You have been found guilty. Take the prisoner down.

I think here at least three people appear: a police officer, a criminal, an order taker

Does the sentence 'Take the prisoner down' mean 'Lay him on the floor and arrest him'?

https://dict.naver.com/enendict/#/entry/enen/958ea2b928194a17926682127796b676 (To arrest someone or to place them in detention)

https://macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/take-down (remove a prisoner from where the prisoner is standing in a court)

Which one is correct or what does the sentence mean?

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  • The three people may be: a judge, a defendant, and an order taker in a court, according to Sense 5
    – gomadeng
    Jun 3, 2022 at 9:13
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    Yeah, the judge tells the police officer to remove the defendant (who is now a prisoner as they have been found guilty). Nobody has to lay (or lie) anywhere.
    – James K
    Jun 3, 2022 at 9:18
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    The prisoner is in the "dock", which is an elevated position (so everyone, usually including the general public) can see him. He's to be literally taken down from that position and placed in a [holding] cell somewhere "downstairs" (usually to await transport to prison). Jun 3, 2022 at 12:29
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    I'm voting to open this question because it's about learning English: the meaning of 'take down'
    – gomadeng
    Jun 3, 2022 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


In British courts, the people in the dock with an accused person or persons are usually officers of the Prison Service (who not police officers) or else security guards employed via an agency.

Access to the dock is very often via a staircase from a lower level of the court building where cells are located. When their trial starts, an accused person will be brought from a cell, up the stairs and into the dock, where they will sit on a chair until sentence is imposed.

If the court sitting is a preliminary one, for example to decide if the accused person is to be kept in custody (remanded) until the full trial is over, and this turns out to be the case, or if the trial is over and a custodial sentence has been imposed, then the accused person is led back down the stairs to the cells, and later taken to a prison in a truck with cells.

If, at the end of the trial, the accused person has been found not guilty, or if they have been found (or have pleaded) guilty, but have not received a custodial sentence, then they will still go back down the same staircase, only this time they will be processed for release by the prison officers or security guards.

The accused has not been called 'the prisoner' for a very long time, which makes me think that the words in the question come from an old novel, film, or maybe a historical TV drama. I also think fiction is mainly where judges say 'take him down'.

In case anyone is interested, in British courts (of whichever UK legal system) the judges don't use gavels, lawyers can't leap up and shout 'objection!', and 'prisoners' are not guarded in the dock by bobbies with those tall helmets, all of which I have seen in UK made TV dramas, which the producers clearly tailored for another market.

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    Without saying much about how, I can assert (if not prove) that I do know what I'm talking about here. Jun 3, 2022 at 10:09
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    Just curious, is this also where being "sent down" comes from? Jun 3, 2022 at 11:08
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    "if they have been, but not received a custodial sentence". Was that meant to be "if they have been found guilty, but not received a custodial sentence"?
    – Rosie F
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:30
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    @DanielRoseman - I believe so, since at least 1841, and also that an equivalent US expression is to be 'sent up', allegedly from the fact that New York City prisoners were sent up the Hudson to the State Prison at Ossining. Jun 3, 2022 at 17:41
  • Gosh, you gotta wonder. Doesn't anyone pay attention during British TV series or shows?? This "sent down" is very common and you can often see the guy (usually a guy) going down stairs to lower level cells. As for sent up, yep, Sing Sing: tfmcq.altervista.org/theater/producers/glossary.html
    – Lambie
    Nov 22, 2022 at 15:10

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