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Campbell, John R (2020) Entanglements of Life with the Law : Precarity and Justice in London's Magistrates Courts. High Wycombe: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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Abstract

This book examines the quality and nature of justice dispensed in London’s magistrates’ courts which are the lowest level of the United Kingdom’s Criminal Justice System. In 2017 approximately two hundred thirty thousand individuals were prosecuted for a criminal offence in these courts, of whom about seventy percent pleaded guilty and were sentenced. Curiously, about eighty-five percent of those who pleaded ‘not guilty’ were subsequently tried, found guilty and sentenced. This book addresses a central paradox of criminal justice: how is it that magistrates can reach a guilty verdict despite the elusive and complex nature of ‘truth’ and reality? Research, together with observations of two hundred thirty-eight remand hearings and twenty-three trials—for theft, assault, serious indictable offences, public order offences, domestic violence, drug offences and fraud—has led me to arrive at some uncomfortable conclusions about a legal system undermined by government austerity policies and lacking in transparency. I found that the police fail to investigate most offences, that the Crown Prosecution Service is reliant on the cases which the police want prosecuted, that the quality of legal representation is poor, that magistrates decisions may be unjust and that most defendants are not able to understand or participate in their hearing. Strikingly, a large percentage of defendants are from London’s ‘precariat’. They are young men who are destitute and/or who rely on unstable incomes; they are semi-literate, from Black and Ethnic Minority Communities and their basic rights as citizens are being eroded. Because many are repeat offenders, they are recycled through the Criminal Justice System with limited assistance to address the problems which cause offending. Magistrate’s Courts dispense ‘summary justice’ in very short hearings which means that defendants have a limited opportunity to defend themselves. In short, summary justice lacks basic due process rights in a legal process which bears a striking resemblance to ‘justice’ in authoritarian, non-democratic societies.

Item Type: Authored Books
Keywords: anthropology of law, magistrates' courts, injustice, justice, London
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
K Law > KD United Kingdom and Ireland
ISBN: 9781527559776
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2020 09:53
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/34211

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