Wednesday 19 November 2014

A burglar meets his victim? How would you respond to this story?

In this extremely visual age, I had the recent opportunity to simply listen to a story of justice through the medium of radio documentary. I had the privilege of reviewing for UOW's RadioDoc Review, a documentary produced by BBC Radio 4 in the UK, and I was amazed at my own response to not only the transformative effect of a burglar meeting his victim, but also to the way the radio medium so piqued my attention and provoked emotion. Reproduced below is a small extract from my review...

Stories of justice as presented in media reports play an important role in provoking responses to issues such as ethics, crime, punishment and social responsibility. With the punishment of criminal activity frequently attracting public attention and media reporting on sentencing contributing to an increasingly punitive public (Gelb 2008), it is rare to be invited to think differently about how ‘justicemight be achieved (whether for the victim or the offender). And yet, this is exactly what A Different Kind of Justice does. To listen to this documentary produced by Russell Finch for BBC Radio 4, is to take part in a review of ones own perspective on what should be the purpose of ‘justice. It is a challenge to extend what might ordinarily be our primary natural desire for offenders to be punished, into a connected desire for the restoration of relationships and healed lives.  

A Different Kind of Justice, narrated by dialogue expert Karl James, explores the impact of a restorative justice program from a deeply empirical perspective. In interviewing, and then facilitating discussion between a burglar and his victim, James provides an exquisitely emotional look into the cathartic and potentially transformative impact of one particular restorative justice encounter in Blackburn, UK. A Different Kind of Justice, uses three distinct movements to re-tell a crime story by weaving together victim and offender perspectives, and in the process reveals not only the profound transformative effects of restorative justice on those participants, but also the impact it can have on the listener.

With recent studies suggesting that meetings between victims of crime and their perpetrators can both reduce reoffending rates and provide pyschological healing for victims (Bolitho et al, 2012), there has been a significant increase of these ‘restorative justice’ meetings in the UK. In this program, the story is narratively crafted using the interweaving of articulated memories – both Margaret (the victim) and Ian (the offender) describe their memories of the crime and their subsequent ‘restorative interaction’. It is in hearing these descriptions of juxtaposed and personalized memories that the listener is keenly aware of the raw emotion constituting this crime narrative. But, what is the particular story that has seemingly entwined their lives? As described in the Somethin’ Else Program Information, the essence of their story is this:

In November 2008, Margaret interrupted a burglary in her own home. As she came through the backdoor, the burglar left through the front. He had taken a laptop full of photos commemorating her daughter Jessica's 18th birthday. Eight months later her daughter was killed in a tragic car accident. The theft of the laptop meant her parents were deprived of any recent family photos of their daughter. …. inspired by the memory of her daughter, Margaret agreed to meet the offender in a restorative justice conference in Preston Prison. Ian was that burglar.

However, this is more than just a narrative of burglar meets victim. It becomes a gripping, metaphorical looking glass through which we can explore the practical realities of restorative justice, and the listener quickly realizes that this is a story of restoration, forgiveness, guilt, and burden. It is indeed a story of a different kind of justice.

To read my full review at RadioDoc Review click here

I encourage you to listen to the documentary for yourself - which you can do by clicking here and scrolling to the very end (after all the comments) to listen via soundcloud.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Check out my upcoming symposium....

The Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC) invites you to a Symposium
Through the Looking Glass: the Framing of Law & Justice through Popular Imagination

Date:            Friday 4 July 2014
Time:           9am – 5pm
Location:   67.202 – Moot Court
Register:   Online by 27 June
Registration is free. Places are limited

Following Alice, who contemplates, and then explores, the world on the other side of the looking glass, this symposium calls upon participants to reflect on and encounter the concepts of law and justice as broadly framed within popular imagination via the portal of popular cultural texts. Under this banner, presenters will investigate and revisit issues that map the different dimensions of a cultural legal studies approach to popular culture and its relationship with legal knowledge, law practice and jurisprudence covering issues such as:

·       The role of legal storytelling in transforming, mirroring, creating, and sustaining legal consciousness.
·       The framing and/or distortion of law within popular images and narratives.
·       The transformation of meaning in relation to justice, and/or how justice (dis)connects with law.
·       The (de)mystification of law through popular stories.

Keynote Speaker: JESSICA SILBEY
Biography: Jessica Silbey is a law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Professor Silbey’s scholarly interests and expertise is in the cultural analysis of law, exploring the law beyond its doctrine to the contexts and processes in which legal relations develop and become significant for everyday actors.  Professor Silbey has published widely in the field of law and film, exploring how film is used as a legal tool and how it becomes an object of legal analysis in light of its history as a cultural object and art form. She recently co-edited a book about law and television entitled Law and Justice on the Small Screen (2012).

Other presenters: Jason Bainbridge, Penny Crofts, David Papke, William MacNeil,   Cassandra Sharp, Kieran Tranter 

Convener: Dr Cassandra Sharp, Senior Lecturer, School of Law

Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, UOW e:

Sunday 11 May 2014

‘Anti-hero’ Jack Bauer and his ticking clock returns to our television screens…

The return of Jack Bauer

Its been four years since Jack Bauer has been visible on our screens, but this week he comes out of hiding to once again beat the clock to thwart yet another conspiracy/terrorist produced chaos. 

Kiefer Sutherland spent 10 years playing the role of Jack Bauer (winning a Golden Globe and Emmy) and is back to reprise this anti-hero character who does what needs to be done in order to achieve justice.

Retaining the ‘real time’ method of narration made famous in the previous 10 seasons, 24: Live Another Day, restarts the ticking clock on another suspenseful, high-octane race to prevent an unthinkable terrorist attack and save the world. With the slight modification of covering 12 hours in real time, rather than the usual 24, Live Another Day continues to utilize the pulse-pounding, fast-paced format with split screens and interweaving storylines, and of course the signature Jack Bauer ‘I’m sucking a lemon’ scowl that tells you he is on a mission.
Set and shot in London, the suspenseful series once again follows the exploits of Jack, now a fugitive from justice. Despite his exiled status, he nevertheless seems yet again willing to risk his life and freedom to avert another global disaster. After 4 years, Bauer is up to his old tricks, trusting no-one, breaking the law, planting bugs, kicking some serious butt, and living in the land of all things ethically grey!

So…what is it about Jack Bauer?

In this iteration of 24, Jack is the ultimate ‘outsider’ to law – he is a fugitive with an instinct for violent action in response to possible terrorist activity. 

He follows no rules or laws except his own, has a unique instinct for violent action, and his isolation and alienation from the legal institutions he used to serve, has forced him to fall back completely on his own extra-legal ways. It is this extra-legality that we seem to love – the uncanny ability Jack possesses to know that torture, although illegal, is not only justified, but entirely effective and therefore necessary.

As the ‘outsider’ Jack is the damaged anti-hero who we love to see break the law in order to serve the greater good. As co-creator of 24 Robert Cochran says: 

"He doesn't often do the right thing, but he does the right thing by breaking the rules – that's kind of exciting and people want to root for that."

This is most evident in the trailer which you can see if you click here

In the clip, CIA operations chief Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) is talking to Jack Bauer after two Russian diplomats are killed, and he says:
“I know how many lives you’ve saved — how much the country is in your debt – but they’re just going to see a man who snapped... Killing and mutilating with no regard to law or conscience. A man whose country now labels him a criminal; a terrorist.”
It will be interesting to see how long Jack Bauer will remain an enemy of the state in this latest season of 24. 

Will his ‘outsider’ status prove useful to the ultimate goal of saving the world from terrorist actions? 

Even more interesting for my law and pop culture students is the question surrounding the legitimacy of law in that world, and the ultimate efficacy of law in the search for justice. 

Is extra-legality now the necessity for effecting true justice? 

Let’s see what Jack tells us over the 12 hours of Live Another Day….