Think of the major criminal trials that have taken place in the Old Bailey since the beginning of the 20th Century: Dr Crippen, John Christie, Ruth Ellis, The Yorkshire Ripper, the Soham Murders…
In each and every case the cast list has included, along with judges, journalists, clerks, barristers, and curious members of the public, a man or woman sitting in the corner recording every word spoken.
Since 1907 they have noted the proceedings down by hand – either in shorthand or on a stenography machine – that is until 4.15pm on Friday, March 23, 2012.
For from Monday cases will be recorded digitally by machines in an attempt to cut costs.
Judge John Bevan QC, sitting in the Old Bailey’s famous Court No. 1, marked the occasion with a short speech marking his regret at the change.
“This is the last day in which this court, which has been well served by stenographers and shorthand writers, is going to have their assistance.
“There is going to be a machine in future which, having been organised by the Ministry of Justice, will no doubt work perfectly.
“We deeply regret the stenographers will not be with us. They will be behind the scenes trying to make the system work. They will not be in court, which some of us might regard as a pity.”
The stenographers are being kept on one more week just in case the new digital system breaks down. After that they will be called on only if a transcription of the audio file is required by any of the legal teams involved.
Another victory for the machines. But that doesn’t mean anybody can capture proceedings using a digital recorder – their use is banned under the Contempt of Court Act.
Stenography and Charles Dickens – our blog piece when the news was announced.
For the record, stenographers put down their pens at the Old Bailey – Evening Standard