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This history of the Old Bailey is told through characters from both sides of the legal divide, the actors who trod the boards of many grim tragedies. In the beginning there was barbarity and injustice - the courts thronged with a mob eager for public executions. The book argues that we have not progressed as much as we think and are made uneasy by the continuing exposure of miscarriages of justice.;The cast of the book include: the Dracula-garbed court chaplain whose sole job was to intone ""Amen"" after pronouncement of a death sentence; the judge who chose lust for a gypsy-girl witness over fairness, and was attacked by the mob; and the hangmen such as John Ellis who never recovered from executing Edith Thompson and eventually took his own life.