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The Secret Barrister

Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

4.2 (25 ratings)
21 mins
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    The Secret Barrister
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    The criminal justice system of England and Wales has its own rules and traditions.

    Even if you didn’t grow up in the United Kingdom, you’ve probably seen a TV show or movie featuring a scene in a British courtroom. You may even have wondered, why are they wearing those peculiar wigs and gowns?

    Like many aspects of the criminal justice system in England and Wales, the gowns and wigs are part of a long tradition going back hundreds of years. Before we get into some of the traditions that may need revising, let’s first look at what this system really entails.

    As in justice systems in many other places, an English or Welsh criminal trial will involve a judge, a jury and the person accused of the crime. Then there are barristers and solicitors.

    Since the fourteenth century, there’s been a distinction made in English courts between the courtroom-based lawyer who presents the prepared cases to the court – the barrister – and the solicitor, the lawyer who deals directly with the witnesses while advising both the barrister and the client. As we’ll see, there are good solicitors who advocate tirelessly on behalf of their clients, and exploitative solicitors who give lawyers a bad name.

    Another important piece of the criminal justice puzzle is the Crown Prosecution Service, or CPS. This is a relatively new addition to the system, established in 1985 with the Prosecution of Offenses Act. Prior to that, the police were responsible for charging suspects with a crime, but in an effort to improve consistency and efficiency in filing charges and preparing cases across all of England and Wales, the CPS was created. Now, every case goes through the CPS machinery for preparation before landing in the hands of the barrister.

    It’s worth noting that, unlike in some other countries, barristers who handle criminal cases, like the author, regularly bounce between serving for the defense and prosecution, sometimes within the same day. This may sound unusual, but in the author’s experience, doing so can make you a better, more well-rounded lawyer. After all, knowing first-hand how both sides of the adversarial process operate can only make you better at knowing what to expect before your case begins.

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    What is The Secret Barrister about?

    The Secret Barrister (2019) takes a behind-the-scenes look at the often chaotic and frighteningly disorganized world of England and Wales’ criminal justice system. As revealed by an experienced criminal barrister, the current system is woefully underfunded and suffering from a lack of resources, yet is also under threat from proposed reforms that would impose further cuts. However, there are some reasonable ways for the system to improve.

    Who should read The Secret Barrister?

    • Students of law and ethics
    • Fans of true crime
    • Advocates for prison reform

    About the Author

    The Secret Barrister is the anonymous pen name of someone with around ten years’ experience working in the criminal justice system of England and Wales, who hopes to make the system more understandable to the average citizen. Their writing has appeared in such publications as the Guardian, the Times and Esquire. The Secret Barrister became a Sunday Times best-seller and was shortlisted for multiple awards.

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