'The Secret Barrister' lifts the lid on a mysterious worldby Hashi Mohamed / April 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Popular culture rarely portrays the justice system accurately. Courtroom dramas depict ancient English courts, horsehair wigs and black robes but not what really goes on behind the scenes. So it is all the more welcome that this book both demystifies the subject—and raises the alarm. The anonymous author of The Secret Barrister, originally a successful blogger, argues convincingly that our criminal justice system is crumbling, from the magistrates to the Supreme Court.
It is a chilling book. There are powerful passages about how our individual liberties are being put at risk by a creaking system. Cuts to legal aid have pushed the law to breaking point. The magistrate courts—the chaos of which the author compares to a hospital A&E department—favours the middle classes over the poor. Victims are treated shoddily and then at best, placated with inflammatory politicians’ speeches. The author highlights the irresponsibility of some media reporting as well.
These powerful points are expressed in a funny but penetrating way: the barrister weaves personal experience with his or her most memorable cases and clients to enliven what could otherwise have been a dry description of the legal system. After you’ve chuckled to yourself, it forces you to reflect on its real meaning. This is a well-argued book that does its best to win over its audience. It has certainly educated me, a practising barrister.
Some of the nuances which give it extra depth, force and clarity could be lost on others without legal training. But the story it tells is instantly recognisable by most criminal practitioners, and it has faithfully set out the major fault lines: the recent furore over the failure by police and prosecutors to disclose crucial evidence is but one of many. Here’s hoping the politicians, the public and anyone who cares about preserving the rule of law pays attention.
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken
Anonymous (Macmillan, £16.99)