The Secret Barrister

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

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An anonymous barrister's darkly comic and moving first-hand account of life in the legal system, and how it's failing us all.

The Sunday Times number one 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, funny and horrifying' - Observer

You may not wish to think about it, but one day you or someone you love will almost certainly appear in a criminal courtroom. You might be a juror, a victim, a witness or - perhaps through no fault of your own - a defendant. Whatever your role, you'd expect a fair trial.

I'm a barrister. I work in the criminal justice system, and every day I see how fairness is not guaranteed. Too often the system fails those it is meant to protect. The innocent are wronged and the guilty allowed to walk free.

In The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken I want to share some stories from my daily life to show you how the system is broken, who broke it and why we should start caring before it's too late.

A Sunday Times top ten bestseller for twenty-four weeks.

'Everyone who has any interest in public life should read it' - Daily Mail
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Product details

  • Macmillan Digital Audio
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Unabridged
  • Unabridged edition
  • 1509897542
  • 9781509897544

Table of contents

Introduction - i: Introduction: My Opening Speech Chapter - 1: Welcome to the Criminal Courtroom Chapter - 2: The Wild West: The Magistrates' Court Chapter - 3: Imprisoning the Innocent: Remand and Bail Chapter - 4: Watching the Guilty Walk Free: Prosecuting on the Cheap Chapter - 5: The Devil's Greatest Trick: Putting the Victim First Chapter - 6: Defenceless and Indefensible Chapter - 7: Legal Aid Myths and the Innocence Tax Chapter - 8: Trial on Trial: Part I - The Case Against Chapter - 9: Trial on Trial: Part II - The Case for the Defence Chapter - 10: The Big Sentencing Con Chapter - 11: The Courage of Our Convictions: Appeal Chapter - 12: My Closing Speech
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Review quote

By turns eye-opening, damning and hilarious, the secret barrister lifts the lid on a legal system where the system, the politicians, the lack of funding and sometimes the judges are the real villains and the victims are all of us -- Tim Shipman, author of Fall Out and All Out War The Secret Barrister can write...everyone who has any interest in public life should read it...this is a book of some brilliance, clearly explained, cogently argued * Daily Mail * Takes the reader deep into the bowels of the criminal justice system...the message of this entertaining book is delivered with great skill...the book is at once a lament and a celebration...the justice system as not just for criminals and victims but for all of us - it is the symbol of our nation's humanity * The Times * Terrifying and occasionally hilarious... this is an eye-opening, if depressing, account of the practice of law today. Perhaps there is hope, but the author leaves us in no doubt that urgent reform is needed * The Observer * This excellent book will hopefully raise awareness of what has been, until now, a silent crisis. It is at once a vicious polemic, a helpful primer and a cringe-inducing account of one barrister's travails * Daily Telegraph * A sensation beyond lawyers' circles. The Secret Barrister is an anguished, detailed polemic by an anonymous current practitioner about how dangerously flawed, fragile and underfunded our famed legal system has become . . . an SOS, a desperate and cogent call for action and resources before the justice system, and our faith in it, collapses . . . I hope the arguments . . . will resonate widely - and that the government will act on them before it is too late. -- Jenni Russell * Sunday Times * The unfolding calamity in our criminal justice system is best told in The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken. This angry yet forensic analysis from first arrest to prison is a gripping front-line view by an anonymous, lowly criminal barrister. Read and rage at evidence that "every day the provably guilty walk free", while the hapless needlessly end up in jail. -- Polly Toynbee * Guardian * Fluently and engagingly written...a copy of this book should be placed on the desk of every judge, every trainee lawyer, every would-be lawyer, every politician, and every minister responsible for the legal system * The Literary Review * An illuminating and timely insight into the legal system, transforming arcane practice into accessible and fascinating anecdote * Sunday Express * If you have not already met The Secret Barrister, he or she makes an entertaining and acerbic holiday companion for those who don't switch off their brains in summer -- Hilary Mantel * Guardian, Best Summer Books 2018 * Behold, the book that got me through jury service! A timely and accessible look at today's UK court system, this is a no nonsense explainer on how things work, very much don't work, and how we got here. Who knew that educating yourself about, for example, the history of magistrates, could be so much fun? -- Alexandra Heminsley, The Pool Funny, frightening, frequently infuriating but above all profoundly human. As a sensitive and knowledgeable storyteller, the Secret Barrister does for lawyers what James Herriot did for vets -- James O'Brien Funny, angry, mordant, social satire, reform manifesto - The Secret Barrister offers them all in this legal tour de force. Told through often heart-rending stories of victims and victors in a game of legal roulette, a quest for decency and proper standards of legal service shines through the bleakness. If the Secret Barrister has her or his way, it might happen a bit more often. Read this book, hope and pray -- Andrew Adonis Its stories of how the law often fails those whom it is meant to protect - how do barristers feel when someone they believe to be innocent gets banged up for five years? - make for gripping reading. -- John Crace * The Guardian * Stories of The Law and How It's Broken is mordantly clear, chillingly well-observed and terrifyingly funny. I have rarely read a book that filled me with greater fury. Read this, give it to friends, share the Secret Barrister's testimony with strangers - it's a rare and righteous thing -- A.L.Kennedy, Booker-listed author of Serious Sweet Dishes the dirt - or serves up a slice of reality - on what barristers do * The Times * What's so powerful about The Secret Barrister is its ability to connect the dots...revealing a picture that is more a commentary on society as a whole than it is on robing rooms full of horsehair wigs -- Afua Hirsch * Guardian * An expert and eloquent account of much that has gone wrong with our criminal law procedures: this book is accurate, informative and sensibly points the way to pragmatic reforms -- Geoffrey Robertson QC, author of The Justice Game I suggest that the Leader of the House and all members of the Government read the book by the Secret Barrister * Valerie Vaz, MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons * Wickedly funny and deadly serious, this brilliant book is an essential read for anyone who cares about justice, fairness and equality before the law. If you felt these things were safe, the Secret Barrister will leave you stunned and aghast at a criminal justice system absolutely broken by cuts across the board, frequently dishing out a travesty of justice. Impassioned, searing and utterly compelling -- Rachel Clarke, author of Your Life in My Hands A brilliant but deeply disturbing book. Using the legal cases of real people, it shows how our criminal justice system is so broken, the innocent end up behind bars while the guilty walk free -- Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and Co-leader of the Green Party 'Follow[s] the life of a criminal trial, from charge through to appeal, dispelling myths, righting wrongs and telling anecdotes . . . The book is impeccably researched, and the arguments are backed to the nines with statistics and worked examples. Laid out calmly, the facts do what facts should do, but often don't: they clarify and convince. The Secret Barrister's book is a call to arms: a desperate, last-ditch attempt to open the eyes of those outside the profession to the injustices which exist within our justice system. Yet it remains an optimistic book, offering answers and solutions . . . this immensely impressive volume manages to make a subject that is bleak and dry utterly compelling . . . The Secret Barrister describes this system as a 'sausage factory' of justice. No one wants to see how the sausage gets made - but we all should.' * Spectator * Powerful points are expressed in a funny but penetrating way: the barrister weaves personal experience with his or her most memorable cases and clients...after you've chuckled to yourself, it forces you to reflect on its real meaning * Prospect Magazine * I've read an absolutely amazing, gripping book by The Secret's a bestselling book which is spread, I think, by word of mouth, about their experiences as a criminal barrister...I found it incredibly informative, a must read -- Ed Miliband, Reasons to be Cheerful podcast The blogger's much-anticipated book is a rallying cry against short sighted governments and an apathetic public...With clarity and eloquence the dozen angry, passionate, frustrated chapters shout their unanimous and damning verdict on a system "close to breaking point"...the book certainly deserves a wider audience * The Brief, The Times * Essential reading for those in, and outside, the law * The Criminal Bar Association * One of the legal blogosphere's hottest properties * The Times on The Secret Barrister Blog * Completely riveting . . . it reveals the good and bad in human beings * The Bookseller - One to Watch * Indispensable * Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times - on The Secret Barrister Blog * The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How it's Broken is an eye-opening, funny and horrifying look at the criminal justice system, perfect for reading sections out and disrupting the lives of those around you who are "just trying to have a nice time". -- Evie Wyld * Guardian, Best summer books 2018 * The Secret Barrister says we should be outraged at the state of our criminal justice system, which has been devastated by legal aid cuts and is staffed by demoralised and underpaid barristers. When justice is under threat, it is bad news for everyone. * The Times, The best nonfiction to read on holiday this summer * This insider's account of a malfunctioning legal system close to breaking point would be funny if it weren't so frightening. * Daily Mail * A very good book for anyone who has an interest in the machinations and history of the British criminal justice system, and even if you don't it is still highly interesting. A great factual history but presented in an easy to understand style that allows scrutiny of every nook and cranny of the subject. Both enlightening and entertaining, and what more could you want from a book? * Inside Time * The Secret Barrister is published at a time of turmoil for the English justice system . . . it is a broadside against a justice system of pervasive inefficiencies; unrelenting adjournments; beleaguered lawyers and court users treated with a carelessness tantamount to contempt . . . but with humility and compassion, this book helps us to see why the rights of those whom we love to hate are sacred. A panoptic account of its subject, measured and forensic throughout, The Secret Barrister is the signal in a world of noise on justice matters and - it is hoped - a spur to action -- Kapil Summan * Scottish Legal News * This is a campaigning book, written by a true advocate, and thanks to an initiative by the Criminal Bar Association, every MP has received a free copy. They need to read it and take action. -- Francis FitzGibbon * LRB * Both shocking and moving, but most of all I found in it a burning desire to make our justice system work properly for everyone. -- Daniel Zeichner MP
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About The Secret Barrister

The Secret Barrister is a junior barrister specialising in criminal law. The Secret Barrister writes for Solicitors Journal, New Statesman and INews and has written pieces in the Sun, the Mirror and Huffington Post.

In 2016 and 2017, the Secret Barrister was named Independent Blogger of the Year at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
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