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Title: Engaging with legitimacy : an examination of lay participation in the criminal courts
Author: Kirby, Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 332X
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2019
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This study adopted a qualitative approach, comprising in-depth interviews and observations at four courts, to examine the perceived legitimacy of the court process among members of the public who come into direct contact with the criminal courts. Examining the extent to which members of the public, or 'lay participants', engaged with the court process provided a valuable means of assessing the degree to which the courts are perceived to occupy legitimate authority among those that they serve. In this thesis, engagement is characterised in one of five ways, 'active alignment', 'passive alignment', 'dull compulsion', 'resistance' and 'withdrawal', based upon the extent to which an individual is aligned with, and participates in, the court process. The findings point to evidence of weak levels of engagement, particularly among court users, such as complainants, defendants and prosecution witnesses, who have the least power but most at stake in the process. This is indicative of legitimacy deficits which, if unaddressed, limit the degree to which the courts can continue to claim to be valid holders of power. The findings suggest that perceptions of legitimacy can be cultivated in two ways. This is firstly through the use of lay adjudicators, namely juries and lay magistrates, who - despite challenges arising from the visibility of the perceived benefits of lay decision-making in practice - were found to confer legitimacy on the criminal courts. Secondly, engagement could be cultivated through the presence of 'procedurally just' interactions between court users and those who occupy positions of power within the courts. However, the strength of the latter claims, this thesis concludes, should not be overstated because in order to fully enhance perceptions of legitimacy there is a need to look beyond the confines of the courtroom and towards issues in wider society that shape the experiences of court users.
Supervisor: Hodkinson, Paul ; Fielding, Nigel Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral