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THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER Winner of the Books are My Bag Non-Fiction Award Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlisted for Specsavers Non-Fiction Book of the Year 'Eye-opening, damning and hilarious' Tim Shipman, author of All Out War and Fall Out “I’m a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationsh THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER Winner of the Books are My Bag Non-Fiction Award Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlisted for Specsavers Non-Fiction Book of the Year 'Eye-opening, damning and hilarious' Tim Shipman, author of All Out War and Fall Out “I’m a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, hostage negotiator, named driver, bus fare-provider, accountant, suicide watchman, coffee-supplier, surrogate parent and, on one memorable occasion, whatever the official term is for someone tasked with breaking the news to a prisoner that his girlfriend has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.” Welcome to the world of the Secret Barrister. These are the stories of life inside the courtroom. They are sometimes funny, often moving and ultimately life-changing.How can you defend a child-abuser you suspect to be guilty? What do you say to someone sentenced to ten years who you believe to be innocent? What is the law and why do we need it? And why do they wear those stupid wigs?From the criminals to the lawyers, the victims, witnesses and officers of the law, here is the best and worst of humanity, all struggling within a broken system which would never be off the front pages if the public knew what it was really like. Both a searing first-hand account of the human cost of the criminal justice system, and a guide to how we got into this mess, The Secret Barrister wants to show you what it’s really like and why it really matters.


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THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER Winner of the Books are My Bag Non-Fiction Award Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlisted for Specsavers Non-Fiction Book of the Year 'Eye-opening, damning and hilarious' Tim Shipman, author of All Out War and Fall Out “I’m a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationsh THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER Winner of the Books are My Bag Non-Fiction Award Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlisted for Specsavers Non-Fiction Book of the Year 'Eye-opening, damning and hilarious' Tim Shipman, author of All Out War and Fall Out “I’m a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, hostage negotiator, named driver, bus fare-provider, accountant, suicide watchman, coffee-supplier, surrogate parent and, on one memorable occasion, whatever the official term is for someone tasked with breaking the news to a prisoner that his girlfriend has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.” Welcome to the world of the Secret Barrister. These are the stories of life inside the courtroom. They are sometimes funny, often moving and ultimately life-changing.How can you defend a child-abuser you suspect to be guilty? What do you say to someone sentenced to ten years who you believe to be innocent? What is the law and why do we need it? And why do they wear those stupid wigs?From the criminals to the lawyers, the victims, witnesses and officers of the law, here is the best and worst of humanity, all struggling within a broken system which would never be off the front pages if the public knew what it was really like. Both a searing first-hand account of the human cost of the criminal justice system, and a guide to how we got into this mess, The Secret Barrister wants to show you what it’s really like and why it really matters.

30 review for The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    The British have never recovered from being the foremost empire in the world, the most innovative of societies, the leaders of intellectual thought, the most just and fair. Because now, it's anything but. The Secret Barrister is polemic against the system of government that pays lip service to victims of crime or had their civil rights infringed upon, but no money to defend them or put right the wrongs inflicted on them. Every government cuts the money paid to solicitors (office) and barristers ( The British have never recovered from being the foremost empire in the world, the most innovative of societies, the leaders of intellectual thought, the most just and fair. Because now, it's anything but. The Secret Barrister is polemic against the system of government that pays lip service to victims of crime or had their civil rights infringed upon, but no money to defend them or put right the wrongs inflicted on them. Every government cuts the money paid to solicitors (office) and barristers (court), and every government makes the qualification for legal aid harder and harder to get so that only the extremely rich and the extremely poor can now count on getting a defence in a civil or criminal court. It is the police who bring criminal cases to court and it is as if their honesty in the evidence they present and the certainty that they are presenting all the evidence, is a given. In reality of course, it's often expediency that leads the police to charge someone of a crime and they will definitely withhold evidence that is prejudicial to their own case. My father was a magistrate. This is a judge drawn from the population who is usually middle class, pays their taxes and does voluntary work, but not necessarily so, they could also be lords or working class. They get about 18 hours legal instruction, sit on a bench of three and are guided by a law clerk who is a fully qualified solicitor. The author does not think much of this system. I do, it is only in the lowest court and it is being judged by your peers, as it should be. My father never trusted the word of the police without corroborating evidence. He said they lie as much as anyone else, perhaps more since the more cases they clear up, the more they look efficient and get promotion. Even if the person wasn't guilty. At this level of court, people generally represent themselves or, if the offence is imprisonable, they are entitled to the service of the Duty Solicitor. At every other level of court, they have to employ a lawyer who will instruct a barrister to appear for them. What went wrong? Governments decide that a penny off the tax on beer will appeal to more voters than the same penny sent to the criminal justice system essentially. And that is what the book is about together with examples of miscarriages of justice (or not) that needed but didn't get proper legal representation because they didn't qualify for legal aid or got inadequate representation because of lack of funds at the original hearings, later court proceedings or appeals. It's not going to get any better until the British generally stop thinking of themselves as anything but a small island with not very much influence in the world and whose glorious past is just that. The future of justice is a willingness to put politics aside and look at how to fix a broken system that if it worked better, would benefit us all. I'm British and have nationality in a West Indian island as well. It's no better here and for the same reasons. Reviewed 12 Dec 2019

  2. 5 out of 5

    Simon Bradshaw

    I often recommend books. I sometimes say that a book is a 'must-read'. But there are few books that make me want to go up to everyone I know and tell them that I actually, really mean that they *must* read it, in the sense that it is genuinely important that they take in what the author says. This is such a book. If you have any interest in the English criminal justice system - and if you live in England and Wales, you should - then this book will be eye-opening, shocking and thought-provoking. A I often recommend books. I sometimes say that a book is a 'must-read'. But there are few books that make me want to go up to everyone I know and tell them that I actually, really mean that they *must* read it, in the sense that it is genuinely important that they take in what the author says. This is such a book. If you have any interest in the English criminal justice system - and if you live in England and Wales, you should - then this book will be eye-opening, shocking and thought-provoking. A few years ago (before focussing on civil and family law) I briefly practised criminal law in the Magistrates' and Crown Courts, including a brief stint prosecuting for the CPS. It was bad then. It is worse now. Little in this book is a surprise to me, because many of my colleagues are criminal defence and prosecution lawyers, but their stories of pitiful pay (yes, tabloid journalism lies about this), lack of resources to prepare cases, and overloaded courts don't reach a wider audience. The author of this book - a respected legal blogger who, for good reasons, remains anonymous - has done the legal profession and the country as a whole a vast service by so clearly setting out such issues. This book is engagingly and clearly written, but it is not an easy read. If you do not reach the end wanting to scream out loud "HOW CAN WE PUT UP WITH THIS?" then I can only conclude that you are a government minister or a tabloid editor - both types of people seemingly hell-bent on the destruction of our justice system. And if you think "but this won't affect me", then please explain your secret to ensuring that you are never the victim of crime, will never commit a crime of negligence, or never be in the wrong place at the wrong time such that you face a wrongful allegation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    As a call for awareness, this is loud enough to be heard, but it also reminds us that outside the extraordinary cases, so much of the nitty gritty of law can be unimaginably dull. That we have a crisis of funding in the law should surprise nobody, but perhaps the law suffers for attention in comparison to the NHS because we're more likely to have personal experiences of one than the other. Apart from cases sexy enough for media attention, the day to day running of the law might as well be in the As a call for awareness, this is loud enough to be heard, but it also reminds us that outside the extraordinary cases, so much of the nitty gritty of law can be unimaginably dull. That we have a crisis of funding in the law should surprise nobody, but perhaps the law suffers for attention in comparison to the NHS because we're more likely to have personal experiences of one than the other. Apart from cases sexy enough for media attention, the day to day running of the law might as well be in the dark- who cares if anyone involved in the criminal justice system isn't getting what they need? They're all criminals anyway, right? The Secret Barrister's answer is that everyone should care, innocent people are being failed as much as the guilty. The author's urgent appeal for the wider public to understand how the law works, and what's going wrong, so we can all be part of fixing it, is genuine and heart felt: please look at this, you never know when you may be dragged into this system, or may really need it. When you do, do you want it to be broken? Unlike the Twitter feed, however, part of this are so dry that I had to repeatedly force myself to pick it up again. There are interesting and funny parts, fascinating and heard-hitting parts, but it's a hard read. As much as it gets compared to This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, it's not that. Yes, they both aim to illuminate working practices in overloaded systems and the individuals who struggle to work within them, but this is a much denser, more historical and statistical read with added commentary and fewer laughs. That's not to say it's not as important, but people might need to manage their expectations. ARC via Netgalley

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ross

    Fails to live up to the hype. Too much history. Insufficiently anecdotal. The sexy title (and implicit cashing in on the Secret Footballer franchise) promised a different kind of book and the 'populist' marketing leads to disappointment. Written like a barrister writes . . . and i don't mean that in a good way Fails to live up to the hype. Too much history. Insufficiently anecdotal. The sexy title (and implicit cashing in on the Secret Footballer franchise) promised a different kind of book and the 'populist' marketing leads to disappointment. Written like a barrister writes . . . and i don't mean that in a good way

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Castledine-Dack

    I had started to get worried that this book would never end, and it was only through stubborn principle that I never dnf books that I completed it at all. I had very high hopes for it - I thought it would be the legal equivalent of 'This is going to hurt' which I found insightful, engaging and interesting. Unfortunately, TSB was none of these things to me, and I recognise that, in making this statement, I exemplify the author's hypothesis that citizen apathy towards the failings of the justice sy I had started to get worried that this book would never end, and it was only through stubborn principle that I never dnf books that I completed it at all. I had very high hopes for it - I thought it would be the legal equivalent of 'This is going to hurt' which I found insightful, engaging and interesting. Unfortunately, TSB was none of these things to me, and I recognise that, in making this statement, I exemplify the author's hypothesis that citizen apathy towards the failings of the justice system is rampant. It would not be fair to say that I have not come away from this book with a greater understanding of how our legal system works and a stark appreciation of how it's fundamental flaws fail people all the time. It is also true that I was, at various points, shocked, terrified and outraged to hear about the ways in which this happens and how inaccessible legal representation can be. My dislike of the book is not rooted in a preference for ignorance, but rather it lies in the fact that this book was boring. It was not, as I had expected and hoped, an exploration of the writers previous cases which were woven together to paint the overarching picture of the state of our legal system today. Rather, it was a theoretical analysis with few tangible examples. Though in concept it is similar to Adam Kay's medical equivalent, it lacks the human feel and it didn't compel me to read as that did. This may be, as the author laments, because the law is simply boring. I am cautious about attributing a star rating to this because my opinion of it does not skew my broader perception that it is an extremely important book that should be as widely read as possible. I share in the author's concern about the issues raised. If I were reading for academic interest then I think that my opinion would have been different, but this has been pitched as a recreational read and I cannot bring myself to rate it highly in this context.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James

    Just prior to the 1983 General Election, then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock, delivered what must rank as one of the most poignant speeches ever made in British politics. In what might be called his “warning speech”, he warned of what would happen should Margaret Thatcher win. To paraphrase, he warned people not to get old, not to be young, not to get sick, not to do myriad other things – for the state wouldn’t be there to help them, nay, would actively do them harm. Fast forward thirty-five years to Just prior to the 1983 General Election, then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock, delivered what must rank as one of the most poignant speeches ever made in British politics. In what might be called his “warning speech”, he warned of what would happen should Margaret Thatcher win. To paraphrase, he warned people not to get old, not to be young, not to get sick, not to do myriad other things – for the state wouldn’t be there to help them, nay, would actively do them harm. Fast forward thirty-five years to the age of austerity and Kinnock’s fears appear warranted, albeit delayed somewhat. Depressingly, however, what he got wrong was the identification of a single bogeyman (in this case bogeywoman) in the shape of Margaret Thatcher. Rather, successive governments, of all stripes, have done in our public services. The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken is at heart a forensic examination of the UK’s broken Criminal Justice System, but its lessons could easily be broadened and in many ways, it addresses issues that plague our public services more generally. It’s a sad tale of starved finances, neglect and political short-termism. The Criminal Justice System sits in an unenviable position. We all know we might need the NHS, we all can envisage our stake in schools and education, but the Criminal Justice System? Surely, the people who come into contact with that are just criminals, bad people who deserve everything they get. This assumption, fed by poor tabloid journalism peddling myths and half-truths, has enabled governments to cut the system to the bone. The result? Guilty people going free and innocents convicted. In chapter after chapter, The Secret Barrister outlines how the system is failing all those who come into its orbit: victims, witnesses, defendants. Many are the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. The author wonders why we, as a nation, have allowed this dire situation to come to pass, and though the answer lies in part in the demonization of those who are characterised as coming before the courts – the criminals, the drug addicts – there’s another reason, too. As with the cuts to public services more broadly, a tragic fact is that the middle classes who need the services least are those most likely to vote. Middle income voters can afford to pay to jump an NHS waiting list, they can shell out for a private tutor for their children, they never imagine they’ll be arrested and need a lawyer. The poor, who rely on public services most, tend not to swing elections. But with the Criminal Justice System there’s a sting in the tail. In recent political discourse there’s been talk of the “squeezed middle”, it’s a phrase I intrinsically dislike, for the poor have always been hit hardest, but with criminal justice, under certain circumstances, it can actually ring true. Cuts to who qualifies for legal aid mean those on middle incomes, should they face trial, might have to spend tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal representation. Should they be found innocent, the state doesn’t reimburse a penny. This is just one example of the system failing and there are many, many more. The axing of the Forensic Science Service – a world renowned and respected leader in the field – mean police forces now put out work to tender. In the current climate, this means the cheapest. The result? Some providers are good, some less so; many are unaccredited and the fear is that some are cowboy outfits. Indeed, already there have been scandals: in one recent case, thousands of drug tests were found to be fatally flawed, contaminated and thus discounted; cases were thrown out of court, convictions potentially overturned. Then there are the payments received by barristers and solicitors. The rates they receive, the hours they can charge, the work they can bill for, all have been cut. The result? Professionals leaving their jobs, those that remain increasingly overworked. In such circumstances, can you rely on your lawyer going the extra mile, in effect working for free on your case? That’s if, as cited above, you qualify for legal aid at all. I’m lucky to know a number of police officers in my private life. One officer, an armed officer in the Met, warned me with a weary sigh last year that cuts have consequences, a mantra repeated regularly by the Police Federation. I used to think this special pleading, assume that it was just police officers looking for a pay rise. Now I know better. Like many a jobbing junior barrister, The Secret Barrister both prosecutes and defends and is adamant that the system fails both. Criminals ARE walking free due to the mayhem cuts have strewn through the police, the Crown Prosecution System, the courts. Equally, innocent defendants are almost certainly being found guilty, perhaps even going to prison. All this is an inalienable truth, known to all who work in the system. It’s difficult to do this book justice in a review; really anyone reading this should beg, borrow, buy a copy and read it. I challenge you not to come away shocked to the core by just how bad things are. For this title really does explain what the Police Federation have warned for so long: cuts really do have consequences. So, in conclusion things can’t go on like this, the system has to change. If they don’t, I fear I have no choice but to paraphrase Neil Kinnock: Don’t be a victim of crime, don’t be a perpetrator of crime; don’t be accused of a crime you didn’t commit; don’t be a witness. In fact, if you can humanly help it, don’t have anything to do with the Criminal Justice System whatsoever.

  7. 5 out of 5

    G L

    Feel like this book wanted to be the This is Going to Hurt for the law but wasn’t quite engaging or funny enough- was interesting but often over complicated and the explanations were sometimes convoluted.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    Briefly - Slightly mixed feelings on this one. Looking at the subtitle there really aren't many "stories of the law" and it majors on how the law is broken. Dry in places, fascinating in others. In full This book opens with some outline information about the author, the book and the criminal justice system. Written by an anonymous barrister it considers of the subject of justice over time and across countries. It also looks at the general strengths and weaknesses of the English justice system and Briefly - Slightly mixed feelings on this one. Looking at the subtitle there really aren't many "stories of the law" and it majors on how the law is broken. Dry in places, fascinating in others. In full This book opens with some outline information about the author, the book and the criminal justice system. Written by an anonymous barrister it considers of the subject of justice over time and across countries. It also looks at the general strengths and weaknesses of the English justice system and others. In fairness I found the opening chapters somewhat dry for a "person in the street" reader. However as I read on I found that my interest and views on the book altered. The chapters are well laid out and looks at the legal process from Magistrates Courts through Bail and Remand to Trial and Sentencing. During the course of this it also looks at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Victims of the law and the myth of Legal Aid. I confess once the topic of "victims" came up the book became far more alive and real to me. This felt like something I could understand. From there on I did find the book both interesting and revealing. Some aspects I was already aware of through the news for example. While the changes to Legal Aid highlighted by the author were introduced without fuss (!!) they were reported on. Equally there has been considerable press interest in the CPS of late so that the issues highlighted there were not that surprising (although rather horrifying), There is a sense in which this can feel like a whinge about all that is wrong with the "system". Such things tend to be quite headline grabbing and raise their heads (and the profile of the problem sometimes) from time to time. The NHS, the police, the prison system and others tend to feature usually however I don't think I have come across one relating to the law in a readable way before. That makes this book a little unusual at least. Written by an apparent insider it has fairly extensive and valid references to back up some of the positions as far as I could tell. Ultimately I'm not certain I know who this is aimed at. I think the subtitle of the book "Stories of the Law and How It's Broken" is slightly misleading. There are stories of cases handled by the author however there are relatively few of them. They are used to illustrate the concepts in the chapters rather than being simply stories. I notice some reviewers consider this book "hilarious"; I did smile from time to time but little more than that. I'm not quite sure who this aimed at - is it trying to get a message over to someone? Is it simply trying to be dramatic? It certainly offers valid evidence into the idea that there is much wrong with the justice system in England currently. The author in his "Closing Speech" offers some thoughts on where improvements might be made. Funding is obviously an issue as it is in many public services. I fully agree with his point that the Law in its broadest sense should be taught to people at school - the ignorance (mine included at times) does no service to the enhancement of the system. I also appreciated his point about "Justice being done, being seen to be done and being able to be understood". The lack of clarity/consistency and plain common sense in areas such as sentencing simply makes bad news headlines inevitable. There are many important issues in this book. It deserves to be widely read and reflected on - I enjoyed reading it. Note - I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review http://viewson.org.uk/non-fiction/sec...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helen Cooley

    Like reading a text book. And not on a subject I was interested in. Not at all like 'This Is Going To Hurt' despite comparisons, this is not funny. I'm clearly not the target audience and don't want to spend another 300ish pages getting outraged and anxious about the poor state of the British legal system since I can do exactly nothing to improve it. So I have let myself off and moved on to hopefully a more enjoyable read. Like reading a text book. And not on a subject I was interested in. Not at all like 'This Is Going To Hurt' despite comparisons, this is not funny. I'm clearly not the target audience and don't want to spend another 300ish pages getting outraged and anxious about the poor state of the British legal system since I can do exactly nothing to improve it. So I have let myself off and moved on to hopefully a more enjoyable read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Faye

    Read: May 2019 In terms of the content of this book, I should really give it five stars. The Secret Barrister exposes the many flaws and weaknesses in our justice system from an insider's invaluable perspective. The trouble is that our system is so clearly broken that the book becomes hard to read. I finished it feeling much more depressed and vulnerable than when I first picked it up. The story of the junior doctor wrongly jailed for an attack that overwhelming evidence proved he didn't actually Read: May 2019 In terms of the content of this book, I should really give it five stars. The Secret Barrister exposes the many flaws and weaknesses in our justice system from an insider's invaluable perspective. The trouble is that our system is so clearly broken that the book becomes hard to read. I finished it feeling much more depressed and vulnerable than when I first picked it up. The story of the junior doctor wrongly jailed for an attack that overwhelming evidence proved he didn't actually commit will be one that stays with me for a long time. So I can't really give it the five stars it deserves. I don't see how this broken judiciary system can be fixed and I'm not sure I wouldn't have preferred to stay ignorant of a system I'm so obviously powerless against despite all my newfound knowledge.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    I’m in the minority here amongst the GR readers for The Secret Barrister. DNF after 196 pages. It was very slow with far too much backstory to digest.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ali Joyce

    This was a real struggle to finish. I had hoped that it would be a fun read with some interesting cases and anecdotes. No. I found the writing style pompous in places, and some passages were rather lazy in setting out the law (I know that was needed but in a number of places the text was lifted entirely from legislation or text books). I echo comments made by another reader that the only defendant who was positively portrayed was a fictional, middle-class junior doctor - that was a real shame. H This was a real struggle to finish. I had hoped that it would be a fun read with some interesting cases and anecdotes. No. I found the writing style pompous in places, and some passages were rather lazy in setting out the law (I know that was needed but in a number of places the text was lifted entirely from legislation or text books). I echo comments made by another reader that the only defendant who was positively portrayed was a fictional, middle-class junior doctor - that was a real shame. However, perhaps what that character actually does is evidence the fact that innocent people do not find themselves the subject of criminal proceedings because, if anything, the Code for Crown Prosecutors is too rigorously applied. In addition, when faced with a suspect at the police station consistently and passionately explaining that they have not committed the crime alleged the police make the necessary enquiries and that person is never charged. If somehow cases slip through the net at that stage then they will be picked up later through robust litigation, not by counsel, but by the solicitor. Too little attention was paid to the history of the exploitation of the legal aid system by both barristers and solicitors in the past. I worked in this area for 15 years, and I can say with absolute certainty that whilst renumeration is currently poor there was shameless greed when I started. I remember barristers (now silks and judges) running around the Crown Court on Fridays (when the sentencing hearings took place) literally laughing at the thousands of pounds they had made that day (and doing a poor job in presenting mitigation because they had by choice taken on far too many cases for the list), as well as solicitors rubbing their hands with glee at the page counts for massive cases which comprised thousands of pages of 'no comment' interviews and which were charged out as excessive time spent reading - the fees paid were huge and very, very wrong. I agree that it has gone too far in the other direction, but the short mention of the barrister buying a student house with his fee for a Crown Court trial did not represent full disclosure of what had gone in the past - blink and you would have missed it! I reluctantly came to the conclusion that a strong motivation for the author seems to have been that he came to Criminal Law just a few years too late.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    This is excellent. It's very readable and often witty in style, but its message is stark and worrying: we have a serious problem in the criminal justice system which is getting worse. Written by an (understandably) anonymous barrister, The Secret Barrister is an account from the inside of the realities of the English and Welsh legal system. It is interesting and very clear about how we came to have the current system, its undoubted strengths, its true aims and the terrible mess which so often pre This is excellent. It's very readable and often witty in style, but its message is stark and worrying: we have a serious problem in the criminal justice system which is getting worse. Written by an (understandably) anonymous barrister, The Secret Barrister is an account from the inside of the realities of the English and Welsh legal system. It is interesting and very clear about how we came to have the current system, its undoubted strengths, its true aims and the terrible mess which so often prevents those aims of fairness to all being achieved. The author puts his case with genuine passion, but also with humanity and clear-sighted, lucid argument. Some of the problems are structural (I was astonished to learn the detail of how Magistrates are selected and "trained", for example) but a great deal of it is because the system is being appallingly overloaded while being starved of the resources to do the job by a state "arrogant in the assumption that those hardest hit are those for whom public sympathy will never register on opinion polls." It's easy to read in that the prose and style are excellent, but the content is a very tough read indeed. We all need to be aware of the issues, though, because the very fairness of our society depends on a decent, fair criminal justice system which the author currently characterises (fairly, as far as I can see) as in the main, "getting numbers through the door and out again as inexpensively and swiftly as possible. It's roulette framed as justice…" I was surprised and impressed by how fascinating and involving I found The Secret Barrister, and I can recommend it very warmly. (My thanks to Macmillan for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hickey

    This is an important topic for public education and discussion. I accept (by reason of my profession) I’m perhaps not the target reader, so my opinion should be weighed in that way, but I found the substance of the book occasionally discursive and unnecessarily prolonged. However, those same aspects may well be what makes this book appealing to a reader who is entirely unfamiliar with the book’s subjects.

  15. 5 out of 5

    ash c

    The Secret Barrister shares their experience as a young but already jaded lawyer working in the criminal justice system in England. They detail several aspects of the system and why, from an insider's point of view, it was failing horribly. While I agree the book could be possibly cut by a third if we removed all the author's ramblings, I found it interesting for the most part to understand the thought process as the author goes about their work. The author has a tendency to run long sentences wi The Secret Barrister shares their experience as a young but already jaded lawyer working in the criminal justice system in England. They detail several aspects of the system and why, from an insider's point of view, it was failing horribly. While I agree the book could be possibly cut by a third if we removed all the author's ramblings, I found it interesting for the most part to understand the thought process as the author goes about their work. The author has a tendency to run long sentences with rather pompous language, and every other sentence is a funny quip or a dry remark at something. It amused and entertained me but at times I had to put down the book because it's getting too tiring. I can't say I can comment on the contents of the book, because while I got a better understanding of the failings of the criminal justice system, and while plenty of context was provided, I still found it hard to truly grasp the current workings of the system. I appreciated that the author, at many times, demonstrated a leaning for social justice and their criticisms were not just about the (admittedly crazy) bureaucracy that they have to face, but also about the lack of consideration for those going through the system. I found it interesting that a lot of people seem to have hated this book but for so many different reasons. Legal professionals disagreed with the focus of the book or the amount of descriptive text. Others came here because apparently it is touted to be the legal version of This Is Going to Hurt and I Am The Secret Footballer and is very sorely disappointed at the lack of interesting cases and funny anecdotes, and overkill of technical information. Having read neither of these books I feel like I am luckily not primed for disappointment. And having worked around and with lawyers and the law in my professional capacity (though not completely directly) I have some sparse background knowledge and am sufficiently interested the topic itself for the book to interest me. I also feel some distance away from the subject as I do not live in England and may not feel as strongly about the issues with the system. Overall, a very entertaining and sobering read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bookread2day

    I want to read this book again!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    The Secret Barrister writes under this pseudonym in order to speak frankly -- and in this book they let loose on the state of the legal system in Britain. The poor management of CPS, the decimation of legal aid, the Innocence Tax, and all the ways that the government (not just the Tories, but perhaps mostly) have messed up our adversarial system, prioritising statistics over justice... while arguably failing to properly prosecute many cases as paperwork slips and overworked CPS employees fail to The Secret Barrister writes under this pseudonym in order to speak frankly -- and in this book they let loose on the state of the legal system in Britain. The poor management of CPS, the decimation of legal aid, the Innocence Tax, and all the ways that the government (not just the Tories, but perhaps mostly) have messed up our adversarial system, prioritising statistics over justice... while arguably failing to properly prosecute many cases as paperwork slips and overworked CPS employees fail to come up with the goods. The title might trick you into thinking that this is going to be juicy gossip about defending the indefensible and prosecuting the most egregious crimes, but instead the Secret Barrister has several bees in his bonnet (or wig, as the case may be) and they really let it rip. I barely understood our legal system before, and now I know two things: 1) I'm writing to the chocolate teapot I have to call my MP, for all the good he does (Dan Jarvis, I'm looking at you and your constant banging on about veterans like they're the only constituents that matter; are you planning on replying to any of my letters anytime soon?) and 2) staying the hell away from the courts. I don't know how my sister can want to be a lawyer, ye gods. I mean, obviously it's not all criminal law, but... yipes. And yes, there are one or two awful stories of justice gone awry, if that's what you're interested in. But instead, I recommend it as a way to get a handle on what our legal system really does, how it ought to work, and a little about what the government could be doing about it. It isn't always an easy read, but the Secret Barrister writes clearly; law isn't always something you can feel passionate about, but I am fully convinced of the Secret Barrister's dedication to their work... and their desire to improve our system.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I did enjoy this book however i did find myself scan reading parts of it due to certain sections being a bit too informative or complex for someone who doesn’t study or have a huge interest in law. It was interesting and it did have the odd comical part but it was much more formal and serious than I had expected. I love medical memoirs and thought it would be similar but law related however this wasn’t the case. Maybe it’s because I work in the NHS however I do believe you can read and thoroughl I did enjoy this book however i did find myself scan reading parts of it due to certain sections being a bit too informative or complex for someone who doesn’t study or have a huge interest in law. It was interesting and it did have the odd comical part but it was much more formal and serious than I had expected. I love medical memoirs and thought it would be similar but law related however this wasn’t the case. Maybe it’s because I work in the NHS however I do believe you can read and thoroughly enjoy books such as it’s going to hurt without having great medical interest or knowledge whereas with this one I think you need to have a certain amount of law related knowledge in order to fully appreciate and understand it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cliff Moyce

    Boring... boring... boring. Good subject, good idea, deadly dull writing style. Should never have been written. I guess there will be a spate of these sorts of books since the huge (and much deserved) success of ‘This is going to hurt’ by Adam Kay. Adam Kay can write (and talk), this guy can’t. The author is wise to keep his identity a secret. Not because he will upset people with his anecdotes but because he won’t.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I was torn on what rating to give this book. The subject matter - the horror of what's happening to the UK's legal system - is unquestionably of the highest importance and is set out well. So surely 5 stars? Well, yes, but unfortunately the writing is way too dense and could have done with a good edit. There's an enormous irony in the author bemoaning judges who can't get over their words in comprehensible English, when you examine the overly-wordy prose of this book. Granted, the legal system and I was torn on what rating to give this book. The subject matter - the horror of what's happening to the UK's legal system - is unquestionably of the highest importance and is set out well. So surely 5 stars? Well, yes, but unfortunately the writing is way too dense and could have done with a good edit. There's an enormous irony in the author bemoaning judges who can't get over their words in comprehensible English, when you examine the overly-wordy prose of this book. Granted, the legal system and English law is complicated, but unfortunately this book does its best to keep that law shrouded. That shouldn't put you off though. Everyone in the UK should understand how the legal system functions and this book makes that much clearer.

  21. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    This is terrifying and everyone in Britain needs to read it. An appalling, nightmarish indictment as to the state of the law now, the terrible flaws in the justice system, and the damage done by government cuts. The author makes it very clear this is not somebody else's problem, with case studies that made me feel slightly sick. A hugely important book about a problem that's been inexplicably ignored for so long that we now have an injustice of gigantic scale on our hands. Again: if you're Briti This is terrifying and everyone in Britain needs to read it. An appalling, nightmarish indictment as to the state of the law now, the terrible flaws in the justice system, and the damage done by government cuts. The author makes it very clear this is not somebody else's problem, with case studies that made me feel slightly sick. A hugely important book about a problem that's been inexplicably ignored for so long that we now have an injustice of gigantic scale on our hands. Again: if you're British you need to read this.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Well written but not what I was looking for in a holiday read. It felt like wading through a lengthy legal dissertation at points.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ben Hadfield

    fascinating but not as funny as folk say it is

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    So good I've accidentally recommended it to my housemate 4 times (after the 4th time he told me to stop and that, yes, he would read it). Seriously, if you live in the UK you should read this. You never know when you might end up in the middle of it. So good I've accidentally recommended it to my housemate 4 times (after the 4th time he told me to stop and that, yes, he would read it). Seriously, if you live in the UK you should read this. You never know when you might end up in the middle of it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A detailed look at British law and how the system is fundamentally flawed, despite its good intentions to provide justice for the innocent. I felt this book was more textbook style than anything else; there aren’t many stories about weird and wonderful cases that the author has been a part of. Almost every page features numbers and statistics, and while that can be useful, should not make up the bulk of the writing. Law can be a dry subject, as the author acknowledges here. I wouldn’t describe th A detailed look at British law and how the system is fundamentally flawed, despite its good intentions to provide justice for the innocent. I felt this book was more textbook style than anything else; there aren’t many stories about weird and wonderful cases that the author has been a part of. Almost every page features numbers and statistics, and while that can be useful, should not make up the bulk of the writing. Law can be a dry subject, as the author acknowledges here. I wouldn’t describe this book as witty or humorous, so a reader should have an existing interest in the subject to be able to fully enjoy it. It’s well researched and the author is clearly dedicated to his profession. He takes particular interest in myth busting surrounding criminal law and pointing out areas that the system is in desperate need of addressing. There is no arrogance in his work, despite his obvious talent as a barrister. While this book wasn’t what I expected, I appreciate the decision to expose many of the issues that surround British criminal law trials, and found the process from arrest through to conviction (or not) particularly intriguing. If the author were to do a sequel, more stories of cases would be welcomed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Holly Law

    What an absolutely captivating, and frightening, book this is. The author has produced an accessibly informative explanation of the state of our criminal justice system. His writing style is frank and often funny, making what could be viewed as a fairly dry subject anything but. You, like I, might subconsciously think the criminal justice system is not really anything to concern 'people like us'. You won't feel that way after you've read this book. What an absolutely captivating, and frightening, book this is. The author has produced an accessibly informative explanation of the state of our criminal justice system. His writing style is frank and often funny, making what could be viewed as a fairly dry subject anything but. You, like I, might subconsciously think the criminal justice system is not really anything to concern 'people like us'. You won't feel that way after you've read this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynette

    Started off great. Lost the will to live about half way through. Stick to the legal profession. Writing is not for you.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Liddle

    Outstandingly good book. I will review this properly when I find the words. Thought provoking indeed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caitrin Edmond

    Okay so, a very very interesting insight into the UKs legal system, I definitely learned a lot. It is evident that this book just scratches the surface of everything (rightly so, it’s not a law textbook). Raises awareness ✔️ Easy and compelling read✔️ but where are the solutions? Yes, we can’t expect one barrister to come up with all the answers for an extremely flawed system but I did think he avoided giving his own opinion on what really can change (asides from the obvious teach it in schools, Okay so, a very very interesting insight into the UKs legal system, I definitely learned a lot. It is evident that this book just scratches the surface of everything (rightly so, it’s not a law textbook). Raises awareness ✔️ Easy and compelling read✔️ but where are the solutions? Yes, we can’t expect one barrister to come up with all the answers for an extremely flawed system but I did think he avoided giving his own opinion on what really can change (asides from the obvious teach it in schools, truth/untruth, etc mentions). Maybe it is the point, that there are no answers? Didn’t quite sit right with me. Having now read lots of books concerning policing, forensics, law, detectives it is really cool to see so many of the same cases pop up but from different vantage points, interesting to see how all of these seemingly different professions harmonise together. Some great writing - “as a final, desultory boot in the genitals of justice” Overall, really enjoyed it, feeling a lot more aware, also feeling like I wanna be a whole lot MORE aware

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Full disclosure before I start this review: I’m a lawyer myself and this is in many ways a book for lawyers. The subject matter is on its face fairly niche - an anonymous barrister exposing the current rickety state of our criminal justice system - and for all the author’s attempts to use plain English, the book is inevitably written in a fairly lawyerly style with a lot of legal terminology thrown in. However, I defy anyone, lawyer or not, to read this and not come away with their eyes firmly ope Full disclosure before I start this review: I’m a lawyer myself and this is in many ways a book for lawyers. The subject matter is on its face fairly niche - an anonymous barrister exposing the current rickety state of our criminal justice system - and for all the author’s attempts to use plain English, the book is inevitably written in a fairly lawyerly style with a lot of legal terminology thrown in. However, I defy anyone, lawyer or not, to read this and not come away with their eyes firmly opened to a malfunctioning, underfunded system which is chewing people up on a daily basis, and spitting them out. For all the lawyerly feel, there’s also a lot of wit and humour in here and it’s a relatively short and snappy read. Lawyers and the legal system generally get a bad press, and public legal education is in a woeful state. In some ways, everyone should read this book and come away with a bit more understanding and appreciation of how the legal system in this country works (or, on occasion, doesn’t work!), and why its health should be a priority for us all. In default of that, I have a vain hope that maybe someone, somewhere who actually has the power to effect some changes and put things right will read it and take note, too ...

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