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The Littlehampton LibelsA Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England$
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Christopher Hilliard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198799658

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198799658.001.0001

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A Craze for This Sort of Thing

A Craze for This Sort of Thing

(p.41) 3 A Craze for This Sort of Thing
The Littlehampton Libels

Christopher Hilliard

Oxford University Press

The campaign of abusive letters led to a successful private prosecution of Rose Gooding by Edith Swan. This chapter explains the legal context of the Littlehampton case, discussing access to justice and the nature of criminal libel. Libel could graduate from a civil matter to a criminal one if public order was involved in some way, even figurative: if the libel touched on ‘infamous’ matters (such as homosexuality); if the libel undermined confidence in public institutions such as the police or the judiciary; or if it was repetitive, part of a harassment campaign that disturbed ‘the peace and harmony of the community’. The practice, and even much of the theory, of this now defunct offence must be pieced together from unreported cases, and the account in this chapter is based on an extensive sample of unpublished case files.

Keywords:   criminal libel, defamatory libel, legal aid, access to justice, private prosecutions, harassment, public order, breach of the peace

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