The new Supreme Court encourages visitors to the Court. Those who visit come away with a variety of impressions of the court. In this guest post, artist Isobel Williams reflects on her latest visit to the Court.

Izzi1I’d been avoiding the Privy Council.

The Thing sometimes lurks there. People from overseas jurisdictions arguing for the right to carry out a sentence of capital punishment back home.

But here I am in Court 3, where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sits. Behind me is a picture frame that looks like a giant rib cage after the heart within it exploded.

Izzy2On my journey in, a bus driver traps a frail elderly woman’s arm as he closes the doors impatiently, and hurts her. The conductress (it’s a new-style Routemaster) stands like a statue as far away as possible, staring in the opposite direction. I harangue the bus driver. The woman’s companion harangues the bus driver. He is silent and avoids eye contact. I assume he’s been trained not to apologise for fear of admitting liability. It’s very hot. The woman doesn’t wish to make a formal complaint. Where does our duty to other people begin and end?

Are you prepared to catch me if I fall?

That is the first line of a poem written by a prisoner (James, in France) and printed in the latest copy of Allies, the  newsletter of the charity Prisoners Abroad – ‘caring for Britons held overseas and their families’ (Not normally death row cases).

Issy3Lord Neuberger hosted a reception for this charity at the Royal Courts of Justice back in January. And now he is rather disconcertingly sitting beneath a portrait of William Mainwaring (1735-1821), MP for Middlesex, whose electoral opponent sought an inquiry into prison abuses. Mainwaring made sure there was no inquiry.

The Thing isn’t here today. In Cukurova Finance International Ltd & Anor v Alfa Telecom Turkey Limited, the latter lent the former $1.352 billion; it went wrong and the finance company claims that it’s been stitched up in the New York courts. I’ve been programmed in a Pavlovian way to feel sick every time I hear the words ‘Deutsche Bank’, so I’m not having a great time.

Izzy4When I leave, the sound of the celebratory peal of bells from the Abbey smashes against all the hard surfaces of Westminster and bounces off again. A birth. Funny old world. Still got people in it like Clive Stafford Smith and all the other death row campaigners with perpetually exploding hearts.