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Old Bailey closed for the rest of the week after 'accidental' fire halts trials

The Old Bailey will remain closed for at least the rest of the week after a fire which is being treated by investigators as "accidental"

The recorder of London Judge Mark Lucraft KC said emergency work needs to be carried out and the building will remain closed.

Eyewitnesses said the blaze broke out at the Central Criminal Court after a power cut on Wednesday, plunging the building into darkness.

Around 1,500 people, including defendants who were led into police vans, were evacuated from the Grade II listed building.

Two people had to be rescued from lifts after the power failed and barristers were seen in full dress on the street as court operations were halted.

Cases which had been due to be heard on Thursday were also put off as a result of the incident, including the ongoing trial of Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon for the manslaughter of their baby Victoria.

Urgent bail hearings were moved to Southwark Crown Court, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) confirmed the cause of the fire is being treated as "accidental", while UK Power Networks said an "incident" in one of its electricity substations at the Old Bailey was "being investigated".

Judge Lucraft added UK Power Networks was working on the substation and it was hoped the Old Bailey would reopen on Monday.

In the meantime, he said new kit is required which will not be in place in time for a "safe operation" on Friday.

An LFB spokesman said firefighters had to wait for UK Power Networks before they could safely enter the area and added: "Following an assessment, the fire was found to have burnt itself out within the substation... There was nothing suspicious about the fire.

"Because the electrical supply went down, we led two people stuck in lifts to safety. We did assist two people. They were absolutely fine.

"It looks like damage was contained to just the substation."

A spokesman for UK Power Networks also said: "We are working in conjunction with the customer, whose preference was for a permanent repair rather than a temporary fix.

"Our teams are working safely, round the clock to replace electrical equipment which was substantially damaged by the fire, which will take several days to replace."

The Old Bailey has previously been identified as a high-value terror target and was badly damaged in an IRA car bomb attack in 1973.