:- Unjust deserts

Helena Kennedy QC, best-known for her pioneering civil liberties work, argues in a new book that the law’s treatment of women is symptomatic of a much broader, deeper malaise. Sue Wilson does a spot of cross-examination.

‘Most people at the Bar, most of the judiciary, have never set foot in a council house.‘ It‘s a simple point but, like most of those with which Glasgow-born QC Helena Kennedy defends her corner, a telling one. Currently that corner is the issue of inequality before the law —- in her new book, Eve Was Framed: Women and British Justice, she illustrates how vast and dangerous is the disparity, in terms of social class and everyday experience, between the majority of legal professionals and most of the women and men who pass through the courts, arguing that this gulf in understanding leads to judgements so transparently unjust as to undermine ordinary people‘s trust in the law.

Eve Was Framed describes the multifarious ways women are let down by a legal system in which most of the rules, procedures and practices are established and maintained by an highly privileged, insular, white male elite. From the discrimination she herself has encountered over the years, to recent headline cases like the Sara Thornton conviction, she lays bare the sometimes

Helena Kennedy oc: ‘lt's like getting rid oi worms'

breathtakingly blatant. often alarmingly insidious, mechanisms ofprejudice.

‘One of the things I find most interesting about this whole subject is unravelling the way mythologies work, and.‘ Kennedy says, ‘halfthe problem is how subtle the whole process is; people who don‘t see it can‘t clock into it. You‘re talking about things which live in the interstices of the system it‘s like getting rid of worms, or something. In courtrooms the mythology often tends to work to men‘s advantage - like the business of women's credibility, of women making

things up about sexual assault because of some

hysterical fantasy life they lead unless they‘re black; then a whole different mythology comes into play.‘

Though her primary focus is on women, Kennedy emphasises that the implications of her

argument extend much further. ‘The experience of women,‘ she writes. ‘is a paradigm of that which

faces any person. male or female. who is not part

' ofthe dominant culture‘ not only women, but

poor people, black people, lesbians and gay men, among others, routinely encounter the rougher

Eve Was Framed is the liveliness of its language. Stating at the start that ‘this is a polemic about the 3 law. not an academic exercise’, Kennedy paints a 5 vivid picture of the justice system at work the 7 routine and atmosphere of a barristers‘ chambers,

clearly and succinctly. without resort to jargonistic

, has to be approachable, that we have to stop using " off-putting language,‘ says Kennedy. explaining

' the thinking behind her prose-style. ‘So I wanted

to demonstrate that it is actually possible to discuss

user-friendly, to both clients and putative practitioners. as an urgent one. ‘The reason I think

feeling very alienated; there‘s a sense of

powerlessness in relation to the whole political

; system, there‘s the way in which the exposure of police rule-breaking has rattled people, the City

suddenly all these certainties are being looked at

again, and it‘s very unnerving for people. Which

i makes it all the more imperative that we do

i something about the fact that many people see the .‘ law as belonging to Them, this elite in long wigs

* and fancy outfits, when in fact the law should

variety ofjustice.

In addition to the courage of the book‘s convictions, and the doughty weight ofevidence it marshals, perhaps the most impressive thing about

for instance communicating intricate legal points

gobbledegook. "Throughout the book, I‘m arguing that the law

legal issues in an accessible way. I think people invent that language in their own interests; much ofthe time it just obfuscates rather than helping the listener to understand.‘

Kennedy sees this need to make the law more

it‘s so important now is that people are generally

being riddled with corruption, even the royal family being questioned and scrutinised

belong to the people.‘

Eve Was Framed is published by Chatto & Windus at £16. 99.

Helena Kennedy will be talking about her book in Waterstone's. George Street, Edinburgh on Wed 27. See Book E vents listings for details.

_ z Dark

interiors ;

Just as ‘tragic’ and ‘meiodramatic’ have come to mean something slightly removed irom their literary origins, so too has ‘gothic' become almost exclusively linked to extravagantly macabre architecture. So when a new anthology called The Picador Book at the New Gothic comes along, one is

gothic in its buildings.’

Editors Patrick McGraih (lett)

oi decay and min expressed by the old

This notion oi internalised brooding I on death, disease and the pressures at modern living as a Iiterarytrend is certainly the dark seam that runs through the book as a whole. What : i McGrath calls ‘the spirit oi Edgar Allen , Poe' is present to some extent in each piece, from the sullied iairytaie purity

at Robert Coover’s Snow White coda, The Dead Queen, to the urban breakdown oi Yannlck Murphy’s The I Fish Keeper. By including some novel extracts— irom the likes oi Amis’

i more violent society than we were a

generation ago, we’re more aware oi sexual abuse, at bizarre patterns oi

1 human behaviourthat have arisen in the post-war period for all sorts oi

j complicated social reasons.’

1 This is where the Picador Book oi the

New Gothic succeeds: by using the .

§ term not as a restrictive academic i

pigeon-hole, but as a relevant way oi

: describing an emotional response to

I the darker side oi contemporary liie 5 within an ongoing literarytradition. i

. Blood, Janice Galloway‘s tale oi a

; schoolglri‘stripto the dentist is, l

tempted to dismiss it as yet another contrived attempt to lump together various horror stories. Not so with this particular volume: with contributions by writers as diverse as Peter Straub, Jeanette Winterson and Martin Amis, it is obvious that this is not merely a collection oi twist-in-the-taie scares, but one which otters up a detlned thesis tor argument.

‘Gothlc is a very vigorous genre in Iiterature,’ explains Patrick McGrath, co-editor oi the anthology with iellow

and Bradtord Morrow

novelist Bradiord Morrow. ‘You can see

it moving right through the 19th century

and well into the 20th. What distinguishes it now irom traditional gothic iiction is the sense at it being internalised and not being so much about architecture, about trappings or sets. it is now much more a state at mind, particularly an extreme, rather deranged state at mind —the contemporary equivalent at the sense

London Fields, Anne Rice’s interview With The Vampire and Ruth Rendell’s King Solomon's Carpet-the editors show that the New Gothic is present with equal weight in popular and critically acclaimed iiction.

‘Why is it that iiction is so much

preoccupied with these dark, otten

violent areas oi human experience?‘

asks McGrath. ‘l would guess that it is because in these times we are made * more aware ot deranged extremes oi

behaviour. We‘re probably living in a

; according to McGrath, ‘the periect

example oi how horror is maniiest in just being alive'. By being able to compare and contrast individual works

oi this ilavour, the anthology invites the

reader into a post-nuclear world oi paranoia and disintegration, vividly painted in various shades oi black. (Alan Morrison)

The Picador Book oi the New Gothic is I publishedin Picador hardback at 1 £15.99.

._-_ - .-_-.-____J

List 23 Cctobe‘r 5 November 1992 57