THE ADVOCATE 107
VOL. 77 PART 1 JANUARY 2019
By R.C. Tino Bella*
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret
Barrister (London: Macmillan, 2018), paperback, 376 pages, £16.99.
Reviewed by Connor Bildfell*
Imagine a criminal justice system that is truly broken. Court deadlines blow
by unobserved. Evidence disappears inexplicably. Cases arrive unprepared.
Bail hearings are a game of roulette. Courts are emaciated due to cuts in
funding. Demonstrably innocent people are strong-armed into guilty pleas.
Provably guilty people walk free. Victims are shut out of the process
entirely. And the worst part? Most of the public does not seem to care.
This is the bleak portrait painted in The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law
and How It’s Broken, a striking and candid first-hand account of the ways in
which the criminal justice system in England and Wales is, in the author’s
view, utterly broken.
The author, a mysterious criminal barrister practising in England and
Wales, arrived on the scene in May 2015 as an irreverent, tell-it-like-it-is blogger
providing a fly-on-the-wall view of the criminal justice system in England
and Wales, warts and all. (Indeed, the focus is placed squarely on the
warts.) The “secret barrister”, as the author is styled, has since become a cult
hero (or heroine)—a caped crusader of sorts, advocating forcefully for justice
system reform and a deeper understanding among members of the public
about the justice system and its shortcomings. The secret barrister’s delectable
mix of witty remarks, astute observations and brutal honesty have led
* The author thanks the Honourable M. Anne Rowles for giving him a copy of the book and for providing helpful comments
and feedback on this book review. All views expressed herein are the author’s alone and nothing in this book review
reflects or relates to his work as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada.