THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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2 posts categorized "Law"

30 November 2016

Beneath the calm exterior: A glimpse into the world of the Crown Court clerk

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 Michael McKenzie QC, Clerk of the Central Criminal Court 1979-84.

Crown Court clerks are pivotal to administering trials of the most serious criminal offences such as burglary, rape, murder and terrorism. In-depth life history interviews with former Crown Court clerks have revealed how they dealt with listening to harrowing stories day after day. Interviewees spoke about the effort involved in trying to appear expressionless and impartial, as their job demanded, particularly when they may have been feeling incensed by what they were hearing in court, or holding back tears, or trying not to laugh and to keep a straight face. They described taking a verdict in a murder trial, their hearts pounding, palms sweating, absorbing the tension in the courtroom, and feeling nervous about taking the verdict correctly under pressure. Interviewees discussed the emotive moment the foreman of the jury has just announced the defendant has been found, “Guilty”, and then the court clerk waits until the shouts and wails from the public gallery have abated before they carry on, seemingly unphased and unflappable, in their measured and controlled ‘court voice’. They spoke about seeing photographs of murders and injuries that were so disturbing that they made the conscious decision that they would never look at court photos again; the horror of dealing with child abuse cases especially; having nightmares when they first began clerking; and recounting in vivid detail the cases that they said came back to haunt them. In the following clip, clerk of the Central Criminal Court between 1979-84, Michael McKenzie QC reflected on putting the charges to the notorious serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshre Ripper.

Michael McKenzie reflects on putting the charges to the Yorkshire Ripper

The Crown Court clerk interviews were conducted by PhD student Dvora Liberman and will be publicly accessible towards the end of 2017. This collection was created as part of a collaborative research project between National Life Stories and the Legal Biography Project at the London School of Economics.

By Dvora Liberman

 

07 November 2016

Recording of the Week: Suffrage for Women

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This week's selection comes from John Berry, Technical Services Preservation Assistant.

The recording is poor; a cacophony of background noise, the content speech is quiet. In many respects the speaker, Christabel Pankhurst, is unpolished stuttering and stammering through the speech in a manner that we could not envisage in our highly managed and marketed world of western politicians. But this detracts nothing from the demands which are being made for enfranchisement of women to vote, which are clear, convincing and to the point. It is a highly illuminating glimpse into the justifications and strategies as well as the political aspirations of the women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century.

Christabel Pankhurst_Suffrage for Women

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Suffrage poster depicting an issue of the periodical, The Suffragette, with a figure of a woman, "Justice," clad in armour, bearing a banner labeled W.S.P.U. (Schlesinger Library)

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