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In praise of: gavels
Yes, yes. I know our courts have never actually used them, but where would our lazy designers and legal ignoramuses be without gavels?
As I write, there is one on the Law Society Gazette homepage advertising ‘a leading provider of quality ATE insurance’. It is unclear whether the Gazette’s ad manager was too polite, too ignorant or too resigned to suggest to the insurer concerned that use of an image that everyone in your target audience knows is wrong might undermine your claims to be an expert in the legal field.
Along with every legal dramatist ever born, the Law Society itself has been known to use them; as has the odd law firm, and the Times law section. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice used one in an infographic apparently demonstrating that ‘We’re Putting the Brakes on Compensation Culture.’ The MoJ was clearly also suffering from a bad case of random capital-letter-itis (but that is a whole other gripe).
The website Legal Cheek blames the ubiquity of the TV gavel on the ‘cultural imperialism of US legal dramas’. Journalist and regular court attender Callum May was so incensed he started a blog chronicling inappropriate gavel use, and tweets about it as well (Inappropriate Gavels, @igavels). May follows in the noble footsteps of Marcel Berlins, who used to bang on about them in his Guardian column nearly a decade ago (‘Knock it on the head, BBC. Judges don’t use gavels’).
All, to no avail. This little wooden hammer is more than a match for such big guns. The gavel is dead (or, more accurately, never actually lived in this jurisdiction). Long live the gavel!

About the author(s)

Fiona Bawdon - author
Fiona Bawdon is a London-based journalist, campaigner and researcher, focusing mainly on civil and criminal justice, particularly youth justice.