls-building/rcj/toursYou basically just have to send them a quick little email, and they will then send you back the available dates. Or you can phone them up if you prefer.If you are talking about watching a trial, then that's free. You can just turn up on the day.”
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Craig’s review – “I'm back in court again... off to see the judge this time. I've got my toothbrush and my pyjamas all packed in case he wants to put me away. I should be alright though -- I'm only here to watch a trial. I came on a tour the other day so I thought I'd come back and see something for real.I'm sitting in the same little cafe as last time, but there's actually some peop… continued”
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