This weekend is the annual European Heritage Weekend when many buildings of interest that are generally closed to the public open their doors for visitors. There are quite often related talks and presentations available about the history of the building and its function. This year I went to Reading Crown Court.
On arrival Wayne and I queued to be thoroughly searched before being shown up a ramp to an electric door which opened into the foyer of the building. Inside there were lots of stalls where you could talk with people about different parts of the criminal justice system. For example the police and victim support.
One of the stalls was a drugs display showing different types of drug paraphernalia and pictures of people who have had their lives wrecked by taking drugs. They also had some glasses that you could try on which fog and distort your vision as if you were drunk or under the influence of drugs. These u201cbeer glassesu201d made me feel dizzy.
Throughout the day there were mock court cases running and you could register to be a juror or to sit in the viewing gallery. I decided to register as a juror and then went off to see what a courtroom was like.
Inside the courtroom it was explained where the different people sit and how they cope with criminals who are dangerous and sensitive jurors who get upset when they see the evidence. Behind where the defendant sits there is a special toilet which has clear glass so that they can go to the loo and proceedings can continue without causing an adjournment. On display there were the wigs and gowns of the various different people in the court including the judge.
After this we were directed to wait outside for our case to be called which was running in another courtroom. At the allotted time we were shown in and I took my place on the jury for the trial of “The Crown V.S. Goldilocks”. At the start of the proceedings the judge explained to the jury that they should base their verdict on the evidence that is presented in court and not to be influenced by what they may have heard outside the courtroom prior to the case coming to court. Then the prosecution and defence barristers gave short speeches before they cross-examined a number of witnesses including Goldilocks. Once both sides had presented their evidence, some of it being quite funny, the jury was sent away to return a verdict. In the jury room we elected a foreman and then discussed the evidence that had been presented and we came to the conclusion that all of the evidence was circumstantial and that Goldilocks should be found “Not Guilty”. We then returned to court and the judge asked if we had reach a decision, the foreman stood up and declared our verdict.
After a quick lunch we went to a talk about the prison service and how they control people in the community and keep an eye on people who re-offend.
Entrance to the Crown Court was free and access to the main court building was good but there was no wheelchair access to the cells, so I couldn’t take part in the cell tour or take a ride in the prison van. Always check the Heritage Weekend website first for full details before attending an event.