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Going to court

Supreme Court building,  completed 1903.  

One thing I’ve discovered while doing the research for my next book is how much people enjoy being helpful when you ask them about a topic they know a lot about. I experienced another instance of this today while we were playing tourists in our own town, checking out the new developments at Yagan Square and Elizabeth Quay.

As we were walking back towards home we passed the Supreme Court building, and I suggested we have a quick look inside. Part of the book I’m writing is set in the court, and although I’d seen photos online, I wanted to confirm a few things and get a ‘feel’ for the place.

Like most court buildings these days, the front door is staffed by security guards with airport-style security equipment. I asked if we would be allowed to have a peek inside. Taking us for genuine tourists, the security guard recommended that we visit the Old Courthouse Law Museum next door, and then return. That seemed a good idea (never argue with a security guard) so off we went.

Old Courthouse, Perth. 

It seems strange, but having lived in Western Australia most of my life, I’ve never visited what turns out to be the oldest building in Perth. Until recently I didn’t even know it was there, tucked away in a corner of the grounds of the Supreme Court building. It’s well worth a visit.

The original courtroom at the front is set up as it would have been when it was still in use. Behind it are the judge’s rooms which now house displays covering not just the history of the courts and legal system in Western Australia, but a lot of social history too. Entry is free, as is the available audioguide.

Having seen everything there was to see, we returned to the Supreme Court. After screening us, the security guards happily let us in to the foyer, which is every bit as grand as the online photos suggest. We were told that we couldn’t go beyond the doors at each end, or climb the stairs, or take photos. But while we were looking at the displays on the walls, one of the security people asked if we were tourists. I explained that I was researching a trial that had taken place in 1907. The security guard offered to show us one of the empty court rooms, and then, hearing that it was a murder trial I was interested in, showed us around the courtroom where it was most likely held. So we had our own private tour, led by a very knowledgeable tour guide.

 

Photo credits:

Supreme court building by David Stanley, used under a CC licence.

Old Courthouse photo by Moondyne