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Research: Nearly three quarters of Brits believe mainstream media ‘misreports’ the law

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Over half think the Supreme Court tried to block Brexit and ‘defy the will of the people’

Nearly three quarters of the British public believe that the mainstream media “misreports” the law.

This was one of the key findings of new research conducted on behalf of The Secret Barrister to coincide with the release of the anonymous author’s second book, Fake Law.

The survey of 2,000 British adults last month uncovered that 73% believe that the mainstream media “misreports” and “misrepresents” English and Welsh law, with 85% saying that they would be “angry” and “frustrated” to learn that a media outlet had misrepresented it to the public. Over eight in ten (88%) also state that they wish they knew more about the law to understand their rights.

The research further revealed the areas of law considered to be the most “misreported” in the British press. These range from criminal and human rights law to legal aid and Brexit, and were debunked by criminal barrister SB.

Almost three quarters of Brits (72%) think that judges are giving increasingly soft sentences to criminals, as reported by the media. Yet, the average length of custodial sentences imposed by the criminal courts has been increasing year-on-year for more than a decade, according to the report.

Over half (58%) of Brits believe that the Supreme Court tried to block Brexit and “defy the will of the people” as expressed by parliament, and covered by the media reporting of the Miller cases. However, in both cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of parliamentary sovereignty with its judgments instead concluding that the government could not act in such a way as to frustrate or usurp our democratically elected parliament, the report adds.

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The same proportion (58%) of Brits also believe the “media misrepresentation” that England and Wales have an out of control compensation culture in which claimants can be awarded excessively large sums for minor incidents or ailments. The Secret Barrister states that there is no evidence to support that claim, and in order to succeed at court with a claim for personal injury, the injured person has to prove that the other party was at fault.

Commenting on the research, The Secret Barrister, who runs a blog of same name, said: “The law, and understanding of the law, should be a shared asset. We are all bound by it, and all rely on its proper and just functioning to underpin the fundaments of our daily lives.”

They continued:

“However, as is shown in this research, an alarming number of Brits seems to not understand the law properly, because of lies, spin and misreporting by politicians and elements of the media. Hopefully, with this research and by increasing public awareness we can challenge these myths and give the public the truth about their justice system.”

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12 Comments

The Court of Pie Powder

The paragraph above on Miller is what you would call a contentious, bordering on tendentious, summary. Whether the SC “blocked” brexit and “defied the will of the people” in those cases is a matter of opinion, not fact that can be debunked.

Anon

“However, in both cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of parliamentary sovereignty with its judgments instead concluding that the government could not act in such a way as to frustrate or usurp our democratically elected parliament.”

In the latter case, the Supreme Court sided with an obstructive Parliament which was openly defying the will of the people by preventing any kind of Brexit happening at all. It did so by changing the law and ruling that conduct previously lawful under our unwritten constitution suddenly no longer was.

Can you see why people might legitimately see this as the Supreme Court defying the will of the people?

Anonymous

It’s certainly not unreasonable to believe that the Supreme Court wished to block Brexit, seeing as the ruling was (as I understand it) the first to force the government to reverse its use of prerogative powers, not just to decide how it should be used. Many legal scholars think the SC went too far.

Anon

Another blusterer. Oh dear. For your information,the UKSC followed, in Miller #1 and #2, a long line of case law that goes back to 1611 (The Case of Proclamations) and through the 18th century, and the 20th century. The Government was exercising its prerogative unlawfully, and as the European Communities Act 1972 was a constitutional act above normal statutes, a similar statute to repeal ECA1972 had to be enacted by Parliament.

Your comments reek of ignorance, crude, English exceptionalism and prejudice. This is a legal website. It is therefore suggested you should read a book on constitutional law and the two UKSC judgements in the Miller cases before you pass comment.

Terwilliger Peepul

This isn’t really anything new. Compo culture has been a media narrative for decades, as has soft sentencing. Even the whole ‘activist lawyers’ shebang is strikingly similar to remarks David Blunkett made as Home Secretary.

What I want to know is – what is mainstream media? What isn’t? Because most of the time the term seems to mean ‘media output with which I personally disagree’.

Alternative Media

Media that the general populous, in a majority, subscribe to or read.

Alan

There’s an oft repeated experiment in criminology.

Members of the public are given the facts of a case; together with all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors pertaining to the offence and the defendant. They are then asked to state (a) what sentence they think the judge passed; and (b) what sentence they would have passed.

The general trend is that they underestimate the sentence that was passed, and their own recommended sentence is also less than the one actually passed.

Anon

There’s no real item of news here, is there? The media often misrepresents legal process, either because the journalist writing the piece doesn’t understand it, or because they are writing for an audience that won’t so they oversimplify (or both). The number of BBC articles, to take one example from which a high percentage of Brits consume news media, that contain basic errors in either fact (ie what the law says) or the legal process is quite baffling to anyone with a legal background, I’m sure.

Anon

I mean, there’s no real item of news here, is there? The media often misrepresents legal process, either because the journalist writing the piece doesn’t understand it, or because they are writing for an audience that won’t so they oversimplify (or both). The number of BBC articles, to take one example from which a high percentage of Brits consume news media, that contain basic errors in either fact (ie what the law says) or the legal process is quite baffling to anyone with a legal background, I’m sure.

E Leet

But most people are far more thick than the intelligent can ever understand. That was the problem with the Brexit referendum, the educated could not grasp just how stupid the poorly educated voters were. They knew they were stupid, but they could not conceive of them being that stupid.

Michael

Didn’t Churchill say that “the best argument against democracy was a five-minute conversation with the average voter”?

Michael

Didn’t Churchill say that “the best argument against democracy was a five-minute conversation with the average voter”?

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