Using Hawkins’s surround, field and frames concepts to understand the complexities of special measures decision making in Crown Court trials

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Adjustments to criminal trial processes, called special measures, are available to vulnerable and/or intimidated witnesses giving evidence. Findings from interviews with 13 criminal practitioners suggest that there are notable variations in the uptake of special measures between prosecution witnesses, defence witnesses, and the accused in Crown Court trials. These extend beyond any inequality in their legal provision. This paper uses Keith Hawkins’ conceptual framework of surround, field, and frames as a heuristic device to understand this differential uptake. The framework delineates the various factors—including the socio-political, organisational and attitudinal—which can influence decision-making practices in relation to special measures. In doing so, this paper demonstrates two things. First, that changing the legal provision is unlikely to effect much change in practice, absent specific complementary changes to the field. Second, that Hawkins’ framework has potential as an explanatory device in decision-making contexts outside of his own health and safety setting.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-485
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number3
Early online date21 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018