Legal systems work not only to protect individuals and prosecute others in order to maintain `law and order', but they also define the boundaries of what, in a complex and fragmented society, are the agreed social values and symbols which we decide to protect. The complex role of newspaper reporting in these debates forms a part of the public narratives by which law and order are understood. In this article we look at the reporting of the Taylor sisters' trial for murder, for which they were convicted and then, later, released on appeal. The benchmark appeal held that the press coverage of the trial created a real risk of prejudice against the defendants. This example illustrates how mass-circulation newspapers can be seen as agents of conformity, constructing narratives by which it is publicly established what is and is not generally acceptable behaviour surrounding a crime—perhaps at the expense of ensuring effective detection and prosecution of specific criminal behaviour.