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The Silent Revolution in Methods of Advocacy in English Courts
The Silent Revolution in Methods of Advocacy in English Courts

Author(s): Andrew Watson
Subject(s): History, Law, Constitution, Jurisprudence, History of Law
Published by: STS Science Centre Ltd
Keywords: England; Advocacy;

Summary/Abstract: George Keeton wrote, in 1943, about “a silent revolution in methods of advocacy as practiced by the English Bar over the last fifty years” Changed standards of etiquette, professional rules and greater control exerted by judges over these years led to a vast increase in courtesy in interactions with judges and between counsel. The conduct of prosecutions had also improved. They were generally no longer carried out in a sneering hectoring manner with witnesses mercilessly browbeaten or bullied. Dramatic types of 19th Century advocacy, in which counsel was prepared to use mannerisms, tricks of speech and gestures to heighten the effects of their pleas to juries, was replaced by a conversational and matter of fact tone. The idea that to cross-examine meant to examine crossly had almost vanished. Appeals to juries were now to reason combined with a controlled, subtle and focused appeal to emotion. Jury trials in civil cases had continued to decline. Advocacy before judges was concerned with facts and the law, not oratorical flourishes. Fewer criminal trials before juries took place as the jurisdiction of the magistrates had widened further. The more restrained and conversational style of advocacy before criminal juries may have been to some extent influenced by that of the civil courts, where the leaders of the bar appeared more often and increasingly without juries. Two dominant members of the bar during the first half of the 20th Century were Patrick Hastings and Norman Birkett. Their styles, because of triumphs linked with them, were influential on those of other barristers. Hastings was a master of direct forcible speech without any embellishments or ornamentation and prized brevity.

  • Issue Year: 7/2016
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 26-47
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: English