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Not just barrister's war stories
on 27 May 2010
This is a very readable book - I read it in two days, and would have got through it at one sitting had I had the time. The various stories are interesting and often funny, but the book also has a serious side. I liked the way McBride uses the case histories as illustrations to draw more general conclusions. One example is the case of Mr V, wrongly arrested for (at that time, 2005) a non-arrestable offence, from which McBride goes on to point out that the distinction between arrestable and non-arrestable offences has since been removed in the Serious and Organised Crime And Police Act of 2006, thus giving the police powers of summary arrest for any offence. The same chapter (21) also points out a number of "reforms" introduced begiining with the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that have tipped the balance against the defence and in favour of the state or the police. What is surprising to me is that these changes were enacted by a centrist government headed by a prime minister who had himself been a barrister and who had many lawyer colleagues among his MPs. Perhaps legal professionals are not the best people to make laws!
On DNA evidence, there is a good explanation of its limitations: this explanation is clear even to a layman without knowledge of statistics. DNA is a powerful investigative tool, but not however infallible. The discussions of the limitations of CCTV evidence and witness visual identification evidence(backed up in both cases by examples from the courts) also give the reader pause for thought.
All- in-all the book is entertaining, informative and thought-provoking.