Couple judge a court to be just fine for their wedding

Olwen Dudgeon Legal Correspondent

THE jury room at Newcastle’s Moot Hall Law Courts has witnessed some important, life-changing decisions over the years but history will be made tomorrow when a couple marry there.

Management consultant Alison Smith and Jim Harkess, who works for BT, will become the first people in the country to tie the knot in a court that is still in regular use.

The historic Moot Hall, opened in 1812, overlooking the Tyne and the city’s Quayside has handled thousands of criminal cases over the years including the trial of child killer Robert Black, but it has also recently been granted a licence by the city council to hold civil weddings.

Alison, 43, who was born in Middlesbrough, says she and Jim, 48, from Forest Hall, Newcastle, chose Moot Hall because of its riverside location and internal features such as the grand sweeping staircase.

“I’ve obviously got delusions of grandeur,” said the bride-to-be. “But it really is a fantastic setting.”

At least one member of her family will also find the court familiar – her brother Russell is a policeman and has given evidence there.

Her late father was a police inspector in Cleveland and she said: “It is a beautiful building inside and with my family background I tend to think of it as a place of justice rather than anything else.”

The couple are having 30 guests to the ceremony in the grand jury room before joining more guests later for a reception at a venue on the Quayside.

Moot Hall accommodation manager Ian Cuthbertson said: “It couldn’t be a more magnificent setting for a wedding, with its antique furniture and spectacular views. Because the court is still operational we can only hold weddings at the weekends and on bank holidays.”