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  4. Economies of Permitted Images? Deconstructing Debate about the Banning of Photography in English Law Courts since 1925




Economies of Permitted Images? Deconstructing Debate about the Banning of Photography in English Law Courts since 1925



Speaker: Professor Linda Mulcahy - London School of Economics

Series: Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism research seminar series


This paper considers the controversial role that the photograph has played in transforming the production, management and consumption of modern legal spectacles. More specifically, it looks at debate surrounding the ban on the taking and publication of photographs of the trial which has been in place in England since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 1925. It considers why photography in courts was singled out for special regulatory attention. It is argued that this topic is worthy of much more attention than has been paid to it to date, and that existing accounts have largely failed to consider the broader implications of the prohibition for the politics of representation in the society of the spectacle.

Drawing on primary and secondary sources, it is argued that the existing literature on the topic has failed to pay sufficient attention to a number of aspects of the story leading up to the 1925 ban. Firstly, it is contended that the number of photographs produced by the press which parliamentarians placed in the category of offensive images has been seriously underestimated. Secondly, it is argued that insufficient attention has been paid to the role of class in existing accounts of the ban and the particular threats posed to the political elite by photojournalism. Finally, it suggests that arguments about the concept of what constitutes good taste have been too readily accepted by existing scholars.

About the Speaker

Professor Linda Mulcahy joined LSE in 2010. Having gained qualifications in law, sociology and the history of art and architecture, Linda's work has a strong interdisciplinary flavour. Her research focuses on disputes and their resolution and she has studied the socio-legal dynamics of disputes in a number of contexts including the car distribution industry, NHS, divorce, public sector complaints systems and judicial review.

Her published work focuses on the evolution and dynamics of disputes, mediated settlement and the trial. Most recently she has written a book on the ways in which the design of law courts conditions the enjoyment of due process during the trial. Linda is currently in receipt of two research grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The first of these is a Collaborative Doctoral Award which is held in partnership with the British Library and seeks to bring together the Library's expertise in oral history with the LSE's Legal Biography Project, of which Linda is a co-director. This project grant is funding a study of the oral history of court clerks.

The second project grant seeks to explore the ways in which judicial images are produced, managed and consumed and will involves the grantholders working with journalists, photographers, architects, artists and members of the judiciary.

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When & where

4.00pm - 6.00pmThursday 11th December 2014

AG01 College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom

Contact Details

Centre for Law, Justice & Journalism

City University London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7040 8457

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