Brilliant, depressing, important: this is a book that should be read by everyone.
The Secret Barrister: Tales of the Law and How It's Broken revolves around one central assertion: that a foundational pillar of our democracy--the rule of law--has not so much been eroded as outright obliterated. Be it dogmatic Justice Ministers, recklessly populist tabloids, slash, burn and salted earth funding cuts, or good old-fashioned public ignorance, the criminal justice system in England and Wales is being slowly strangled to death.
As a lawyer myself, it frequently frustrates me how little people and newspapers understand the system, but I have never read it so elegantly and eloquently written before. Every time I read a paragraph that made me think, “that’s it! that’s exactly right!”, there would be another, and then another, and then page after page of stone-cold truth neatly encapsulated in so many pithy paragraphs. This is a masterclass in writing.
Using real-life examples and horrifyingly realistic scenarios, the Secret Barrister shows us, with that gut-dropping sense of horror, how easily It Could Be You. The mother indicted with causing death by dangerous driving after a child darts out in front of her car; the young, promising doctor incorrectly convicted of GBH in a bar room brawl after a case of mistaken identity. The Secret Barrister uses these highly-relatable examples to devastating effect, showing how easily anyone can get caught up in the system—and how, in its current state, you could be well and truly Fucked.
The sad fact of the matter is, from a politician’s perspective criminal justice is a turkey shoot. No-one cares about it. For the everyman, there is No Smoke Without Fire. Everyone charged with an offence “probably did it” and should be sent to prison to subsist on bread and water. And who could blame anyone for thinking that? Politicians and tabloids have conspired for decades, through reckless inaccuracies to outright lies, to turn the public against the notion of Legal Aid, the Presumption of Innocence and, indeed, the right to a fair trial. As the Secret Barrister points out, if the NHS was given the same treatment as the criminal justice system, there would be wall-to-wall, 24 hour news coverage and frothing public outrage.
The government spent as much or more on reducing the cost of a pint by 1p (yes, a penny), or providing free TV licenses to over 75s, as it cut from the Legal Aid budget. If that makes you angry (and it should) then read this book, give it to your friends and families, write to your MP, and demand action.
Because one day, It Could Be You. And if it is, would you really want some overworked, underpaid, demoralised and exhausted hack bringing his rather blunt knife to a state-sponsored tank fight? Or would you want a properly-remunerated, independent professional bringing his entire arsenal of legal RPGs to fearlessly and fiercely fight your corner?
Yep, I thought so. Buy it. Read it. Five stars.