Open justice – keeping the court open

Though not absolute, the fundamental expectation that trials are public should allow us to assume that the public be allocated sufficient space to perform their role effectively and with dignity. However, whatever the motivation, once it became common for trials to be held indoors, the fact that two or more makeshift courts sat in a large hall contemporaneously meant that the public remained relatively unrestrained outside if the outer bar which marked the edge if a court. For Graham (2004) courts during 17th and 18th centuries are best understood as lively and sociable places. For instance, in the Westminster Hall of the seventeenth century the judiciary had to compete with shopkeepers for the attention if the public.

Westminster Hall in 1738 with bookshops and stalls
The trial of Warren Hastings in Westminster Hall, 1789