In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford - review by William Brodrick

William Brodrick

Court in the Headlights

In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law


Doubleday 309pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

This compelling book tracks eleven cases through the criminal and family courts. Only, they’re not simply cases. They’re stories of flesh and blood, of people – tales of despair and hope that could be about you or me. Sarah Langford’s stated objective is to bring ‘to life ideas which otherwise so often appear in abstract: fairness, justice, truth’. The result is a resounding and thought-provoking success.

Woven into these insightful and often haunting narratives we find both memoir (charting Langford’s progress from innocence to experience) and commentary (social, political and – with a light touch – jurisprudential), the whole constituting a travelogue through the contemporary legal landscape. Our perceptive guide drags her trusty wheelie bag from court to court, rising early, returning late, her mind forever on ‘someone else’s hell translated into tomorrow’s job’. Langford starts her journey as a single woman; she ends it married and soon to be a mother. Between times she has been changed. And, over the course of her book, so are we.

We discover the contemporary Bar. We see the courts, sometimes places of oak-panelled grandeur, but more often, to give one example, ‘a large, long building with a lot of glass, slightly resembling a provincial airport’. From within these walls, we hear of ‘floaters’, plea and case management hearings,

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