This autobiography contrasts nicely with last year’s As in Memory Long by Peter Millett. Both are interesting and entertaining books written by prominent judges.
Barrington Black was a solicitor with a highly successful and mainly legal aid crime practice before he became a stipendiary magistrate, then Crown court judge and later supreme court justice of Gibraltar. His long career covered many famous trials, including the notorious ‘Black Panther’ case of the 1970s. His story is told with skill and tact.
A boyhood visit to Leeds Assizes led him to choose his future profession. ‘Can anyone go in and watch?’ he asked the doorman. He was hooked.
Instructing experts seemed straightforward in simpler times and there was a wide choice of senior counsel only too happy to take a brief. We sometimes think that the pre-PACE days were primitive, but the impression left by this book is of courts running efficiently and justice being dealt with quickly.
Author: Barrington Black
£17.50, Waterside Press
It is interesting to note his comments on inexperienced advocates and solicitors, and how their careers often developed. Has that training ground disappeared? When it came to being selected for judicial office it was all done with nods and winks. Black has some choice and telling criticism for the way governments have treated the justice system recently and the loss of dignity of certain high judicial offices.
I wonder if members of our profession could achieve so much now? Legal aid contracting had not been invented and willingness to do criminal cases just involved giving your name to the court. How many legal aid practitioners can afford a Bentley (or even a car!)? Legal aid ‘could be quite profitable’, he says modestly. How times have changed.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup and Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury