The Old Bailey or Central Criminal Court is the countries most important crown court. It hears cases remitted to it from all over England and Wales as well as the Greater London area. Originally established as a session house in 1539 next to Newgate prison and was rebuilt in 1774. In 1834 the name and jurisdiction of the new Central Criminal Court spread beyond the City of London and Middlesex to include parts of neighbouring counties. In 1902 the old sessions house and Newgate prison was demolished to make way for the current building, which was opened in 1907.
The pictures show remand prisoners who are being kept in custody during their criminal trials, also security guards who accompany the prisoners in the vans as they are escorted between prison and the Old Bailey.
The prison security vans have small dark windows allowing the occupant to look out, but viewing into the vehicle is not achievable. All the pictures shown are reactions from the remand prisoners to a camera being placed against the window and a flashgun penetrating the darkened window to see the small cabin they are kept in.
The long process and dark grim historical nature of criminal law was the starting point of these pictures, highlighting through the anonymity of the remand prisoners hidden away from public consumption, not through choice but a decision made by the authority to potentially alienate further from society these remand prisoners.. Devoid of the public gaze you often hear remand prisoners banging on the window of the van to attract attention, a reaction I received as well photographing. This want to be heard or seen is present in the photos showing how the process of criminal law mystifies and intensifies the situation as the prisoner travels between the remand prison and the Old Bailey.
Working for a Press agency as a photographer specializing in Criminal and Civil law over four years I often photographed prison vans entering the court precincts from remand prisons to try and capture well known or infamous people who were at that time in the legal process. This visual documentation was for public consumption in the daily National newspapers of Britain and around the world if relevant to another country. Whilst making these pictures which is like a lottery for getting results due to the fact you cannot see inside the van. I started to capture other unknown prisoners who for me showed the nature of the situation and concentrated on documenting these passengers.
All images and text © Ben Graville
By Ben Graville