Beyond Contempt, The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial by Peter Jukes:
Although Beyond Contempt by Peter Jukes was a bit of a random purchase – making use of a discount code by Canbury after Ian Dunt’s ‘How to Be A Liberal’ had it’s publication date pushed back – I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Recently I have read a lot of books very quickly after their publication. It was a pleasant surprise to be reading a book on a topic that prompted a period of reflection. Judging whether British tabloid press had really changed after the phone-hacking scandal was intriguing. We only have to look back a few weeks and to the tragic death of Caroline Flack, in part caused by the tabloid media to see that things aren’t really all that different. This context, provoked different feelings than what I would have originally felt back in 2014 if I had read Beyond Contempt as it was published.
Like many, I was transfixed with the phone-hacking trial as it unfolded. (See common thread, with being transfixed on the recent Harvey Weinstien case). Peter Jukes lays this out when he says “[t[he Tabloid had a reputation for exposing the private secret of the rich and famous, without fear of favour; the trial promised to be as sensational as its front pages”. It’s been no secret that I have a soft-spot for books that touch on the topic of law, and the court reporting from Jukes offered a different take on my love-hate relationship with the British legal system.
The blurb reads …
“It was the marathon court case that laid bare the tricks, corruption and hypocrisy of tabloid newspapers.
But the phone hacking trial wasn’t just about journalism; it was a juddering, eight-month journey through the culture and politics of 21st Century Britain. The Old Bailey heard secret tape recordings, revealing emails and from Hollywood actors, Cabinet ministers and royal courtiers”
At the beginning of the book Jukes carefully sets out each of the counts against the defendants, and eloquently explains the legalese in ‘normal language’. Throughout the entirety of Beyond Contempt, his language is accessible and he really breaks down the barriers for those without a legal background. Jukes also details the makeup of each legal team, which is extremely helpful as there are a lot of moving characters in this story! One the semi-regular appearances was William Clegg QC, who Jukes describes as “a portly, almost Dickensian figure”. I read Under the Wig last summer, so it was interesting to see a different side to the coin.
Something that I wasn’t too sure about at the beginning of the book, is the fact that Jukes inserts himself into the story. However, this was an element that I felt really added to book as I read it. Jukes has a certain charm, and humanity about his story telling. It also helped to keep in focus the significance of the trial. Overall I found the structure of Jukes’ book engaging, and his inclusion of various tweets throughout was a great reminder of the different types of media reporting.
Although I finished reading Beyond Contempt and was reminded of my initial frustration of the verdicts; it was a timely reminder of the longevity of books, and the importance of not being swept up the hysteria of always reading brand new publications. I would thoroughly recommend Beyond Contempt to anyone interested in journalism, British society, and the legal system. It is a sometimes aggravating, yet captivating read!
‘Beyond Contempt’ in Facts:
Author: Peter Jukes
First Published: 2014
Publishing House: Canbury Press
Pages: 245 (237 bulk read)