The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister - review by Stephen Bates

Stephen Bates

Court in the Crossfire

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


Macmillan 375pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Goodness, this is an angry book, and seemingly justifiably so. Fluently and engagingly written by an understandably anonymous junior barrister (and frequent blogger) specialising in criminal law, it is a truly shocking account of the working of the English courts today.

It tells tales of underfunded, dilapidated buildings, ever-lengthening trial delays and miscarriages of justice. The failure to disclose evidence to the defence, which has received recent publicity in several high-profile rape trials, is apparently not as rare as we might like to think. Audit trails show that the passing on of evidence to defence lawyers from the police or by the hassled, overworked and understaffed Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is unsatisfactory in a staggering 87 per cent of cases. Furthermore, 33 per cent of CPS files detailing crimes are described by inspectors as poor.

Then there is the shuttling of cases between courts and the negligent treatment of witnesses, half of whom say they would not be willing to take part in criminal proceedings ever again, even if it meant helping to convict a criminal. The case of the poor witness who

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