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Memories of attempted murder court case in Barking after boxing promoter Frank Warren was shot

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 July 2020

The former Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Vickie Flores

The former Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Vickie Flores

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In 1893 The Public Offices were built on land in East Street.

Suranne Jones played Britain's youngest female judge in Sky drama Lawless which was filmed at Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Sky/Jon HallSuranne Jones played Britain's youngest female judge in Sky drama Lawless which was filmed at Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Sky/Jon Hall

When borough status was conferred on Barking in 1931 it was decided a new Town Hall was needed. Plans were approved in 1936.

Due to austerity, building was halted until after the Second World War. It was not completed until 1957.

Meanwhile Barking Council fought to have a magistrates’ court in the old Public Offices and eventually received Home Office approval.

Alterations were made to the building to make it suitable for use as a criminal court. Courts One and Two were on the first floor. Court One had secure access to the cells downstairs and both included areas for court officers, press and public.

The former Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Vickie FloresThe former Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Vickie Flores

On the second floor were Courts Three and Four where youth and family cases were heard.

Cases proceeded in Barking in August 1960. There were about 50 magistrates.

Many cases were heard at Barking Court over the next 50 years. One of the most notable, causing large crowds outside court, was the shooting of Frank Warren.

Nearly every national newspaper reported on December 1, 1989 that boxing promoter Warren had been shot by a lone gunman as he got out of his car to attend a boxing match at The Broadway Theatre, Barking.

Suranne Jones played Britain's youngest female judge in Sky drama Lawless which was filmed at Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Sky/Jon HallSuranne Jones played Britain's youngest female judge in Sky drama Lawless which was filmed at Barking Magistrates' Court. Picture: Sky/Jon Hall

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He suffered serious chest and stomach wounds.

Warren was the ex-manager of Terry Marsh, the undefeated former world lightweight champion nicknamed “The Fighting Fireman”. There was an ongoing libel case between the two.

On January 17, 1990, Marsh was arrested at Gatwick Airport after returning from America where he watched boxer Nigel Benn’s victory.

His first appearance, and each that followed at Barking, saw the courthouse surrounded by Marsh’s supporters.

On November 7, 1990, after a nine-day trial at the Old Bailey and four hours of jury deliberations, he was found not guilty of attempted murder. The verdict drew a loud cheer in court.

Despite opposition, Barking Magistrates’ Court was closed along with 142 other courts in England in September 2011.

The approximately 85 magistrates at Barking were eligible to sit at any of the London courts.

The majority remained in the north east London justice area, sitting at court buildings at Barkingside or Romford.

The following year Sky Living filmed the drama Lawless starring Suranne Jones and Lindsay Duncan as judges. This drama showed the interior of the courthouse in its former glory.

The building has now been converted for residential use.

Sue Hamilton is a former magistrate. With thanks to the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Be First.


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