Ministers shouldn’t allow the Royal Courts of Justice to lie fallow for two months — turn the buildings into a theme park
Today marks the end of the court’s Trinity term in England and Wales, which means that most judges can seriously start thinking about the Dordogne and that stock of claret they laid in.
The standard policy has been to let the courts themselves rest, like exhausted actors having just finished a gruelling run of Shakespeare rep in which they’ve been slogging their guts out doing two performances daily, six days a week.
But this is modern Britain, with the law ruled by market economy overlord Michael Gove. Does it make commercial sense to let a marquee building such as the Royal Courts of Justice in London’s Strand stand still for two whole months? That is what the marketing men would describe as a monster wasted opportunity cost .. or something like that.
Enter The Judge with a cracking idea that he is willing to chuck the Lord Chancellor’s way free, gratis and for nought. This one comes purely from his big society heart.
It goes something like this.
Tourists love the RCJ. Most don’t really have a clue of what it is or what purpose it serves, but they coo over the George Edmund Street-designed Victorian gothic as an example of Olde Englande.
So the government should monetise (note that entrepreneurial jargon) that fascination by launching “The London Law Experience” — a craven Disneyland-style pastiche of the mother of all legal systems.
Look! Over there is Sir Thomas More arguing eloquently in favour of allegiance to the Church of Rome. Whahey! Isn’t that Charles Dickens on the other side toiling away in his youth as a clerk in the offices of Gray’s Inn solicitors Ellis & Blackmore?
And there’s Lord Atkin handing down his famous dissenting judgment in Liversidge v Anderson, while behind him is the unmistakeable figure of Lord Denning, just being Lord Denning. And there’s “Gorgeous” George Carman charming a libel jury.
And here’s the real genius: instead of populating the “experience” with wax figures representing this pantheon historical legal luminaries, the government could employ hard-up law students to play the roles. In addition to providing some much needed spare cash, it would be a welcome distraction from worrying about training contract or pupillage applications.
And depending on how generous or parsimonious Gove feels, those law students could be paid a salary or simply work for tips. If the latter, The Judge’s suggestion would be to target the Yanks, while steering clear of the Russians.
There is no room for passengers in an austerity world. The legal profession cannot afford to allow iconic court buildings to loaf around during the “holiday” months. This project will provide Gove with an opportunity score big brownie points with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Not least because ticket prices could be extortionate, putting the London Dungeons and Madam Tussauds in the shade. This “destination” venue (marketing men, please take note again) will not be aimed at the locals, but at the hordes of cash-ladened tourists who are keen for a slice of quaint English history.
Indeed, the London Law Experience could even offer the added value of wheeling out the odd real High Court judge to greet visitors from the bench.
One or two are bound to be too frail to get to their French holiday chateaux. And with the amount of whinging we hear from that quarter about poor salaries that are driving so many to contemplate returning to private practice, presumably they — along with the law students — would be grateful for the chance to earn an extra bob or two.