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

£16.99, Macmillan

The ‘Secret Barrister’ has tweeted and blogged about their experiences of criminal practice and responses to press reporting of court proceedings since 2015 – to great critical acclaim (his/her identity is, by definition, secret). Their expressed aim is to ‘shed a little light’ on what actually happens in the criminal justice system of England and Wales. Those thoughts have now been distilled into this excellent book, which guides the reader along the journey that those who have dealings before the criminal courts take.

The narrative follows the lives of cases through various stages and hearings, which anyone who has spent time in our courts will be familiar with. More importantly, for those who have never had that experience, there will be much that is unknown and which, given the importance of open justice, should be known.

This book is easily accessible to any reader and, while replete with facts and stats, is not obtrusively learned. It is witty, educational and enjoyable. The arguments are heartfelt and the views clearly expressed, but the tone is never hectoring. The primary argument could perhaps be summarised as: justice can be quick, cheap or correct but never all three. Not a proposition with which I would always agree.

Britain has long been held as a staunch and fearless promoter of the rule of law and the author writes proudly of the virtues of our adversarial system while highlighting their concerns. The calls for more accurate, less sensationalist media court reporting and for better legal education of the public are coherently set out and well argued.

Despite the many frustrations of practising in the criminal justice system, two thoughts were in my mind throughout which I believe will resonate with many practitioners and judges. This book is enjoyable and it matters.

Adrian Lower is a district judge (magistrates’ courts)