Font Size: A A A

Home > Reviews > Inside Crown Court

Inside Crown Court

Author Jessica Jacobson, Gillian Hunter and Amy Kirby

ISBN No 978-1447317067

Review date 26/06/2019

No of pages

Publisher Policy Press

Publisher URL

Year of publication 08/08/2016


Inside Crown Court

Our Review


£ 21.59

A book that examines the Crown Court – the arena in which the UK’s most serious criminal offences are tried and sentenced – has been released in paperback; with a new Foreword by David Ormerod of the Law Commission.

Inside Crown Court – Personal experiences and questions of legitimacy, has been written and released by team members of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck, University of London. Originally published in 2015 in hardback, the book lays out research findings from the ICPR - that appearing in the Crown Court – as a victim, witness or defendant – is often frightening, frustrating and upsetting for participants.

The book provides a description of what it is like to attend Crown Court, as a victim, defendant, witness, member of staff, judge or barrister. It outlines the interplay between the various participants and the extent to which the court process is viewed as legitimate by those involved in it. It also shows how bewildering court proceedings can be and describes their character of ‘structured mayhem’. The book discusses how the trial process constructs a version of the ‘truth’ of events that often bears little resemblance to what was actually experienced by any of the individuals involved.

Dr Jessica Jacobson, director of the ICPR and lead author of Inside Crown Court, said: “Our book describes the realities of the courtroom experience. It addresses issues that are of profound public concern, such as the trauma faced by some victims when giving evidence, as highlighted by recent high profile trials concerning alleged sexual offences. Importantly, this study also helps show ways in which the difficulties and stresses associated with appearing in court are eased, and points to what further efforts can be made done to enhance support for court users.”

About the authors

Jessica Jacobson is Co-Director of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR), Birkbeck, University of London, where Gillian Hunter is a Senior Research Fellow and Amy Kirby is a Research Fellow.


Structured mayhem: Personal experiences of the Crown Court, by Jessica Jacobson, Gillian Hunter and Amy Kirby, has been published by the Criminal Justice Alliance. This is a digest of ICPR's research into what it is like to attend Crown Court as a victim, witness or defendant - published in full earlier this year as Inside Crown Court. 'Structured mayhem' describes the elaborate, ritualised and - in many respects - archaic nature of proceedings in the Crown Court. It argues that these proceedings can be bewildering and alienating for victims, witnesses and defendants alike. Court proceedings have many elements of theatre, within which the legal professionals, and particularly defence and prosecution counsel, play the starring roles. In contrast, victims, witnesses and defendants tend to play only minor parts.

'Structured mayhem' includes a series of recommendations for the Ministry of Justice, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and other agencies, which are aimed at improving the experience of court uses and enhancing public confidence in the criminal justice system.