The Secret Barrister

Secrets of the Law and How It’s Broken

By an anonymised author

Published:  22 March 2018

When my brother re-gifted this title to me for Christmas last month, it dawned on me that I’d only been delaying a much-needed introduction to our legal system – a reality that our unidentified author comments is applicable to ‘a distressing number of educated (citizens)’. During my undergraduate studies, I spent endless hours in the university’s law library and would often debate case studies with law students – particularly if I could offer simple thoughts on topics such as driving according to public law. Needless to say, I didn’t have a clue.

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken: The  Secret Barrister: 9781509841141: Books
The Secret Barrister (Buy at Waterstones)

As someone who has never been called for jury service (or having been subject to a legal case requiring me to appear in court), reading ‘The Secret Barrister’ felt like a getting a VIP tour of our nation’s courtroom AND backstage access to, what many had hoped to become, the best justice system in the world. However, many of us rarely consider the technicalities of bail or ripple effects that misguiding evidence could have on our wider communities and public trust.

At this point, I should note that this book is written by a junior barrister who practises in courts of English and Welsh law – however this, by no means, diminishes the value of it’s nested narratives, as the author takes us through the formalities (and chaos) involved in court proceedings. As readers, we are principally introduced to the key characters of the sector, followed by indirect exposure to the harsh reality of gradual, but sustained funding cuts and the everlasting impact these have on the practise of justice itself and those within in.

Contrary to my prior knowledge, the phrase “innocent, until proven guilty” originates from US law, which the author frequently contrasts with the true philosophy of the UK’s justice system. One of the most prevalent debates presented in this award-winning, non-fiction bestselling novel surrounds the ambiguity of what is meant by “beyond reasonable doubt”. 

By withholding vital information of each case, until the last paragraphs of his chapters, the author successfully mimics the frustrations that I now understand to be common to real-time practise. If you were to ask me whether I’d be more inclined to stand behind a falsely accused defense or an under-represented victim, the truth is that my response would bounce back and forth between the individuals in question – as the numerous tales unravel throughout this book.

Nevetheless, the author establishes the perfect combination of humour and wit to forge a positive outlook for his reader; most of all he asks us to reprimand our ignorance in believing that “such things don’t happen to people like us”. As it turns out, they do.

In the front of the author’s second novel, Fake Law (2020), they are said to ‘reveal the stupidity, malice and incompetence behind the biggest legal stories of recent years’ – and to put it simply, I can foresee myself hiding my copy – as to give myself time to reflect on the insight of book #1.

Rating: 9/10

Whilst naively searching for the true author of the Secret Barrister, I came across their blog which I look forward to check back there from now on! For those of you on twitter, you can also follow along via @secretbarrister.

Feature image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 


Published by Holly Leslie

Full-time Cancer Researcher + Freelance Science Writer | MRes, BSc | Since discovering my passion for science writing during my final year of undergraduate study, I've written articles for University newspapers, The Gaudie and Redbrick and two Science magazines, Wonk! and the Glasgow Insight to Science and Technology (GIST)

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