Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Judicial Time Lords: Media Direction vs. Judicial Independence

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Judicial Time Lords: Media Direction vs. Judicial Independence

Article excerpt

Introduction

This article identifies how "time' is used as a particularly powerful tool in the media and political discourse about the work of courts. Previous research of media stories and their headlines in South Australia by Schulz (2010) has been reviewed and demonstrates that a discourse of time is used by the media, in a way that courts must fail, to establish a discourse of disrespect for the judiciary and discourse of direction to influence their work. This discourse of time is most obvious in the discussion and endless debates about "how much time" has been taken from a convicted offender as a sentence seems to cast judicial officers as modern "time lords" made famous in the BBC Doctor Who TV series where the protagonist holds sway over time and space. The significance of time in the work of courts has extended beyond criminal law sentencing. Time has been the major topic in recent public media debate in Australia about the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act, 2006 (herein after known as the Act).

For example, Jackman (2010) suggested that the family law field has a time problem where equal time is a key note of feuding parties: "In mediation and counselling rooms they say equal time has become the new sticking point because angry parents now see it as their right..." (p. 20). Jackman further suggests the change in the Act came about as the result of the active political lobbying of non custodial parents, mainly fathers, who "besieged politicians and backbenchers" to demand changes to formulae calculating child support payments and care arrangements. In addition, the then Australian government instituted an inquiry, which will be ... "asking the committee to investigate what factors ....in deciding the respective time each parent should spend with their children post separation" (Jackman, 2010, p. 20). Time is precious and we media consumers are constantly reminded of it.

Time as a concept has been the subject of many theorists, philosophers and linguistic analyses. Indeed time is so significant to political protagonists they often use it as a tool for gathering impetus about a number of issues as in the example above where time with family becomes politicised and used to garner votes in defined constituencies. Shenhav (2005, p. 315) has detailed what he calls "concise narratives" which are "temporal ranges" in political statements or speeches which "shed light" on political discourse constructions surrounding the founding of Israel as a nation. In addition, he has found that the number of references which are made by individual ministers which details the past and present or distant future, highlights "timelines" as very significant and is "widened by the level of publicity of the forum" (2005, p. 317) in political discussions. Such political discussion takes place daily in our newspapers and uses time frames as a significant tool in evaluation. This reflects in the work of Schokkenbroek (1999, p. 59) which considers the "evaluative aspect of stories as they affect temporal organisation of events in narrative".

In considering headlines as a key structure {see for example van Dijk (1998 cited in Hullse, 2000, p. 4) on semantic macrostructures} that leads readers into narrative. It is interesting to note that they too, recapitulate events in the order, which they happen as in this example identified by Schulz (2010). This clearly outlines the encapsulated narrative "the man is a killer, he went to court, he was found guilty of killing by driving, but was allowed to walk free from the court (with a suspended sentence)". This is a clear example of Schokkenbroek (1999) and her concept of the underlying event structure and then the narrated event sequence as the discourse structure. In addition, this allows further news to be examined and rated on the evaluative notion of the temporal range set out for the reader that how this story may unfold in further extrapolations of it. …

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