Jack Tan

Four Legs Good

17/11/2018 – 24/11/2018 Exhibition 17-24 Nov 12pm-5pm Day of live court hearings Sat 24 Nov, 1pm-6.30pm Leeds Town Hall
The Headrow, LS1 3AD

Four Legs Good is a contemporary revival of the medieval animal trials which took place in Britain and throughout Europe, where animals who had been accused of committing crimes were brought to court, provided defence counsel and prosecuted in full hearings before a judge.

For Compass 2018, artist Jack Tan will reimagine Leeds Town Hall as the site of a fictional Department of Animal Justice and stage a series of live ‘moot’ animal trials where practising barristers will argue claims brought by or against animal clients, before a judge and jury at the old Victorian courtroom in Leeds Town Hall.

Exploring the legal framework which surrounds humans, animals and our shared environment, the work invites us to reconsider our understanding of the position of humans in relation to animals and the environment. Leeds Town Hall users will encounter what appears to be a working Animal Court evidenced by signage, court leaflets, legal heritage displays and a court website.

This culminates in a day of live hearings of animals nominated by local animal charities and organisations, where the animals will also be bringing cases of their own against humans. On Saturday 24 November, court hearings will take place at the times listed below. An exhibition will be available to view in Leeds Town Hall corridors 17 – 24 November.

1pm Sheepworrying (90 minutes)

Hearing (60 minutes) followed by jury deliberation (20 minutes), verdict and sentencing (10 minutes)

In this case, a pregnant sheep miscarried after being chased by a dog in Cragg Wood, Yorkshire. The dog was accused of assault (Aggravated Sheep Worrying with intent) that resulted in a miscarriage of the lamb. For the first time the court will have video-linked testimony direct from the farm so that the sheep who was a vulnerable witness can be present at trial.

3pm Signal crayfish (60 minutes)

Court of appeal hearing (50 minutes) followed by judges deliberation (10 minutes)

The Animal Justice Court heard an appeal lodged by an American Signal Crayfish against its murder conviction. In important cases such as this where issues have a wide legal and social impact, a full appeal panel is convened comprising 3 law judges and 4 lay judges. In this case, the Crayfish applicant had been convicted of murdering native White-Clawed Crayfish whose populations have been decimated in the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. The Appellant Crayfish argued that necessity (of survival and acting within its nature) was a good defence to murder.

5pm Dangerous dog (90 minutes)

Hearing (60 minutes) followed by jury deliberation (20 minutes), verdict and sentencing (10 minutes)

In this case, a bull-type dog bit and injured a family friend amid an altercation between the friend and a family member when he was visiting them. Charges were also brought against the owner for unlawfully owning a banned breed of dog, and a destruction order was sought for a Section 1 offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Please note: Anyone is welcome to attend all or part of any of the hearings – just drop in to the public gallery of the courtroom. You only need to book a place if you wish to sit on a jury.

Due to the historical nature of the courtroom, the live hearings on Sat 24 Nov have some access limitations. There will be purpose-built ramps and viewing platforms for wheelchair users, but the number of these spaces available is very limited so please contact us in advance on info@compassliveart.org.uk to discuss any access needs.

Due to restrictions on the use of facilities at Leeds Town Hall we’re unable to welcome animal audience members to the Four Legs Good exhibition, and for the wellbeing of the animals taking part in the day of live hearings, we’re also unable to welcome animal visitors to the four hearings themselves.

With thanks to our contributors and collaborators:



Miranda Ching, solicitor
Rebecca Daker, animal training instructor.
Greg Foxsmith, Crown Court advocate
Paul Mason, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers 
Ramya Nagesh, Barrister, No. 5 Chambers 
Dr Mitchell Travis, University of Leeds School of Law 

Our consultant group of Leeds-based barristers from various chambers. 

Four Legs Good at Compass Festival from Compass Festival on Vimeo.

Animal Court of Justice exhibiion 1

Commissioned by Compass Festival.

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