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Changing conceptions of the defendant in criminal trials: from trial by ordeal to trial by social media

This new article by Dr Rachel Gimson explores the historical development of the role of the defendant in English criminal trials. Rather than being static and central to the justice process, as might be assumed, the article demonstrates that the defendant’s role is mutable and has been drastically changed over time to accommodate pressures external to the trial. This research suggests that modern-day pressures such as social media or the changes to the right to silence might be further changing the role of the defendant, moving away from a rights-bearing role to one that is more performative.

‘The mutable defendant: from penitent to rights-bearing and beyond’ is published at (2020) 40(2) Legal Studies 113;