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Book reviews

18 July 11

Reviews of Scots Law for Journalists, 8th ed (McInnes); Oxford Handbook of Forensic Medicine

by John Robertson, David J Dickson

Scots Law for Journalists 8th Edition

Rosalind McInnes

PUBLISHER: W GREEN

ISBN: 9780414016217

PRICE: £29

 

Times change. Who could have thought 20, 10, or even five years ago that “Twitter” and “Tweet” wouldn’t be nicknames given to judges by irreverent journalists, but something allowed in our courts without the word “contempt” crossing anyone’s mind?

Some constants remain, however. Principal among them for media people is: always have ready access to the bible of the trade, Scots Law for Journalists. If it’s good enough for the bench to consult as a learned legal tome, as happens not irregularly, then the humble hack should not have to think twice.

This eighth edition, as an update, has much that is not new. It’s none the worse for that. Even for those well past the first flush of youth, there are times when everyday difficulties suddenly become a haze, when the rules which ought to be imprinted on your brain escape you. So, what to do? You instinctively reach for the comfort blanket of Scots Law.

But the true value of this edition is that it very much brings up to date the law as it impinges on the journalist. So much has happened since the previous edition was published in 2000, most notably the Scottish Parliament, then merely warming up, and now well into its legislative stride. Just look at the table of Acts of the Scottish Parliament and you realise how well into that stride. None of this, of course, is to suggest that Westminster has been idle. The journalist has been bombarded from both directions, as well as by judgments in the courts, and the need to know where the law lies is as great as ever before, if not greater.

As principal solicitor with BBC Scotland, Rosalind McInnes is perfectly placed to see the challenges from the editorial and the legal perspectives. She and her team are to be congratulated for this book. They won’t know it, but they will also be thanked on countless occasions in newsrooms up and down the country, where a £30 investment will have proved money very well spent.

Alas, no book of dos and don’ts can cover every conceivable problem. If, as is stated by McInnes, the victims of sexual offences no longer enjoy anonymity through an editors’ voluntary convention, but by statute, how formal must people be in the waiving of that anonymity to save the media from committing an offence by naming them? Is a quick, “Yes, you can name me”, and signing of a notebook on the steps of the court deemed enough? No doubt, the issue will arise and we will find the answer... hopefully in time for the ninth edition.

 

John Robertson, The Scotsman

 

 

Oxford Handbook of Forensic Medicine

Wyatt, Squires, Norfolk and Payne-James

PUBLISHER: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

ISBN: 9780199229949

PRICE: £32.95

 

This is a gem of a book. The handbook explains all essential areas of forensic medicine, such as asphyxia and the forensic aspects of death. However, for practitioners, real value comes from the crystal clear and succinct description of the mechanism of injury we all too frequently come across in court, such as defensive injuries and the ageing of bruises.

A quick look at the relevant chapter will illuminate the reading of any forensic or medical report. The chapters on the diagnosis of and definition of psychiatric disorder, interpretation of toxicology (including how drugs are abused and their effect), and road traffic law and medicine (with clear reference to the medical interpretation of sections of the Road Traffic Act), are alone worth the cost of the book.

This brilliant book is a must- have for any practitioner who requires quick reference to forensic medicine.

 

David J Dickson, Solicitor Advocate

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