The Secret Barrister quickly establishes his non-traditional background. He was educated at a comprehensive school and isn’t a high-flyer. His post-2000 career has been blighted by reductions in legal aid payments. He offers many examples of stellar legal work but his principal focus is on prisons and how vile they are. And therefore how important barristers are to keeping the innocent out of them. Successful defences depend on the quality of both the solicitor and the barrister and he gives credit to the importance of solicitors in the preparation of cases. But The Secret Barrister is an intellectual coward notwithstanding his anonymity. Unlike Adam Kay1 he still has skin in the game.
He carefully notes the corrupt practices of the firm of solicitors called Keres but has anonymised them. He doesn’t really understand the point of a polemic, which demands ‘naming names’. In the Secret Barrister’s ‘closing speech’ (final chapter) he constructs a case where a middle-class doctor is falsely accused, imprisoned and ruined before being found not guilty. At which point the author says that our broken legal system could effect anyone at all. Unfortunately the case, which is lavishly written, is a fabrication to illustrate his point.
“James [the doctor] could be your parent, your grandparent, your spouse, your sibling, your best friend, your child. He could be you. Every twist of systemic injustice is one that we see played out in the lives of ordinary people every single day.”2
If the fabricated example really is, “played out in the lives of ordinary people every single day” why didn’t he offer a real life example(s)?
Regardless of my reservations this is an important book. Under-funding public services like the justice system is corrosive of society. (MP Nigel Evans found out the impact of legislation that he himself voted for when his £130,000 legal costs weren’t refunded after he was found not guilty of sexual assault.) The legal system is in meltdown and so are the prisons due to the Conservatives extremist Austerity economic programme 2010- present.
Why you should read this book: It’s an expose and a brilliant analysis
Why you shouldn’t read this book: It’s too didactic with slabs of supporting material
1 Adam Kay This is going to hurt: the secret diaries of a junior doctor
2 Barrister, The Secret. The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken (Kindle Locations 4587-4589). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.