MURDER trials are set to take place in Basildon for the first time.

Until now, all of the county’s cases have been heard at Chelmsford Crown Court, where only Judges Charles Gratwicke and Patricia Lynch can preside.

But because of Essex’s relatively high crime rate and the fact that many of the county’s killings take place in the Basildon, Southend and Thurrock areas, a senior judge at Basildon Crown Court has been handed his “murder ticket”.

The slang term is applied in the case of any judge who has permission to hear murder trials.

Judge John Lodge had pushed for one because defendants and their families, witnesses and others who are involved will find it easier.

He also argued that residents of the borough have the right to know what has been happening in their community but find it difficult to travel to Chelmsford.

Judge Lodge has presided over several high-profile cases this year, including attempted murder.

Although two men were acquitted of the charge, they were sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for turning the streets of Canvey into the “Wild West” during a car chase where they repeatedly shot at another vehicle with a shotgun.

Conall Regan, 22, of Thames Road, Canvey, and Callum Hutchins, 21, of Mornington Road, were cleared of the attempted murder of the driver of a Volkswagen Golf and two passengers after a two-week trial at Basildon Crown Court.

Last month, Judge Lodge delivered a sentence to a 23-year-old Romford serial thief, Jack O’Brien, who attempted to steal Premier League striker Andy Carroll’s £22,000 wristwatch.

O’Brien was on a motorbike when he approached Carroll who was driving home from West Ham’s training ground.

Judge Lodge handed O’Brien a six-year sentence for attempted robbery.