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Old Bailey Street

Old Bailey Street

Old Bailey is the name of an ancient judiciary institution in London, also known as the “Central Criminal Court”. The street where the court sat was also named Old Bailey; in its vicinity were the Newgate Prison and the execution ground. The British transplanted to Hong Kong the judiciary system and the model of operation from their home country, while introducing the symbolic name “Old Bailey” to reinforce colonial rule.

Old Bailey Street was built after the completion of the Victoria Gaol (later Victoria Prison). It connected Hollywood Road right to the entrance of the prison, then extending to meeting Caine Road at Mid-levels, providing easy access to the prison. The road is built at a steep angle and was used to be called “the long slope” by the older generation of locals. In fact, compared to its neighbouring streets, Old Bailey Street was neither the longest nor the steepest. As to why it became known as “the long slope”, there are a number of theories. One was related to the old practice of the death penalty. In the early years the execution ground was located at the open square beside the Magistracy near Arbuthnot Road, and thus inmates on the death roll were jailed at the side of the prison near Arbuthnot Road. The cells near Old Bailey Street were reserved for prisoners sentenced for fixed-term imprisonment. After serving their prison term, the inmate emerged from the gate at Old Bailey Street and led new lives – hence the name “the long slope”.

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