New Tumblr names and shames media outlets which misuse gavels

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By Judge John Hack on

A blogger on a leading social media site has joined Legal Cheek’s crusade against the misuse of little wooden hammer imagery — but is it a losing battle?


The misuse of gavel imagery to represent the English and wider UK legal systems is something that regular readers will know gets right up the proboscis of this publication — and now Legal Cheek has a leading social media ally in its campaign to stamp out the pernicious practice.

Image-based blog Tumblr has picked up the ball with its “Inappropriate Gavels” page, highlighting the fact that “gavels are small wooden hammers” that have nothing to do with courts in this country.

It goes on to say:

“English judges have never used them. But some people are wrong about that.”

And don’t we just know it. It is surprising the number of people who should know better, but still, for whatever reason, continue to perpetrate the misuse.

This blog has recently reported on several guilty parties — notably, the programme-makers behind ITV’s hit daytime reality television show, Judge Rinder (below), and the marketing gurus at Bedford University’s law school.

Indeed, the Tumblr page highlights a Cheek report pointing out that the venerable Daily Telegraph newspaper recently seemingly invented the presence of a gavel at a contempt of court hearing.

The blog page also turns its attentions to other examples of ignorance or laziness in Fleet Street and elsewhere.

That last bastion of sandal-wearing liberalism, The Guardian newspaper, initially illustrated a story on legal aid cuts with a gavel. But Tumblr points out that the papers’ ever-decreasing band of sub-editors eventually clocked the mistake and rustled up a shot of some barristers in wigs.

Others in the Tumblr blog’s hall of shame include BBC Radio 4, website, and the law student page of international news agency Thomson Reuters.

Perhaps this is a losing battle — we should be delighted to hear readers’ views — and the easiest way of resolving the problem would be for Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling to authorise the use of gavels in courts across England and Wales.

As a non-lawyer former television producer, it will probably be news to him that gavels aren’t routinely banged in our courts currently.

You can follow “Inappropriate Gavels” both on Tumblr and Twitter.

Further Reading:

Let’s break free from the cultural imperialism of US legal dramas and stop imagining that English judges use gavels [Legal Cheek]

A gavel and a Marilyn Monroe wig — one university’s idea of the legal system [Legal Cheek]