This is the story of an arena of crime and degradation, of infamy and human suffering. It is the history of the Old Bailey, an institution as flawed as all man-made attempts at justice are doomed to be. In the beginning there was barbarity and injustice. The court was thronged with a restless, muttering mob eager for the verdicts of "guilty" so they could enjoy public executions, hurling abuse and missiles at those with the noose around their neck. Today we fool ourselves that we have evolved beyond barbarism, but are made uneasy by the continuing exposure of miscarriages of justice. While welcoming the release of those wrongly imprisoned, the innocents who died on the scaffold haunt us. Those who believe they have the divine power to judge their fellow man are unable to perform resurrections. With the Old Bailey for a yardstick, mankind has not progressed much through the centuries. There was some optimism as the Millennium drew near, but it was misplaced. There was no apocalypse, no miracle. The Old Bailey has since seen its usual parade of misfits.
With a mixture of racist murderers, road-rage killers and lying and cheating top politicians, it is as difficult as ever to separate the good from the bad, but the ugly are easily recognisable. Ugliness is the theme here as we tour the courts of long ago, meeting the Dracula-garbed court chaplains, drunken, brutal judges, cold-blooded hangmen, through to the new breed of pseudo-respectable criminals of today.
The author of over 30 books, Theresa Murphy has written on diverse subjects ranging from television comedy, through nautical history, to worldwide travel.