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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,917 ratings  ·  309 reviews

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, damning and hilarious' Tim Shipman, author of All Out War and Fall Out

“I’m a barrister, a job which requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, h

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published March 22nd 2018 by Picador
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,917 ratings  ·  309 reviews

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Petra X
Apr 20, 2018 marked it as awaiting-review-but-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Petra X by: purita
Saw it on Purita's profile, looked interesting.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
As a call for awareness, this is loud enough to be heard, but it also reminds us that outside the extraordinary cases, so much of the nitty gritty of law can be unimaginably dull.

That we have a crisis of funding in the law should surprise nobody, but perhaps the law suffers for attention in comparison to the NHS because we're more likely to have personal experiences of one than the other. Apart from cases sexy enough for media attention, the day to day running of the law might as well be in the
Simon Bradshaw
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I often recommend books. I sometimes say that a book is a 'must-read'. But there are few books that make me want to go up to everyone I know and tell them that I actually, really mean that they *must* read it, in the sense that it is genuinely important that they take in what the author says.

This is such a book.

If you have any interest in the English criminal justice system - and if you live in England and Wales, you should - then this book will be eye-opening, shocking and thought-provoking. A
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just prior to the 1983 General Election, then Labour Leader Neil Kinnock, delivered what must rank as one of the most poignant speeches ever made in British politics. In what might be called his “warning speech”, he warned of what would happen should Margaret Thatcher win. To paraphrase, he warned people not to get old, not to be young, not to get sick, not to do myriad other things – for the state wouldn’t be there to help them, nay, would actively do them harm.

Fast forward thirty-five years to
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I went into this book expecting a fun and informative read on the many failures of the English criminal legal system, a topic I am very interested in. And while The Secret Barrister was certainly informative in places, the entire book left a very sour taste in my mouth.

This reaction stems from one unavoidable aspect of this book: the unrelenting snobbery of the Secret Barrister, which often stands in direct opposition to the liberal values they try to extoll. Almost every defendant they speak of
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Briefly - Slightly mixed feelings on this one. Looking at the subtitle there really aren't many "stories of the law" and it majors on how the law is broken. Dry in places, fascinating in others.

In full
This book opens with some outline information about the author, the book and the criminal justice system. Written by an anonymous barrister it considers of the subject of justice over time and across countries. It also looks at the general strengths and weaknesses of the English justice system and
Karen Ross
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Fails to live up to the hype. Too much history. Insufficiently anecdotal. The sexy title (and implicit cashing in on the Secret Footballer franchise) promised a different kind of book and the 'populist' marketing leads to disappointment.

Written like a barrister writes . . . and i don't mean that in a good way
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Feel like this book wanted to be the This is Going to Hurt for the law but wasn’t quite engaging or funny enough- was interesting but often over complicated and the explanations were sometimes convoluted.
Sid Nuncius
This is excellent. It's very readable and often witty in style, but its message is stark and worrying: we have a serious problem in the criminal justice system which is getting worse.

Written by an (understandably) anonymous barrister, The Secret Barrister is an account from the inside of the realities of the English and Welsh legal system. It is interesting and very clear about how we came to have the current system, its undoubted strengths, its true aims and the terrible mess which so often pre
K.J. Charles
This is terrifying and everyone in Britain needs to read it. An appalling, nightmarish indictment as to the state of the law now, the terrible flaws in the justice system, and the damage done by government cuts. The author makes it very clear this is not somebody else's problem, with case studies that made me feel slightly sick. A hugely important book about a problem that's been inexplicably ignored for so long that we now have an injustice of gigantic scale on our hands. Again: if you're Briti ...more
Stephen Bentley
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is the most over-hyped book ever. I looked forward to reading it but was initially put off by the original high price of the Kindle version. The price dropped to just over £4. I wish I hadn't bothered.

The author, whoever he or she may be, makes some excellent points about the state of the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales. But, my goodness, what a tortuous way to make his case. Clearly, he has not fully absorbed one of the greatest lessons of advocacy: make your point and q
Matthew Hickey
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is an important topic for public education and discussion.

I accept (by reason of my profession) I’m perhaps not the target reader, so my opinion should be weighed in that way, but I found the substance of the book occasionally discursive and unnecessarily prolonged. However, those same aspects may well be what makes this book appealing to a reader who is entirely unfamiliar with the book’s subjects.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: three-star
A detailed look at British law and how the system is fundamentally flawed, despite its good intentions to provide justice for the innocent. I felt this book was more textbook style than anything else; there aren’t many stories about weird and wonderful cases that the author has been a part of. Almost every page features numbers and statistics, and while that can be useful, should not make up the bulk of the writing.

Law can be a dry subject, as the author acknowledges here. I wouldn’t describe th
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was torn on what rating to give this book. The subject matter - the horror of what's happening to the UK's legal system - is unquestionably of the highest importance and is set out well.

So surely 5 stars? Well, yes, but unfortunately the writing is way too dense and could have done with a good edit.

There's an enormous irony in the author bemoaning judges who can't get over their words in comprehensible English, when you examine the overly-wordy prose of this book.

Granted, the legal system and
Holly Law
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely captivating, and frightening, book this is. The author has produced an accessibly informative explanation of the state of our criminal justice system. His writing style is frank and often funny, making what could be viewed as a fairly dry subject anything but.

You, like I, might subconsciously think the criminal justice system is not really anything to concern 'people like us'. You won't feel that way after you've read this book.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I see how this is quite often compared to 'This is Going to Hurt' by Adam Kay. It also has the 'Tory govt of 2010 ffed shit up and 'situation is much worse than you ever thought' vibe to it but on this similarities end. Whilst it pretends to be funny it is really not done in a comedic sense but rather in a more ironic/sarcastic passages explaining the worst of the legal system. Additionally, it's more of a serious read with some long-winded explanations of the law that some people who are not re ...more
Lindsay Seddon
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any and all living in the UK.
Michael Cunningham
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not a light read. Nothing like This is going to Hurt or Henry Marshs' books. It's a terrifying account of the British criminal legal system. You definitely won't want anything to do with it after reading this !!
Extremely interesting.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Well written but not what I was looking for in a holiday read. It felt like wading through a lengthy legal dissertation at points.
Megan Jones
Jan 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Welcome to the world of the Secret Barrister. These are the stories of life inside the courtroom. They are sometimes funny, often moving and ultimately life-changing. From the criminals to the lawyers, the victims, witnesses and officers of the law, here is the best and worst of humanity, all struggling within a broken system which would never be off the front pages if the public knew what it was really like. Both a searing first-hand account of the human cost of the criminal justice system, and ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Secret Barrister is a fascinating insight into the justice system in England and Wales, particularly the magistrates (lower courts) system. I have to admit my knowledge of the legal system was cursory at best having had the fortune never to have found myself tangled up in it, but this book provides the layman with an overview of the system, how it is supposed to work in theory, and how it actually functions in practice, especially given its ever-reducing budget.

The Secret Barrister has carr
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Doubtless this is an important tome for our times. It seems entirely fitting that every MP should have been given a copy; I hope they all read it.

I was educated and entertained in equal measure, particularly in the middle section of the book. It taught me plenty about the cruel, populist political agendas and savage government cutbacks shaping our legal system – and the public nonchalance that is letting justice slip away – and a little about the legal system itself. The profanity and passion th
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very good if, frankly, horrifying book. I thought I had some idea how bad it was: I didn't. The author vividly portrays the current state of our criminal justice system and the wreckage it leaves of people's lives when things go wrong. And how easily and often it can go wrong when savings - often a misnomer; it's not as if litigants in person improve the efficiency of the court process - start to cut into the bone. I'm knocking a star off because while the author does an excellent job ...more
Amy Westgarth
Some shocking facts and statistics in here about the state of the criminal justice system in the UK, which deserve to be known by as wide an audience as possible. The public just aren't getting the full story and this book busts the myths and reveals the truth.

If there's a downside it's that actually reading through the book was fairly slow going. Although the (mystery) author did a great job explaining the legal terms and reminding the reader of the process throughout, let's be honest the best
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in a state of rage that a system that so many people depend on is so badly funded and organised that it seems a misnomer to call it a “justice” system at all.

The author uses real human examples that he or she has dealt with to illustrate the way the system functions and the ways it is failing to function adequately. This was a smart move because it makes it much easier to put a human face on it.

At the end, Secret Barrister makes a good comparison with the NHS as a system we
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I knew nothing of how the UK criminal justice system works. Crown courts, magistrates courts, the way trials run, my assumptions about legal professionals, the way cases are funded, they way sentencing works, yeah, it's all pretty much a mystery. And I'm not alone: "With criminal justice, for most people most of the time, we're talking in the abstract. We may feel empathy for battered victims on the news [...] but unless crime comes for you, kicks down your door and howls in your face, there wil ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5*s I recommend the audio version of this book as it brings it to life. Certainly not without it's issues, but an important book which should be applauded for highlighting the failings of a system which is often so overlooked by the media and us. Some of the points, I felt, laboured on a bit too long and I can see how people could take issue with some of the stereotypical anecdotal descriptions of both defendants and judges etc. However, such descriptions do add flavour and life to it and are ...more
Stephen Harpham
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
At times this book can be quite hard to understand as it goes deep into the nitty gritty of law, including its history. Whilst this is important, I felt I couldn’t give it 5 stars as I could put it down for prolonged periods of time.

The book does highlight the power of bad political management of the judicial system, emphasising the effects that years of cuts have inflicted on the system.

I would have liked to have read more scenarios of real life cases where bad political or judicial process hav
Charlotte Dann
This book is astonishing. I am now completely terrified of having any involvement in our criminal justice system as it currently stands. The author argues convincingly that our (England+Wales') two-tiered court system and adversarial trial setup should result in the utmost justice for both defendants and complainants, but severe underfunding over the last two decades has turned it into a farce.

I am not a big lefty, politically I'm much more inclined to a small state, but I truly believe that a r
Steve Cornforth
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is certainly not unheard of for a book written by a lawyer to make headlines. John Grisham comes to mind and Rumpole of the Bailey gave me many a happy hour as a student. But is a rare thing for a book about the practice of law to rise up to Number 3 in The Times charts – especially one written by an anonymous barrister. Stories of the Law – and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister has managed to do just that.

For the purpose of this review I will call the author SB whom, I will also assume
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The author, writing under the pseudonym of The Secret Barrister, is a junior barrister practising criminal law before the courts of England and Wales. The Secret Barrister is also a blogger who in 2016 and 2017 was named Independent Blogger of the Year at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards. As of the book's publication date in March 2018 the author had a substantial following on Twitter of ...more
“We weren’t sure whether to believe the defendant or the complainant. We find the defendant guilty.” 0 likes
“Between 2010 and 2016, the politically unimportant Ministry of Justice was required to implement budget cuts of over one third, the hardest-cut department second only to the Department of Work and Pensions.24 As it slashed court staff and closed magistrates’ courts with gay abandon – reducing the number of magistrates’ courts from 330 to around 150” 0 likes
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