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The Justice Game: Tales from the Bar Hardcover – 26 Feb 1998
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As a young Australian barrister, Robertson found himself involved in the Oz trial; a frothingly moralistic judge went to some lengths to jail three editors of an underground magazine, and was duly humiliated on appeal. Success leads to opportunity; Robertson has found himself at the heart of a sequence of crucial freedom of expression trials--the Gay Newsblasphemy trial, the attempt to bust the National theatre over a play in which male rape took place, the arrest of a painter whose chosen subject was bank notes. His account of his career concentrates on these, and on his own entire brilliance in them; he is not a modest man, nor is there any particular reason why he should be, especially given how sharp and witty his accounts are. Robertson has also been involved in other causes cèlebres--he knows all about the Michael X case, and a variety of other capital cases in the Caribbean, and is fascinating on the Matrix Churchill case and the various libel actions around the "cash for questions" sleaze row. Anyone interested in the issues is going to find this a useful book--but the average intelligent reader is going to find the account of courtroom battles a guilty pleasure in itself. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"For all his reputation as a radical lawyer, flailing at the Establishment, he proves himself to be a believer" (Independent)
"This wonderful book...reads like a John Grisham, infused with moral anger" (Independent)
"Well-written, powerful...Robertson's work has changed the way government works, and made it more accountable...a good read for people of any age" (Jack Straw New Statesman)
"Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. is one of those few fearless and romantic lawyers dedicated to reducing the difference between law and justice" (David Jessel Scotland on Sunday)
"Compellingly told, entertaining, sometimes hilarious and always illuminating" (John Mortimer) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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I have no real knowledge of the law, but I do have a layman's fascination with legal matters; This book and I could have been made for each other. I bring nothing to the relationship except a healthy interest in what Geoffrey Robertson has to tell me, and he does the rest in an orderly and thoroughly entertaining style. This is a man of immense experience and great character and his writing style reflects both of those qualities. The index is extensive and thoroughly invaluable and the result is a book which provides a real window into the Legal System. It's a scary thing too, by the sounds of it.
The author is biased, and in the nature of a QC presents his side of the case, I spotted several points that I know to be misrepresentations. Still, that was to be expected, and it helps the pace that he makes no pretence at being even handed.
I have no hesitation in strongly recommending the book, especially to someone like myself who was just looking for something out of their field for a bit of variety. The only question in my mind is whether it merits that fifth star.
Lady Diana, Matrix Churchill, the Oz trial and defending The Guardian newspaper against Neil Hamilton MP are just some of the headline-making stories that Robertson throws some personal light on. He shares what draws him to each case and how he analyses it; how events play out in court and the legal and civic ramifications - each episode given a personal slant from a witty and perceptive writer.
Geoffrey Robertson QC both condemns and celebrates the game of justice and values it primarily as a force for the individual to challenge the state, whether that be freedom of expression of a controversial artist, the battle against secretive intelligence agencies or at the most extreme end of the scale, someone challenging the death penalty.
No prior understanding of the English legal system is required as Robertson writes clearly, avoiding the restricted code of legalese. He articulates the importance of having evidence and accusations tested in the most robust, adversarial fashion, a right that is simply too important to give away, even under threat by the state's monster du jour, terrorism. In all, a fascinating read from a man who has been at the centre of legal cases of national importance for over thirty five years.
The book is thrilling, at times it reads like the best detective stories, the accounts given of court proceedings and the anecdotes are often hilarious. Certainly, no prior knowledge of the law is required to enjoy his stories; however, those trained in law will find it especially interesting to see how some of the fundamental tenets of English law (such as the presumption of innocence or the impartiality of the judge) can go pear-shaped in practice.
Most importantly, however, Robertson QC is prepared to take a clear moral stance on human rights and civil liberties and to criticise or defend the law from this viewpoint. He emphasises that, as a member of the legal profession, he does have to abide by certain rules and has certain duties and does not accept anything less from others when engaging in the "justice game".
The book should be recommended to those interested in current affairs, legal issues as well as to those simply enjoying fascinating books telling the story of a person's professional life.
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