My thoughts on… The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken
31st July 2018
The Secret Barrister is a must read for every functioning adult trying to make their way in modern Britain. I really don’t know what more there is to say than that. A.L. Kennedy is right; ‘read this, share this with friends, share the secret barrister’s testimony with strangers.’
I suppose I’d better find something, so here goes.
What’s the Secret Barrister’s book about?
Okay, so I suppose this is a good place to start…
First off, the title is a little sensational. I wouldn’t call it misleading, but it is clever in its use of English. It is easy to interpret ‘how it’s broken’ to imply that hordes of barristers are engaged in endemic wrongdoing, which is absolutely not what it’s about. Rather, the book is about how the criminal bar is broken.
In the book, The Secret Barrister (writing under the pseudonym so that they can write more freely about cases) explains how our Criminal system works, in theory and in practice. [S]he gives an impassioned defence of the legal practitioners bending over backwards to uphold a crumbling justice system in desperate need of funding.
Why is it important?
How we enforce criminal law is fundamental to how our society functions. If we can’t enforce the law justly, the whole fabric of society will fall apart. And yet, as the book explains, the system is chronically underfunded – because most of us assume we will never need it. This is all very well and good, but it’s just not true.
The vast majority of people hope never to have to engage directly with the law, but that doesn’t mean that every single one of us doesn’t engage with the law passively every day of our lives. We all rely on the criminal justice system to maintain the social order. Without the power to enforce the law, how long can we expect it to protect us?
Why should you read it?
This is not a book about law; this is a book about how our society functions. Moreover, it’s the most accessible, readable and informative book I have ever come across about how the criminal justice system actually functions.
Do you really know how the criminal justice system works? If you were in a position where you needed to rely on it – to prove the guilt of someone who wronged you, or your innocence – do you know what you’d do? Do you understand the pressures that would decide your future? Do you know how you’d go about getting representation or how it would be paid for?
If you’re sufficiently interested in the criminal bar that you know all this already, then I’m probably preaching to the choir.
If not, it’s time to wise up. How so many of us manage to live our lives without understanding with the system on which we depend mystifies me. But given that, according to the Secret Barrister, this system is in crisis, it seems even more significant than ever that we understand the structure and pressures it is under. That we as a society have ignored the system so long that it has reached crisis is bad enough, but enough is enough; we need to start taking this seriously.