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University launches educational film series based upon landmark legal cases

Law experts at the University of Plymouth (@PlymUni) are set to create the first-ever dramatisation of some of the most foundational cases in the country’s legal system.

The team within the School of Society and Culture has joined with screenwriter and director Hugh Janes to produce a series of films entitled The Justice Files, each focusing on cases that have become enshrined in the law of more than 60 countries.

More than 300,000 law students study these cases every year and the films will be made freely available to schools, colleges and universities to assist with learning.

The series will premiere with ‘Mrs Carlill v The Carbolic Smoke Ball Co’ as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, on 3 November, with two free screenings in the Jill Craigie Cinema on campus. There will be a special introduction and Q&A at the latter screening at 6.30pm.

“We were amazed to discover that nobody had done anything like this before,”

said Hugo de Rijke, Associate Professor of Law and co-lead of the project:

“There have been dramatisations of modern cases – and high-profile Hollywood treatments that we’re very familiar with, such as ‘Erin Brockovich’. But no one has attempted to present these rich and remarkable cases that have had such a huge impact not only in the UK, but also the United States, Canada, Australia, India and much of Africa.”

The idea for The Justice Files arose from a module on law literature and screen adaptations that forms part of the Plymouth undergraduate law degree. Students are asked to consider the enduring appeal of the legal genre in popular culture, with its inherent conflicts and dramatic conclusions.

Using a mixture of professional actors, students and staff, the team filmed at several sites in Devon and Cornwall, including Bodmin Council building, which houses an historic court. It was produced by Time-Lock Production, the creator of the international award-winning documentary, ‘How Do You Fix a Town Like Plymouth?’.

‘”Mrs Carlill v The Carbolic Smoke Ball Co’ is perfect as a pilot for this series because it’s a famous Victorian case that forms the foundation of many aspects of contract law,”

Hugo says.

“And it resonates to this day, dealing as it does with a flu pandemic and how devious companies market their products to us.”

Rob Giles, Senior Technician in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, and founder of Time-Lock, adds:

“We hope that the films will provide an invaluable visual resource for educators and researchers. In addition, their rich narratives and diverse histories will provide fascinating insights for members of the public, historians and museums.”

The team has already begun pre-production on the second episode of The Justice Files and is seeking funding and partners for the longer-term future of the project.

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