Anthony Amatrudo
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What do they know of law who only cop shows know?
in Law in popular belief
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This chapter shows how it is not the law, as such, but only representations of it that affect behaviour. Citizens act in terms of how they think the law is and not necessarily as it actually is. Knowledge of the law is drawn increasingly from a range of media and persons download, view and ingest this knowledge in an ad hoc and unsystematic manner. There is now an established victim’s rights discourse embedded in journalistic practice and media generated legal narratives tend to play down the rights of defendants and undermine important legal principles that safeguard the efficacy of the trial process. A diet of victim-centred news coverage over time has tended to make the general public more retributive in their thinking. The public learn about the law through the media and there is a tendency to highlight the sensational and to see the world as far more violent than is typically the case, to hold to worse police detection rates than is actually the case and to misrepresent the racial make-up of offenders. Though there is excellent coverage of crime in the media there is little consideration of legal principles and procedures and the notion that law is a technical and elaborate system of knowledge is largely absent in the portrayal of crime in both news and drama. The chapter considers the so-called CSI-effect: the notion that citizens, notably jurors, hold to absurdly high levels of proof in relation to forensic evidence and how this fetishisation of forensic evidence is having real-world affects in terms of delivering proper verdicts. This chapter critically assesses the public’s level of legal awareness in relation to crime and argue for a robust Public Criminology.

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Law in popular belief

Myth and reality


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