Justice and criminal law, both meaty topics and not subjects I have spent too long contemplating, seeing as I have managed to avoid serious conflict with the law for the majority of my life (thus far at least).

However, when a friend of mine who works at The Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, suggested a Wednesday morning visit to the public galleries for a coffee and a slice of double murder, it seemed an appealing alternative to surfing the web for 2-D news and entertainment. Instead of watching Jeremy Kyle on TV I could go and see a hardcore live version - Jeremy Kyle: In The City if you like.

For those of you not up on your criminal law here’s the deal. The Old Bailey houses the central criminal courts, which handle the majority of the heavy law cases from London and the South East. Each day, across 14 law courts, the UK’s most senior judges and the Great British public (the jury) decide the fate of numerous criminal trials; from fraud and robbery to rape and murder. A central part of the value system that upholds the British concept of justice (without delving too deep into social theory here) is a core reliance on democracy and equality; therefore the general public are nearly always allowed access to the action that goes on in the criminal courts, via the public galleries.

If you fancy checking out ‘justice in action’ for yourself, you’ll find the Old Bailey located smack in the center of London, just East of the Holborn Viaduct. You’ll know it by it’s large intimidating facade and spiky medieval style gates. This building has been deciding the fate of the city’s outlaws since the time when be-headings and public execution was de rigeur and it certainly looks the part, although a moat and cannon would not go amiss.

The public galleries are, of course, open to the public but it’s not really advertised and from my personal experience it seems that murder trial tourists are not hugely encouraged. However it is your right as a citizen to enter, so they have to let you in. But first you have to rid yourself of a long list of forbidden items - we pretty much had them all bar the ghetto blaster - and endure enthusiastic friskings from several stern looking security guards.

Once we made it through the ‘criminal for a day’ entry process we headed to Court 9, where I’d been told legendary ASBO warrior Onochie Madekwe (he was given the UK’s first ever life-long ASBO from Neasden in 2003), was currently self-defending against three cases of murder, GBH and manslaughter.

However, upon arrival we were informed that the courtroom had become ‘too heated’ for the public gallery to be deemed safe and were turned away. At this point I must have look seriously disheartened because one of the more jovial security guys suggested we head down to court 12 where there was a ‘fresh murder’ starting that we could take a peek at. Success!

We were led into a small public viewing pen, which overlooked the court. Below several people in wigs (judges), a few people in suits (lawyers) and one man in a tracksuit (defendant) sat mid-trial.

Good luck and timing on our part meant we arrive just in time to see the prosecuting lawyer present the case to the jury. This was basically an hour-long ’story-time’, embellished with vivid descriptions and handy illustrations.

It’s really brilliant, like incredible reality TV in the flesh. The basic gist of the case was that drug dealer number one (we’ll call him Adam for the sake of anonymity) was accused of axing drug dealer two, Joe, to death on New Years Eve 2008.  As the prosecuting lawyer tells us, Adam bludgeoned Joe to death in order to steal £800 that Joe had just withdrawn from a cash point so that he could buy counterfeit money, with which he and his team planned to elevate their pills and weed dealing business to higher earning crack and heroine.  The only slight hitch in Adam’s plan was that after he axed Joe to death he had a fag and left the butt in an ashtray next to the body.  Schoolboy, but he gets points back for style.

Jokes aside, murder is seriously tragic stuff as you’d expect. Sitting below us in the defendants booth was Adam, who in all truth looked pretty harmless and glum. The whole thing was a real awakening to the fact the life is cheap and small time drug dealing DOES lead to people axing each other to death for £800. Eventually the tale came to an end and story time was over, court adjourned for lunch and we all shuffled out through dark corridors onto the cold streets of London.

Visit the Old Bailey for some shameless but educational voyeurism - real life TV in the real world.