The Bow Street Runners were one of the world's first professional police forces. Now, Bow Street Magistrates Court in London has closed.

Sun Online

BOW Street Magistratesí Court has been host to some of the country's most notorious criminals, but today, after 270 years, it heard its final cases.

Court ushers, jailers and office staff were in tears as Senior District Judge Timothy Workman made a closing speech in historic Court 1 this morning.

The final day's case list was a typical one for Bow Street - but as usual it was also remarkable for the range of cases dealt with by the unique court.

They ranged from the mundane beggars, shoplifters and illegal minicabbers to a crucial terrorist hearing which was the first of its kind in legal history.

The final defendant was Jason Jonathan Handy, 33, of Southwark, who was before Mr Workman for breaching an Asbo.

Handing down a one-month conditional discharge, Mr Workman said: "When you were arrested in Henrietta Street last night, I have no doubt you were unaware that you were to become the last defendant to appear in Bow Street after about 270 years."

Mr Workman delivered a brief speech to staff and press in courtroom one before the morning's work began.

He said: "The closure of the court, with its great legal heritage and
history, is of great sadness to me and to all who are associated with this court.

"But the work will continue in the City of Westminster courthouse where I am sure that the standards, traditions and spirit of Bow Street will prevail and be preserved."

London gangsters the Kray twins.

The Grade II-listed building, including the neighbouring police station which closed in 1993, have been sold to an Irish developer and is to be turned into a luxury hotel.

The courtís staff and casework will transfer to Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court on Monday and the new location will be renamed City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

It was at Bow Streetís former premises across the road from its current site that the fledgling magistrates system took shape under Sir Thomas De Veil from 1739.

The famous Bow Street Runners which pre-empted the modern police were formed there in 1750.

The courthouse which closed its doors today opened in 1881 and has seen some of the most famous names in British criminal history pass through its doors, including Oscar Wilde, murderer Dr Crippen, wartime traitor William (Lord Haw-Haw) Joyce, the spy Roger Casement, the Kray twins, Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken.


Before the police force was created, the victims of crime, such as theft, in Britain usually tried to apprehend the criminal themselves and take them to the authorities or shouted things such as "Stop! Thief!" to try and get passers-by to chase after the felon. Many people shouted "Stop! Murder!" when they were a victim, or witness to, a crime even when no murder was involved.

People known as "Thief-Takers" were common in 18th Century England. These were ordinary members of the public who had decided to catch felons as a way of making a living. Their wages was the money they got paid by the authorities as a reward for the capture of a felon. But even the Thief-Takers themselves often resorted to criminality. Eventually, a few clever people decided to get together a few of these Thief-Takers and make them professional crime fighters, thus creating an embryonic police service.

The world's first actual police force was not the Bow Street Runners but was an organisation known as The Peelers. They were named after Tory Home Secretary Robert Peel who helped to found them in 1829.

The Peelers were also called Bobbies (from "Robert") and wore dark blue uniforms because it was the colour of the popular Royal Navy. Red was ignored as it was the colour of the army and in those days the British people feared the army. They also wore tall hats which they could use to stand on and look over walls.

To this day, the British policeman's uniform is still navy blue, they still wear tall hats and they are still known as Bobbies.