108 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 1 JANUARY 2019
to a sizable following on Twitter and to two Independent Blogger of the Year
awards. Spend just a few moments perusing through the secret barrister’s
blog feed at <thesecretbarrister.com> and you will see why.
But the secret barrister’s magnum opus came in March 2018 in the form
of a self-titled book, a work that, for reasons that will soon become apparent,
has caused quite a stir.
THE SECRET BARRISTER
The Secret Barrister leads the reader through the author’s world: the criminal
justice system in England and Wales. The book, and the world it depicts, are
not for the faint of heart. The author’s ultimate objective is to lay bare the
troubling inner workings of a criminal justice system that in the author’s
experience is characterized by a maddening sense of chaos, a culture of
error, and a blatant disregard for the rule of law and the dignity of those
drawn into its maw.
The author pursues this objective in the best traditions of the profession
by carefully and meticulously laying the evidence before the trier of fact—
here, the reader—as a means of demonstrating the strength of the advocate’s
ultimate thesis. In this case, the thesis is that the criminal justice system in
England and Wales is badly broken and desperately in need of fixing.
The book is loosely structured to follow the life of a criminal case. Its
central theme and overall tone are both captured neatly by the following
Access to justice, the rule of law, fairness to defendants, justice for victims—
these fine emblems which we purport to hold so dear—are each
day incarnated in effigy, rolled out in the Crown and magistrates’ courts
and ritually torched.1
Rather than focusing on theoretical critiques and abstract argumentation,
The Secret Barrister relies primarily on the power of storytelling to make its
points. The author recounts in striking detail “the ordinary tales of injustice
that stalk the criminal courts; the fleeting, repetitive diminishment of
human dignity that crosses the path of the jobbing criminal hack.”2 There is
the innocent man who was denied bail, detained on remand for months and
finally released without so much as a “sorry” from the state. There is also
the victim of a violent robbery who sought to attend the accused’s hearing
but was bumped from court to court only to be told that the trial was too
long to be accommodated and would have to be heard eight months down
the road. The list goes on.
The book has a number of recurring themes, one of which is the harms
caused when efficiency triumphs over justice. The secret barrister rails