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Anthony Amatrudo

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.

in Law in popular belief
Myth and reality

In recent years there has been a significant growth in interest of the so-called “law in context” extending legal studies beyond black letter law. This book looks at the relationship between written law and legal practice. It examines how law is applied in reality and more precisely how law is perceived by the general public in contrast to the legal profession. The authors look at a number of themes that are central to examining ways in which myths about law are formed, and how there is inevitably a constitutive power aspect to this myth making. At the same time they explore to what extent law itself creates and sustains myths. This line of enquiry is taken from a wide range of viewpoints and thus offers a unique approach to the question of relationship between theory and practice. The book critically assesses the public’s level of legal, psychological and social awareness in relation to their knowledge of law and deviant behaviour. This line of enquiry is taken from a wide range of viewpoints and thus offers a unique approach to the question of relationship between theory and practice. The book covers both empirical studies and theoretical engagements in the area of legal understanding and this affords a very comprehensive coverage of the area, and addressing issues of gender and class, as well as considering psychological material. It brings together a range of academics and practitioners and asks questions and address contemporary issues relating to the relationship between law and popular beliefs.

Abstract only
Anthony Amatrudo
Regina E. Rauxloh

This chapter briefly summarises the main findings of the book and explains the relationship between the different chapters. It introduces the reader to the structure of the book and identifies the common themes and underlying issues. It argues that from the different chapters three main conclusions can be drawn: namely 1) that Law needs myths for its legitimacy, 2) that Law needs myths for its existence and that 3) there is a growing need to unveil the myth about law making processes and procedures.

in Law in popular belief