The Social World of an English Crown Court: Witness and Professionals in the Crown Court Centre at Wood Green

The Social World of an English Crown Court: Witness and Professionals in the Crown Court Centre at Wood Green

The Social World of an English Crown Court: Witness and Professionals in the Crown Court Centre at Wood Green

The Social World of an English Crown Court: Witness and Professionals in the Crown Court Centre at Wood Green

Synopsis

The first ethnographic study of a Crown Court Centre, this book describes the origins and early history of a pioneering project to support victims and prosecution witnesses appearing before the court--the Witness Support Project. Paul Rock analyzes the major divide which exists in the life of the court between professional insiders and public outsiders. He provides details of how this division is built into court architecture, administration, and social relations, and examines how it stems from the preoccupation of court officials with the control of knowledge, public order, and emotion.

Excerpt

'I've known a bomb disposal officer faint in the witness box because he can defuse bombs but he couldn't give evidence.' (Detective constable)

The trial was at the heart of the Court and its very reason for being, the drama about which events turned, its conflicts, controls, and dangers saturating every identity and association. So important was it that no sense can be made of the larger organization and work of the Court until it has been examined. Turning to it first, I must delay the task of describing some other important matters, in particular the role and character of the professionals who worked on the trial. the staff and users of the Court will remain rather spectral figures until Chapter 4, but they cannot be given much substance and flesh until I have conveyed a sense of the place of the trial within their life. As I proceed, recall that I am concerned always with events and experiences as they affected prosecution witnesses. There will be almost no discussion of the examination of defendants, verdicts, sentencing, and mitigation. I shall start by giving a portrait in miniature of the trial process, and will then return to dwell on some of its principal features.

Trials are ceremonial, disciplined, and staged, and they unfold in set order. Participants come forward at their proper times to perform their stylized parts. Every appearance must be choreographed precisely and unambiguously. Were that not so, there could be allegations of misconduct and appeals for retrials. One judge serving at Wood Green observed: 'Trial by jury has become, as a result of decisions by the Court of Appeal, an inordinately fragile process which may have to be aborted on the most (apparently) trivial pretexts and ...the result of which can be overturned for the most (apparently) trivial irregularities.' Individuals, many of them ill-versed in court procedure, would not know what was expected of them: their behaviour had to be tightly structured. and there could be a larger confusion. As I shall show in the next chapter, a number of trials could well be on the move through the courtroom at the same time, one trial being under way as the jury on another were 'out', deliberating about their verdict. There could follow a series of complicated alternations in which the team composing one trial gave way to that of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.