Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies (published in September 2020)
The Secret Barrister (the SB) is, by their own admission, a junior barrister working in criminal law and now also a bestselling author of two books! We don't know too much about the SB's identity but the anonymity certainly adds a great deal of intrigue!
I first became aware of the SB a few months prior to starting my Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in 2018. I was eagerly searching for great legal minds to follow on twitter and one evening someone retweeted an ongoing live tweet of the movie "Legally Blonde" in context of the laws of England and Wales. Spoiler alert! It was the SB and I have been a loyal follower ever since. Here is my review of their second book.
In an age of media dominance and social media, it is quite easy for people to get swept up in the sensationalist headlines and online rhetoric surrounding the law. Equally, it is quite easy for people to think that the law doesn't really concern them. So, aside from those who study and work in the law, how many people really know if the headlines we see are accurate? The SB's second book really delves into debunking those sensationalist headlines that we have come to expect from the tabloids. The great thing about this book is that the SB doesn't overload the reader with the, often, esoteric legal jargon that we associate with the law. As a result, the book is accessible to everyone, not just law students and lawyers.
The most notable chapter for me is "Our Human Rights" and it begins with, what can only be described as, a ridiculous quote from the then Home Secretary Theresa May regarding some of the familiar stories we hear in relation to the Human Rights Act 1998. The SB then goes on to detail a landmark Supreme Court case against the Metropolitan Police where two victims of John Worboys were able to successfully hold the police accountable via the Human Rights Act. However, the tabloids and the government maintain that human rights aren't for the likes of you and me and this is a worrying, loaded narrative that is pushed relentlessly and, due to the nature of our uncodified constitution, legislation such as this are vulnerable to repeal.
Another eye-opening chapter is "Our Access to Justice" which explores the persistent diatribe churned out on an all too regular basis regarding legal aid. The usual suspects insist that our legal aid system is the most expensive in the world and the figure usually quoted is around the £2 billion mark. There are frequent headlines which state that X criminal has been handed Y of tax payers money, creating the narrative that we are handing over suitcases full of cash to the indefensible. The government's response? The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which has had devastating consequences on some of the most vulnerable people in society. The SB goes into some detail on the real world implications of the budget cuts to legal aid and whilst it is not a perfect system, as you may have guessed, the truth is far from what the headlines would have you believe.
The one thing this book will do is make you angry. But it will also cause a light bulb moment, at least it did for me. The SB does an incredible job of highlighting the points of law that everyone should be aware of, particularly at a time when we're receiving a barrage of distorted information via a multitude of channels from people who, quite frankly, have ulterior motives and very little knowledge of the inner workings of the law. I would say that you don't need to have read the SB's first book but, if you are interested in a general understanding of the law, this book is also worth a read.
By Tara Headley