Old Bailey remains closed for emergency repairs after 'explosions' and fire nearby

The Old Bailey remains closed for emergency repairs on Thursday after an electrical fire led to 1,500 people having to evacuate.

Explosions were heard near the Old Bailey on Wednesday morning before black acrid smoke poured out of buildings nearby.

Inside the Old Bailey, lights flickered and dimmed, and some of the 18 courtrooms suddenly descended into complete darkness just as cases were getting underway shortly after 10am.

Jurors, judges, court staff, journalists and lawyers were immediately evacuated from the front of the building.

Dozens of barristers in their black gowns and wigs lined the street as four fire engines arrived.There were further reports of power outages in the area and around 25 firefighters are on the scene.

Later, defendants were seen being escorted by police and walked out of a side exit and into waiting prison vans to be returned to prison.

It’s hoped the Old Bailey will re-open on Friday.

The Recorder of London, Judge Mark Lucraft KC, was seen liaising with court staff and firefighters who had entered the Old Bailey and gathered around Warwick Lane on Wednesday.

He told reporters he heard the explosion and saw smoke but it was “too early to say” when the courthouse might re-open.

Firefighters said they were responding to an incident at an electrical substation near the rear of the court.

Footage showed smoke billowing out onto the street by the court, known formally as the Central Criminal Court.

Barristers and other court users were told by security officials that they would not be allowed to go back inside to collect their belongings until safety checks had been carried out.The London Fire Brigade said in a statement: “Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters are responding to an incident involving an electrical substation on Warwick Lane, near the rear of the Old Bailey.

“Firefighters worked with UK Power Networks to make the scene safe and bring the fire under control. The ground floor substation was partly damaged in the incident.

“Around 1,500 people were evacuated from the Old Bailey and surrounding area, and there are no reports of any injuries.

“The brigade received the first of six calls reporting the incident at 10.44am, and crews had the fire under control by 2.07pm.

“Firefighters from Dowgate, Soho and Dockhead Fire Station attended the scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation.”

Temporary chief inspector Tom Fisher, of City of London Police, added: “There is no indication at this stage that this is anything other than an incident involving an electrical sub station.”The court is the UK’s most high-profile criminal court. All proceedings at the Old Bailey are currently postponed as firefighters respond to the scene.

Among those taking place on Wednesday is the ongoing trial of Mark Gordon and Constance Marten, who are charged with manslaughter, concealing the birth of a child, and perverting the course of justice.

Also currently being heard at the court is the inquest into the deaths of three men who were murdered in a Reading terrorist attack, and the trial of Sandip Patel, who is accused of murdering prostitute Marina Koppel at her home in Marylebone in 1994.

The incident comes just over a month after masonry fell from the front facade of the courthouse, and a pedestrian was injured after falling over the debris.

After that incident, members of the City of London Corporation accepted there was a backlog of maintenance work at the courthouse which had been delayed for years. More than £7m has been put aside for upgrade work.

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “The London Fire Brigade is responding to an incident involving an electrical substation on Warwick Lane, near the rear of the Central Criminal Court.

“The building has been evacuated whilst the fire brigade response is ongoing.

“Trials will resume at the earliest possible opportunity following advice from the London Fire Brigade and a full health and safety assessment.”