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Custodians of continuity in an era of change: an oral history of the everyday lives of Crown Court clerks between 1972 and 2015

Liberman, Dvora (2017) Custodians of continuity in an era of change: an oral history of the everyday lives of Crown Court clerks between 1972 and 2015. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.7fw0pjeu9olc


This thesis investigates the life histories of Crown Court clerks between 1972 and 2015, and has uncovered unheard testimonies of the lived world of law. Drawing on 21 oral history interviews, it is posited that the Crown Court clerk was a pivotal player in the legal system during this period and their contribution to the performance of law has been largely neglected. Though they did not enjoy the economic, social and cultural capital of judges and barristers, or play a central role in the construction and determination of legal issues in hearings, they were chiefly responsible for the smooth functioning of the courtroom, and were constantly working to maintain order and facilitate the flow of proceedings. Court clerks can be characterised as stage managers of the courtroom drama in the sense that the onus was upon them to ensure that all the various props and parties were assembled in the courtroom at the right time, and to direct defendants, witnesses and jurors as to where and when to sit, stand, and what to say at the appropriate moment. Moreover, this thesis asserts that alongside judges and barristers, court clerks were active agents in the perpetuation of traditional practices through their use of official and formal codes of dress, speech and behaviour, and can be perceived as custodians of continuity. This finding is particularly interesting in light of scholarly accounts that have identified a period of radical change to the administration of justice following the founding of the new Courts Service in 1972. It is contended that Crown court clerks were not merely complicit in, but strongly supported a highly ritualised performance of justice. In so doing, they contributed towards upholding the authority and legitimacy of the criminal justice system in ways that have been largely unacknowledged.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Dvora Liberman
Library of Congress subject classification: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Mulcahy, Linda and Perks, Rob

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