December 03 2023

Sketches of justice: Privy Council to squat

Sketches of justice: Privy Council to squat

I explore the gunge in the waste disposal to retrieve the tiny pipette I use to fill a plastic brush-pen with ink. I take the wrong bus. Then I miss the right bus because I’m looking in a shop window, writes Isobel Williams.

It’s just as well the administration of justice isn’t in my hands – literally, as I forget my gloves have metal studs and they set off the security alarm at the Supreme Court.

  • In the spirit of ‘open justice’ – and wishful thinking –  the JusticeGap asked the Ministry of Justice for permission for Isobel Williams to sketch in court – see HERE and HERE.
  • Cameras are banned from the courts under the Criminal Justice Act 1925, section 41. The Contempt of Court Act 1981, section 9 makes it a contempt to make any sound recording of court proceedings without the court’s permission, and a contempt to broadcast any such recording.
  • The sketch above shows Lord Walker (extreme right) from afar.
  • You see more of Isobel’s drawings at www.izzybody.blogspot.co.uk.



From the Privy Council to a squat
I sit in on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a nice rest. The court setting aims to give the five law lords a Mount Rushmore prominence, but from the back row their heads are the size of beads. Lesage v the Mauritius Commercial Bank Limited concerns fraud. Mauritian law appears to be an awkward fit of the Code Napoleon and English law. The case has squeezed through the gap to get to London.

A regular supply of tourists come and go. They last a few minutes in the public seats, then negotiate silently with each other about when and how to leave.

I think I’ll settle into the rhythm of drawing after lunch. But when the break comes I learn that squatter-activists, including people from Occupy, are heading to the Royal Courts of Justice for an eviction hearing. I arrange to go there with a client who’s writing a newspaper article about squatting.

As I leave the Supreme Court, I’m stopped by a security guard.


‘You’re the one who does the drawings, aren’t you!’
He beams at me. Poised. Well-made face. Interesting highlights on the skin.
I promise to draw him next time.

No drawing is allowed in the Royal Courts of Justice.

People are too easily intimidated by a courtroom setting. Why say ‘Not at this precise moment in time, my lord’ instead of ‘No’? Even so, the hearing is brief.

The activists cluster outside for a smoke, oblivious to the designated smoking area a few yards away.

‘Look, man!’ Someone points down at the formal black shoes he has worn for the courtroom. ‘My feet just ain’t that shape!’

‘Excuse me!’ A solicitor for the claimant is exasperated by the smokers blocking her way. ‘Honestly!’ she sighs to her colleague as she tittups away in high-heeled boots that are not the shape of human feet.

We head for the squat in High Holborn, which has been empty for 11 years and is theirs for at least 72 hours more. They are hungry. There is dried pasta but nothing to eat with it. Yes there is – some sandwiches retrieved from skips outside supermarkets. They talk about using sandwich fillings to make a sauce.

I’m too tired for drawing, the atmosphere too jumpy.

Johnny Teatent comes downstairs barefoot to greet the courtroom squad. His pale cheek has a zig-zag red wound about two days old. He’s been glassed.

I go home, break a plate and cut my finger open on it. They’ll find another squat.