Squatted magistrates court which hosted Occupy’s ‘trial of the 1%’ to become a luxury hotel

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By Judge John Hack on

Two-and-a-half years on from the Occupy movement’s foray into the provision of justice, the 1% get their revenge as spate of court sell-offs continues


Soon it won’t matter that the legal aid budget has as near as damn-it totally evaporated — because there won’t be any venues to hear common-or-garden criminal matters, as the government continues with a programme of flogging off magistrates’ court buildings.

The latest to fall into the hands of the redevelopers is Old Street on the border between the City of London and the capital’s East End.

Renovation of the building — constructed in 1903-05 — is causing those in the hotel property sector to wet themselves in excitement at the prospect of yet another “luxury boutique hotel” for London.

Old Street’s fate follows that of its more famous West End counterpart, Bow Street, which, it was revealed last spring, is set to become a 99-bedroom boutique hotel and police museum.

Legal Cheek recently asked the Ministry of Justice for a list of magistrates’ courts up for sale in the capital — Tower Bridge on the south side of The Thames is another that has recently been boarded up — but an official was unable to provide details.

Developers of Old Street, are quoted by website Hotel Chatter as saying the venue “will become a five-star boutique hotel styled to fit with the new modern art and media image”.

To give the site credit, Hotel Chatter goes on to admit: “We’re not exactly sure what that means, but we guess the target market is the Shoreditch artsy media set. There will be 128 rooms between the Edwardian structure and a new-built block behind.”

What London’s aging criminal law hacks will make of the conversion from magistrates’ court to funky hipster venue is probably fairly predictable. Equally interesting would be getting the views of the Occupy London movement, which hit the headlines at the end of 2011.

After camping out in the grounds around St Paul’s Cathedral and Finsbury Square, in January 2012 Occupy moved into the Old Street court, which had stood largely vacant since 1995. The protesters even went so far as to conduct a couple of mock trials.

In one, they put the “1%” — the tiny sliver at the top of society populated by bankers and other mega rich — on trial for being … er … well, just undeservedly richer than the rest of us. In the second trial, the amateur lawyers put former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his chum, former US President George W Bush, in the dock for war crimes.

The Two Bs were duly convicted in absentia, but sentencing and incarceration proved more difficult. A third trial in which Fred Goodwin and other RBS executives were to stand charged with a long list of nasties was cancelled, presumably because the winter weather turned the court (pictured below left during the “trial of the 1%” and below right in hotel mode) into something resembling a meat-packing freezer.


Central heating issues undoubtedly will be resolved by the time Ye Olde Street Hotel opens to punters. Indeed, it is understood that the revamped building will house a basement containing a gym, swimming pool, bowling alley, and screening room.

Now that’s something criminal hacks could get used to.

Further reading:

‘Trials of the 1%’ to begin as Occupy allowed to stay in Shoreditch courthouse for 3 more weeks [Legal Cheek]

Occupy London protesters’ mock trial bordered on farcical [The Guardian]