The Secret Barrister
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.

The Secret Barrister Details

TitleThe Secret Barrister
Author
ReleaseMar 22nd, 2018
PublisherPicador
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Law, Politics, Audiobook

The Secret Barrister Review

  • Petra X
    January 1, 1970
    Saw it on Purita's profile, looked interesting.
  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    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
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  • Simon Bradshaw
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • James
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Reuben
    January 1, 1970
    I went into this book expecting a fun and informative read on the many failures of the English criminal legal system, a topic I am very interested in. And while The Secret Barrister was certainly informative in places, the entire book left a very sour taste in my mouth.This reaction stems from one unavoidable aspect of this book: the unrelenting snobbery of the Secret Barrister, which often stands in direct opposition to the liberal values they try to extoll. Almost every defendant they speak of I went into this book expecting a fun and informative read on the many failures of the English criminal legal system, a topic I am very interested in. And while The Secret Barrister was certainly informative in places, the entire book left a very sour taste in my mouth.This reaction stems from one unavoidable aspect of this book: the unrelenting snobbery of the Secret Barrister, which often stands in direct opposition to the liberal values they try to extoll. Almost every defendant they speak of is depicted as over-weight, smoking and drinking, coarse-mannered, and/or thinly coded as a 'chav' by their clothes and way of speaking. Why these pejorative and stereotypical details are necessary is beyond me (especially, as in one latter chapter, descriptors such as a defendant having fat-rolls are blatantly used to further their characterisation as untrustworthy). And at the same time they're decrying the way that tabloids misrepresent prison, prisoners and sentencing, the Secret Barrister is happy to assert that if you go to prison you'll no-doubt end up in a prison cell with a schizophrenic murderer etc. I mean besides perpetuating harmful misconceptions that schizophrenics, and by proxy the mentally ill in general, are violent, this also just seems like unnecessary padding. Obviously it's meant to be facile, and to add 'flavour' to the story; but doesn't it just cut against the argument you're trying to make when you fall into the same lazy stereotyping that you're criticising the tabloids for?Of course the real kicker is that the only defendant, the final one in the book, ever portrayed positively--middle-class, clean-shaven, a junior doctor who loves his family--is both fictional and innocent. Hmm.This left me wondering who this book is really for. I'm further confounded by decisions such as nonchalantly using phrases like 'bewigged sexagenarian' as early as the first page, but then a chapter later feeling the need to explain the word 'grafting'. I mean unless this is some sort of joke at the expense of working class people and their twee little terminologies, how the hell could that slip past an editor? It's patently clear that this book is written with, if not a disdain, at least a superiority with regards to the lay person/working class. It's hard to avoid, and it renders the liberal tone of the book self-serving and conflicted.The Secret Barrister mentions, at points, the very real issue that the judiciary comprises of mostly one type of person: middle to upper class educated white males. There's one passage where they mention that for the working class it is unlikely most judges will be able to properly understand their contexts. But, at the same time as making a point of how damaging to the legal system this is, they themselves frequently lapse into superiority. I'm not asserting that a simple shift in tone will fix structural inequality, but if you're wondering why working class people feel isolated from the judiciary, it seems prudent not to overlook your own contribution to that issue.
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  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    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 fullThis 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 fullThis 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 reviewhttp://viewson.org.uk/non-fiction/sec...
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  • Karen Ross
    January 1, 1970
    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
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  • G L
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • Faye
    January 1, 1970
    Read: May 2019In 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 2019In 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.
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  • Sid Nuncius
    January 1, 1970
    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.)
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  • K.J. Charles
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Stephen Bentley
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most over-hyped book ever. I looked forward to reading it but was initially put off by the original high price of the Kindle version. The price dropped to just over £4. I wish I hadn't bothered.The author, whoever he or she may be, makes some excellent points about the state of the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales. But, my goodness, what a tortuous way to make his case. Clearly, he has not fully absorbed one of the greatest lessons of advocacy: make your point and q This is the most over-hyped book ever. I looked forward to reading it but was initially put off by the original high price of the Kindle version. The price dropped to just over £4. I wish I hadn't bothered.The author, whoever he or she may be, makes some excellent points about the state of the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales. But, my goodness, what a tortuous way to make his case. Clearly, he has not fully absorbed one of the greatest lessons of advocacy: make your point and quickly move on.He then has the temerity to criticise judgments handed down by the appellate courts complaining that judges often use one hundred words when one would do.This book is not an easy read. It's more like a hysterical rant. I used to read his blog with interest and at times this book seemed to be more blog-like than a well-structured, well-reasoned book.He takes time out to praise the work of defence solicitors and appears to give the impression they all, except for the "Keres & Co." firms, are the pillar of the whole system. According to him, they prepare wonderful briefs, adequate instructions to counsel, check unused material, provide a proof of evidence (what the accused is likely to say in his defence), so on and so forth. In your dreams! And not in my experience of fourteen years at the Criminal Bar.He tells of the problems within the CPS. All undoubtedly true. Yet, when he was prosecuting a case that clearly was not "in the public interest" to continue to trial, he "hid" behind the trial judge who threatened to summon the CPS lawyer to his court to explain himself. Sorry, but that was an utter lack of cojones on the part of our secret barrister. If more prosecuting barristers stopped paying lip service to CPS lawyers and pointed out to them that it's a criminal justice system, and not about statistics, it would improve matters. That's the way it used to be.He does mention the unethical practice of some barristers "divvying up" their legal aid fees with dodgy solicitors but makes no mention that it is not uncommon for unethical barristers paying their clerks for work.He adequately and forcefully points out the low remuneration of junior barristers. That in itself is a complete disgrace.I do hope this book serves as a reality check for any young aspiring "Rumpole." The message is clear: don't bother!The latter part of this book is a plea to "outsiders" as to why they should care about the CJS. He says, "it could happen to you." In other words being falsely or mistakenly accused of serious crime. I have some news for the author: people don't care. They think it will never happen to them. The same reason many don't bother with life insurance until it's too late.Finally, I feel sorry for the lay clients of barristers like this. They [the barristers] are not part of the "real world." They don't speak the same language as the rest of us. How he manages effective communication with the "Kyles" of the world is beyond my ken.I had the distinct impression of the author as coming straight from school, into university, Bar School, pupillage then into practice. A truly cloistered existence.
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  • Matthew Hickey
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Holly Law
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Henri
    January 1, 1970
    I see how this is quite often compared to 'This is Going to Hurt' by Adam Kay. It also has the 'Tory govt of 2010 ffed shit up and 'situation is much worse than you ever thought' vibe to it but on this similarities end. Whilst it pretends to be funny it is really not done in a comedic sense but rather in a more ironic/sarcastic passages explaining the worst of the legal system. Additionally, it's more of a serious read with some long-winded explanations of the law that some people who are not re I see how this is quite often compared to 'This is Going to Hurt' by Adam Kay. It also has the 'Tory govt of 2010 ffed shit up and 'situation is much worse than you ever thought' vibe to it but on this similarities end. Whilst it pretends to be funny it is really not done in a comedic sense but rather in a more ironic/sarcastic passages explaining the worst of the legal system. Additionally, it's more of a serious read with some long-winded explanations of the law that some people who are not reading this necessarily for their interest in British Legal system would have to sit through. Having said all that, i asbolutely loved this book and definitely see why it was nominated for Waterstones BOTY.
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  • Lindsay Seddon
    January 1, 1970
    A must-read for any and all living in the UK.
  • Michael Cunningham
    January 1, 1970
    Not a light read. Nothing like This is going to Hurt or Henry Marshs' books. It's a terrifying account of the British criminal legal system. You definitely won't want anything to do with it after reading this !!Extremely interesting.
  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Well written but not what I was looking for in a holiday read. It felt like wading through a lengthy legal dissertation at points.
  • Megan Jones
    January 1, 1970
    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. 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 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. 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.Negative review alert! It is not often that I really dislike a book, or struggle with it so much that I want to give up with it, let alone not want to pick it up because I cannot face reading anymore, but, sadly this is the situation I faced with this book. Now, some of this is due to this not being what I was expecting. There has been a trend in career books with 'The Secret Teacher' and 'This Is Going to Hurt' being two excellent examples, and I did think this was along a similar thread. It is not. 'The Secret Barrister' is an examination of the legal system, looking at the history behind it, how we got to the system we have today and the many problems with it. Anecdotes are few and far between and this is heavy in fact and legal terminology. All of this is fine and makes for a fantastic legal history book but it is just not what I wanted to read and I simply did not enjoy it.According to the description of the book, there are stories that make you laugh in here, well I would love for these to be pointed out as I did not laugh once. I do not want this to be all negative, there are interesting points made and the few anecdotes included are good ones. The Secret Barrister highlights the shocking points of the legal system and the situations that make the reader really think twice, there were moments in this where I was surprised and it did get me thinking about the legal system we have, I just did not find this enjoyable or entertaining. I could have easily given this one star but I could not do this as my negatives surround my expectations and perhaps, you could argue, the advertising of the book. To the right audience this book would be perfect, providing a fascinating exploration of law and justice, I simply was not the right audience. 
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    The Secret Barrister is a fascinating insight into the justice system in England and Wales, particularly the magistrates (lower courts) system. I have to admit my knowledge of the legal system was cursory at best having had the fortune never to have found myself tangled up in it, but this book provides the layman with an overview of the system, how it is supposed to work in theory, and how it actually functions in practice, especially given its ever-reducing budget. The Secret Barrister has carr The Secret Barrister is a fascinating insight into the justice system in England and Wales, particularly the magistrates (lower courts) system. I have to admit my knowledge of the legal system was cursory at best having had the fortune never to have found myself tangled up in it, but this book provides the layman with an overview of the system, how it is supposed to work in theory, and how it actually functions in practice, especially given its ever-reducing budget. The Secret Barrister has carried out his or her task admirably, detailing how our less than perfect legal system adversely impacts on the lives of both the guilty and innocent as well as others finding themselves caught up in it whether as a member of a jury or a witness. Particularly frightening is the detailed outline of the magistrates' system, underfunded and functioning without proper scrutiny and adjudicated by members of the community with little or no legal qualifications. Another key area this book highlights is the cuts to the Legal Aid budget and how this is bad news for everyone who wants to live in a society that upholds justice for both the innocent and guilty.In short, I would highly recommend "The Secret Barrister" and completed the book feeling much more educated about the issues at stake, and wanting to learn more about the justice system where I live.
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  • William
    January 1, 1970
    Doubtless this is an important tome for our times. It seems entirely fitting that every MP should have been given a copy; I hope they all read it.I was educated and entertained in equal measure, particularly in the middle section of the book. It taught me plenty about the cruel, populist political agendas and savage government cutbacks shaping our legal system – and the public nonchalance that is letting justice slip away – and a little about the legal system itself. The profanity and passion th Doubtless this is an important tome for our times. It seems entirely fitting that every MP should have been given a copy; I hope they all read it.I was educated and entertained in equal measure, particularly in the middle section of the book. It taught me plenty about the cruel, populist political agendas and savage government cutbacks shaping our legal system – and the public nonchalance that is letting justice slip away – and a little about the legal system itself. The profanity and passion that seemed to go hand-in-hand throughout made for entertaining reading. The abundant personality speaking through the prose also served to mask some of the broader inconsistencies of style: ironic; arch; plodding; patronising; unctuous; highfalutin; raw; unrefined. Chapters structured around cases felt more substantial and stylistically superior, better crafted and less blog-like than the rest.Dare I suggest it could have been about 20% shorter? I fear what the Secret Barrister intended as emphatic I read as repetitious.
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  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very good if, frankly, horrifying book. I thought I had some idea how bad it was: I didn't. The author vividly portrays the current state of our criminal justice system and the wreckage it leaves of people's lives when things go wrong. And how easily and often it can go wrong when savings - often a misnomer; it's not as if litigants in person improve the efficiency of the court process - start to cut into the bone. I'm knocking a star off because while the author does an excellent job This is a very good if, frankly, horrifying book. I thought I had some idea how bad it was: I didn't. The author vividly portrays the current state of our criminal justice system and the wreckage it leaves of people's lives when things go wrong. And how easily and often it can go wrong when savings - often a misnomer; it's not as if litigants in person improve the efficiency of the court process - start to cut into the bone. I'm knocking a star off because while the author does an excellent job in writing about their own anonymised experiences, they don't have the historian's skill of making statistics and policy readable and interesting - I skimmed most of the first chapter on the history of the criminal justice system since I really do not care how many judges there were in the time of Henry II. That said, I would still recommend this book highly and I hope to god one or two of our politicians read it.
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  • Amy Westgarth
    January 1, 1970
    Some shocking facts and statistics in here about the state of the criminal justice system in the UK, which deserve to be known by as wide an audience as possible. The public just aren't getting the full story and this book busts the myths and reveals the truth. If there's a downside it's that actually reading through the book was fairly slow going. Although the (mystery) author did a great job explaining the legal terms and reminding the reader of the process throughout, let's be honest the best Some shocking facts and statistics in here about the state of the criminal justice system in the UK, which deserve to be known by as wide an audience as possible. The public just aren't getting the full story and this book busts the myths and reveals the truth. If there's a downside it's that actually reading through the book was fairly slow going. Although the (mystery) author did a great job explaining the legal terms and reminding the reader of the process throughout, let's be honest the best parts of the book were the real life miscarriages of justice. Real instances where things have gone disasterously wrong and why, and what must be done to prevent it happening again. Sometimes we could be waiting a little while between these juicy stories whilst the author told us about the history of the legal system as it is today. I know this background is important in shaping the reader's understanding of said juicy stories, but they could drag a bit.Regardless, this was definitely worth a read.
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  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this book in a state of rage that a system that so many people depend on is so badly funded and organised that it seems a misnomer to call it a “justice” system at all.The author uses real human examples that he or she has dealt with to illustrate the way the system functions and the ways it is failing to function adequately. This was a smart move because it makes it much easier to put a human face on it.At the end, Secret Barrister makes a good comparison with the NHS as a system we I finished this book in a state of rage that a system that so many people depend on is so badly funded and organised that it seems a misnomer to call it a “justice” system at all.The author uses real human examples that he or she has dealt with to illustrate the way the system functions and the ways it is failing to function adequately. This was a smart move because it makes it much easier to put a human face on it.At the end, Secret Barrister makes a good comparison with the NHS as a system we all depend on without knowing it until we actually need to use it, and only then do we discover how unwillingness to fund it adequately has caused it to degenerate. This, of course, affects far more badly those who have the least private capacity to deal with it.I recommend this book highly, but prepare to be enraged.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    I knew nothing of how the UK criminal justice system works. Crown courts, magistrates courts, the way trials run, my assumptions about legal professionals, the way cases are funded, they way sentencing works, yeah, it's all pretty much a mystery. And I'm not alone: "With criminal justice, for most people most of the time, we're talking in the abstract. We may feel empathy for battered victims on the news [...] but unless crime comes for you, kicks down your door and howls in your face, there wil I knew nothing of how the UK criminal justice system works. Crown courts, magistrates courts, the way trials run, my assumptions about legal professionals, the way cases are funded, they way sentencing works, yeah, it's all pretty much a mystery. And I'm not alone: "With criminal justice, for most people most of the time, we're talking in the abstract. We may feel empathy for battered victims on the news [...] but unless crime comes for you, kicks down your door and howls in your face, there will always be that thin layer of protective film between you and the system."The legal system has been a political punching bag for a while now, with knee-jerk reactions to hot topics changing the law. There are plenty of examples in the book of how the system fails everyone. These "...are not accidents, they are designs of our system. And they exist because no one gets elected promising a better justice system. Just a cheaper one."You should read this book (don't be put off by the opening chapter, which is a bit odd. The book improves). But it will make you angry.
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    3.5*s I recommend the audio version of this book as it brings it to life. Certainly not without it's issues, but an important book which should be applauded for highlighting the failings of a system which is often so overlooked by the media and us. Some of the points, I felt, laboured on a bit too long and I can see how people could take issue with some of the stereotypical anecdotal descriptions of both defendants and judges etc. However, such descriptions do add flavour and life to it and are 3.5*s I recommend the audio version of this book as it brings it to life. Certainly not without it's issues, but an important book which should be applauded for highlighting the failings of a system which is often so overlooked by the media and us. Some of the points, I felt, laboured on a bit too long and I can see how people could take issue with some of the stereotypical anecdotal descriptions of both defendants and judges etc. However, such descriptions do add flavour and life to it and are at least thrown at both sides. I would have liked the book to have concluded with more ideas and solutions: where should money be re-invested? where is big change needed? where do inefficiencies need to be ironed out?
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  • Stephen Harpham
    January 1, 1970
    At times this book can be quite hard to understand as it goes deep into the nitty gritty of law, including its history. Whilst this is important, I felt I couldn’t give it 5 stars as I could put it down for prolonged periods of time.The book does highlight the power of bad political management of the judicial system, emphasising the effects that years of cuts have inflicted on the system.I would have liked to have read more scenarios of real life cases where bad political or judicial process hav At times this book can be quite hard to understand as it goes deep into the nitty gritty of law, including its history. Whilst this is important, I felt I couldn’t give it 5 stars as I could put it down for prolonged periods of time.The book does highlight the power of bad political management of the judicial system, emphasising the effects that years of cuts have inflicted on the system.I would have liked to have read more scenarios of real life cases where bad political or judicial process have had a direct effect on an everyday person. In this manner it would have made it more presentable to a layman like me. Having said all of that, it is a fascinating insight into a profession I have only even seen in fictional TV series and I would recommend it to others.
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  • Charlotte Dann
    January 1, 1970
    This book is astonishing. I am now completely terrified of having any involvement in our criminal justice system as it currently stands. The author argues convincingly that our (England+Wales') two-tiered court system and adversarial trial setup should result in the utmost justice for both defendants and complainants, but severe underfunding over the last two decades has turned it into a farce.I am not a big lefty, politically I'm much more inclined to a small state, but I truly believe that a r This book is astonishing. I am now completely terrified of having any involvement in our criminal justice system as it currently stands. The author argues convincingly that our (England+Wales') two-tiered court system and adversarial trial setup should result in the utmost justice for both defendants and complainants, but severe underfunding over the last two decades has turned it into a farce.I am not a big lefty, politically I'm much more inclined to a small state, but I truly believe that a reliable justice system should be the cornerstone of any government. There is a limp handshake in this social contract, and my eyes are now acutely open to it.
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