Old Bailey in central London evacuated after fire nearby
The Old Bailey in central London has been evacuated after a fire broke out near the court.
The London fire brigade said it was responding to an incident at an electrical substation at the rear of the central criminal court on Wednesday.
Firefighters were called at 10.44am, and four fire engines and 25 firefighters were at the scene. The fire service advised people to avoid the area and said traffic was likely to be affected.
The BBC journalist Nick Johnson was at the court when the fire began. On X, he said: “Black acrid smoke coming from rear of central criminal court, Old Bailey – lights flickered inside before it was evacuated – firefighter says fire in section of building where electrical substation sits.”
He told the BBC he had heard an electrical humming before the courtroom went dark, followed by an alarm over a sound system telling people to leave the building quickly. He added that there was a smell of smoke similar to when a lightbulb blows.
All proceedings at the court have been postponed. The trial of Constance Marten and Mark Gordon, who are accused of manslaughter by gross negligence after their newborn daughter died while they were on the run from authorities, was paused because of the fire.
The Times journalist David Brown said there was a “series of explosions heard from the building next to the Old Bailey for about 10 minutes before smoke [emerged]”, adding that buildings in the area seemed to have had their power cut.
Describing the scene outside the court, Brown said barristers “were freezing in their gowns and wigs outside without coats”. Judge Mark Lucraft, the recorder of London, told Brown he heard a loud bang and saw smoke. He said it was too early to determine when cases would resume.
UK Power Networks, which distributes power to 8.3m homes and businesses across London, the east and south-east of England, said its “engineers were called to Paternoster Square in London at 11.10am after a fire was reported, which has affected power supplies. We will work to restore supplies as quickly as is safely possible”.
Almost £3m has been reserved for improvement works to the Old Bailey. In December, a pedestrian was hospitalised after debris from the court’s ceremonial gates fell on the street below. Timothy Hailes, an alderman for the City of London, described the stonework as being in an “advanced state of decay”.