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

Izzy 1I reflect that Lady Hale probably didn’t get to be Deputy President of the Supreme Court by still being in bed at 8am, fretting about stuff.

Even so I arrive early at a packed courtroom, but they’ve already started – what’s happening? It’s Lord Hope’s valediction: he is retiring today. Grandchildren and a teddy bear are in the front row.

Izzy 2A speaker points out that, for counsel, appearing in the Supreme Court can be ‘among the most alarming and potentially intimidating’ of experiences (and later today the judges do make counsel’s ears go a little pink).

Lord Hope does not look in urgent need of retirement. He ruminates: ‘Ten minutes from time you’re extracted from the maul by the referee and shown the red card…I do regret this is all over.’

After the amiable speeches, the crowd departs and the continuing echo of 9/11 is coolly analysed in legal abstractions. In R v Gul, does the Terrorism Act 2000 catch military attacks by a non-state armed group on state or inter-governmental organisation armed forces in a non-international armed conflict? Be careful what you upload on YouTube.

Lady Hale inquires into the logic of the argument. ‘So why can the Prime Minister not be stopped and searched by the police?’

Had any activists been in court, there would have been a rafter-rending cheer. I think of the armed police outside Tony Blair’s house in Connaught Square. And who was it who parked the red sports car with the number plate 1 RAQ there?

Izzy 3Rootling quietly in my art bag, I disturb the kitchen timer with which I time life-class poses. The movement makes it start ticking rapidly, like the heart of a shrew. It appears to have suffered an impact injury and has no LED display. This has never happened before. How can I stifle the ticking before I get hauled out and searched?

I shove it under The Times. Tic-tic-tic-tic-tic-tic! The only thing about my person which has adequate sound insulating properties is my person. I sit on the timer for the rest of the session, feeling like the crocodile in Peter Pan.

Izzy 4In the café I have a ploughman variant sandwich and one of the promotions of the day, a chocolate brownie. Counsel snap up Supreme Court souvenirs at the till with their snacks. One buys two pens, a china mug and a Christmas tree bauble (the cashier gently takes it out of its box and inspects it in her palm, as my mother would examine each egg in a box before buying it).

There is no afternoon sitting. With time on my hands I spot the copy-editing mistake in Sir Andrew Motion’s workmanlike poem for the Supreme Court displayed in the basement.

Izzy 5Then, perched by the window outside Court 1, where you used to be able to watch the late Brian Haw protesting from his Parliament Square complex, I speed-draw an impression of Westminster Abbey.

An aeroplane crosses the view. I should have drawn it, to commemorate the queasy shock of seeing one in the sky after the temporary flight ban was lifted in 2001.

A generality of soft human beings is wafting around. How can you protect people from people?

More pictures if you scroll down.


Izzy 6