A LONG queue of people stretched around the side of Oxford Crown Court this weekend as eager visitors waited for a look behind the scenes. 

The doors of Oxford Crown Court, located in St Aldate's, were opened on Saturday (March 23) to welcome in families and locals for an educational insight into the court system.

Guests were able to try on judges’ gowns, sit in their seats, hear how they prepare for cases, listen in on mock trials and even make the walk from the dock to the cells.

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The open day of the building, which dates back to the 1930s, aimed to show how the court and its staff serve the community and deliver justice.

Justice Minister Mike Freer said: “As well as a world-leading justice system, we have a truly historic courts estate with fascinating histories and stories to tell.

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“We are investing millions of pounds every year to ensure our court buildings are fit for the future and reflect our high standards, while also preserving their unique and incredibly important history.”

 Nick Goodwin, CEO of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, added: “We are delighted to be opening our doors to the public in Oxford, sharing all the work we do here at HMCTS to make sure justice is delivered for victims.

“Our courts are working at full throttle to tackle the backlogs and we are investing £220million for essential modernisation and repair work of our court buildings.”

Oxford Mail: Example of an evidence bagExample of an evidence bag (Image: NQ)

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Clerks welcomed guests across the concourse into any one of the four criminal courtrooms where they could watch a mock trial, view drone footage on the court televisions used to display evidence during proceedings, or explore the courtroom and sit in the judges chair.

The mock trials, which included real barristers and judges who work daily from Oxford Crown Court, included a scandalous tale of a defendant named Albus Dumbledore who was accused of waving a knife threateningly at the complainant Hermione Granger over a dispute about ruined exam papers.

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Juries complete of volunteers would deliberate and deliver a verdict on Dumbledore while onlookers filled the courtrooms.

Guests were also welcomed underneath the court to explore the cells with well-guided tours from Serco.

Dock and custody officers showed off the cells, some which included a chalkboard for defendants to use while waiting for sentencing or during breaks in trials.

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The food which is heated up for defendants was also on display as well as the full body-uniform some officers may need to wear if defendants start an affray – though this is, reportedly, uncommon.

Outside of the cells, guests were given a tour of the mini cells on Serco transport buses which can be as small as three cells or up to 12.

Oxford Mail: Prison transport vanPrison transport van (Image: NQ)

Alongside this vehicle were multiple police cars and a motorcycle, with officers explaining how sirens can be turned on and off and which equipment is necessary for their road traffic policing such as emergency lights and signs.

Guests were then taken back through the court building and shown the passageway which judges use to enter courtrooms.

It was heard the current Crown Court building was built in the 1930s in the neoclassical style by the famous motor industrialist William Morris to act as a showroom for his pioneering Morris Motors brand.

It was subsequently turned into a court in 1985.

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Court hearings have taken place in the city as far back as the 12th century.

In July 1577, prominent catholic Rowland Jenks was sentenced to be ‘pilloried by the ears’ for making ‘foul-mouthed and saucy’ comments about Queen Elizabeth I in a local tavern.

In furious retribution Jenks allegedly cursed the judge and jury, causing considerable local panic when several members of the trial subsequently fell sick and died.   

The building hears criminal cases from across Oxfordshire daily as well as family and civil matters.