Begin with capital ‘J’ for justice

Unlocking Torts. First edition
May 27, 2005

U nlocking Torts is part of a new series that aims to be “a departure from traditional law texts and represent one view of a type of learning resource that... is particularly useful to students”. It certainly looks different. Rather than the traditional continuous prose, the text is broken up by multiple headings and subheadings. Cases are summarised in separate boxed paragraphs. Short quotations from judges are separated into shaded boxes and highlighted with a capital “J”. Interspersed throughout are diagrams, flow charts, quizzes, self-assessment questions, essay writing assignments and pictures.

The book’s coverage, by contrast, is orthodox. The chapters deal with traditional subjects such as negligence and trespass to the person as well as more unusual torts such as deceit and conversion. The method is similarly orthodox: elements of each tort are expounded and illustrated using case law.

The aim is to make torts more accessible to students by using innovative presentation. How far the authors succeed is debatable. Some techniques are excellent. The self-assessment questions are clear and sensible, the diagrams and flow charts are helpful. The pictures are neutral: do students really need help imagining one person shouting at another? But the real problem with the presentation lies in its insistence on segregating cases, summarising them in a couple of lines and separating out judicial quotations. This inhibits the presentation of an accurate black-letter account because the summaries are over-reductive and the quotations inadequate.

The text itself is littered with mistakes and misleading assertions. To take two examples from chapter one, the Pearson Commission did not recommend a no-fault compensation scheme (it considered that its remit precluded it from doing so). And to say that there was “no remedy” in Dennis v MoD is an odd way to describe £950,000 damages.

It is difficult to believe that Unlocking Torts will help students in the way its authors intended. That is a shame, because the authors’ aims, and some of their techniques, are admirable.

Paul Mitchell is lecturer in law, King’s College London.

Unlocking Torts. First edition

Author - Chris Turner and Sue Hodge
Publisher - Hodder and Stoughton
Pages - 569
Price - £18.99
ISBN - 0 340 81567 1

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