Law, Justice and Journalism

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

‘This is not Justice’: Ian Tomlinson, Institutional Failure and the Press Politics of Outrage

In Justice, Social sciences on January 23, 2012 at 11:01 am

A recent paper by Chris Greer and Eugene McLaughlin, from the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, in the British Journal of Criminology contributes to research on the sociology of scandal and the role of national newspapers and, more particularly, newspaper editorials in setting the agenda for public debate around police accountability and miscarriages of justice.

In previous work, we analysed how citizen journalism framed news coverage of the policing of the G20 Summit, London 2009, and the death of Ian Tomlinson (Greer and McLaughlin 2010). In this article, we consider the next stage of the Ian Tomlinson case. Our empirical focus is the controversy surrounding the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision not to prosecute the police officer filmed striking Tomlinson shortly before he collapsed and died. We illustrate how the press’s relentless agenda-setting around ‘institutional failure’, initially targeted at the Metropolitan Police Service, expanded to implicate a network of criminal justice institutions. The Tomlinson case offers insights into the shifting nature of contemporary relations between the British press and institutional power. It is a paradigmatic example of a politically ambitious form of ‘attack journalism’, the scope of which extends beyond the criminal justice system. In a volatile information-communications marketplace, journalistic distrust of institutional power is generating a ‘press politics of outrage’, characterized by ‘scandal amplification’.

The paper can be accessed via this link. [Br J Criminol (2011) doi: 10.1093/bjc/azr086, First published online: November 17, 2011].

Registration open for ‘Justice Wide Open’ event on legal knowledge in a digital era

In City University London, Events, Journalism, Justice, Law on January 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

The Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism will be hosting ‘Justice Wide Open’ on Wednesday 29 February 2012 at City University London from 9am-2pm. It’s free to attend but registration is required.

Geoffrey Robertson QC will open the event with a talk on ‘Alphabet Soup and the judicial retreat from open justice’. Three sessions will cover the history and context of the flow of legal knowledge; legal reporting and the media; and an academic perspective on open justice.

Speakers include: Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix Chambers; Dr David Goldberg, information rights academic and activist; Emily Allbon, law librarian, City Law School; Heather Brooke, journalist and activist; Mike Dodd, editor of PA Media Lawyer; Adam Wagner, barrister, One Crown Office Row and editor of the UK Human Rights Blog; William Perrin, founder, Talk About Local and member of the Crime and Justice Sector Panel on Transparency; Professor Ian Cram, Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law, University of Leeds; Dr Lawrence McNamara, Reader in Law and ESRC/AHRC Research Fellow, University of Reading.

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R v Peacock: landmark trial redefines obscenity law

In Justice, Law on January 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

We can celebrate for the outcome in R v Peacock, argues Alex Antoniou, but obscenity law is not dead; at least, not yet

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA or the 1959 Act henceforth), passed over half a century ago, was quite recently wielded against Michael Peacock, a male escort professionally known as ‘sleazy Michael’, who had been accused of distributing obscene DVDs for gain. His determination to challenge this ‘arcane and archaic legislation’ was vindicated on 6 January 2012 when a unanimous jury in a landmark obscenity trial at Southwark Crown Court returned a not guilty verdict.

The facts

The defendant in R v Peacock was charged on indictment with six counts under the 1959 Act for distributing allegedly obscene DVDs. The recordings at issue had been advertised for sale on the Internet and Craigslist. Mr Peacock had been selling them from his flat in Brixton. Officers from SCD9, the Metropolitan Police unit investigating human exploitation and organised crime (the former Obscene Publications Squad of the Met), came across Mr Peacock’s services and operated an undercover test purchase in January 2009. Six DVDs were deemed obscene and Mr Peacock was prosecuted.

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