“Here Justice sits and lifts her steady scale within the Abbey’s sight and Parliament’s but independent of them both.” The words of former poet laureate Andrew Motion are engraved on the stone benches that grace the entrance to the Supreme Court in Parliament Square, and they are fittingly grand.
The £59m Supreme Court project has seen the complete renovation of the former Middlesex Guildhall and the new building now conclusively separates the different arms of the British state: Parliament will make the law on behalf of the electorate and the Supreme Justices will be charged, if asked to, with assessing if it is being fairly applied.
Joining a group of expectant journalists waiting in the modern, brightly lit lobby with all its glass etchings and marble flooring, I’m swiftly whisked off for a whistle-stop tour of the newly refurbished listed building, designed by architects Feilden + Mawson.
First stop on the itinerary? The carpet of course. We are taken into an open room with nothing but a couple of chairs and lots and lots of carpet. Even though this bright green pop art-inspired flooring is probably visible from space, the eager team of visiting hacks is invited to take a closer look. Well, it was designed by Sir Peter Blake, famous for creating the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover for The Beatles.
To say the gaudy pattern, which is supposed to represent the four nations of the UK, brightens up the place is an understatement. I even hear one reporter liken it to a pub carpet. Perhaps Blake should stick to album covers.
This diversion over, we’re off to the nerve centre of the building: the three courtrooms. Two of the courts have retained their original Victorian-Gothic fittings, while the third has been completely modernised, refitted and opened to light.
In the modern-style Courtroom 2 the justices will be able to sit at a crescent-shaped desk during hearings and will be on the same level as everyone else in the room. Lawyers will present their cases opposite them while their clients, the public and press will sit a little further back.
Most notably, there are cameras protruding from the four corners of the room meaning that for the first time it will be possible to broadcast proceedings live, revolutionising the court system by allowing the mass public to view the court at work.
The building’s designers have certainly gone some way to connect the justice system with the people it’s meant to serve. And when the court opens its doors for the first time next month it looks like justice may finally be seen to be done.