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on 14 August 2010
Absolutely a brilliant book. Reading it made me reflect on my role within the criminal justice system and how sad it is that the profession of criminal barristers is dying out due to all the cuts in legal aid.

Mr. McBride paints a true picture of the criminal justice system with the history of how it evolved. Very easy to eat and very funny. At times I could not stop laughing and as a criminal solicitor myself, I felt empathy for him.

One reviewer pointed out that most laws are made by lawyers but it is one thing to be a lawyer and it is another to be a CRIMINAL lawyer. Usually criminal lawyers do not sit in the parliament and our former prime minster did not practise criminal law. Nor does cherie blair to a certain extent. Therefore they do not understand what it is like to work within the criminal justice system.

Now another reviewer said it is not right that Mr. McBride points out the short comings of the prison and the jury systems but does not recommend any alternative systems. Well, thats because it is difficult to. The jury system is not perfect but it is the best one we have. Mr. McBride certainly points out the positive aspects of the jury system (it is certainly better than what we have at the magistrates' courts). Also the prison system does not reform an offender but that is usually not the public's objective. Prison is seen as a place of punishment and when someone is in prison it protects the public's safety.

I know how frustrating it is to work with the short comings of the government bodies. The worst one by far is the crown prosecution service. They do not look at magistrates court cases until the day before the trial and the crown court cases never gets properly reviewed until the week before. When defence lawyers complain to the courts about the crown's inefficiency, the judges just give the crown more time. It's absolutely appalling and if the defence is ever late with deadlines, court would simply order us to pay wasted costs but no matter how late the crown is wasted costs orders are rarely made against them.

It is double standard and it is hell to live with and even more frustrating for the client. The courts are useless too. You complain and complain but it just falls on deaf ears. No one ever takes any responsibilities at the courts or at the crown.

The police were most competent body in the system but I think thats likely to change with all the financial changes that they are going through. A special constable (a volunteer officer) dealing with serious cases make me nervous and reach for alcohol.

But there you have it. It is not the defendant or whether they are indeed innocent but rather about cutting costs.
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on 22 June 2010
This is a semi-autobiographical account of a British barrister learning the ropes. With a writer whose job it is to be eloquent, it is not surprising that it is a very well written and thoroughly entertaining account. It gives a little of the history of English law as well as a behind the scenes look at the process that exist in the legal system.

It is at times very funny and to McBride's credit the serious or disturbing crimes he writes about are never explored in a mawkish or salacious way. His comments on the shortfalls of the judicial system are however a little frustrating. OK so prison doesn't work that well and the jury system is flawed but if he is going to be so honest about these areas it seems a little odd that he makes no case for any substitute. It's easy to destroy, much harder to build and it would have been just as interesting to hear an insiders view on how to get better at "justice" as hearing how the system fails.

This is however a fairly minor point and if you want an intelligent and thoroughly fascinating read on the world of law then this is a great book to pick up.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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on 28 March 2017
Haven't quite reached the end yet but this book is so interesting and well laid out, with stories of real cases the author has experienced to demonstrate the themes of each chapter. All told in an entertaining and shrewd way.
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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.
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on 8 April 2010
This book is a fantastic "Legal Babylon" style exposee of the life of a criminal barrister. Peppered with just the right amount of interesting facts about the history of English law and how today's judicial system came about, it's a lively read. Best of all, it's actually well written, which you don't often get with this kind of book. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended.
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on 5 May 2011
Excellent read, we flew through this book, theres nothing to dislike about this guy contrary to other reviews, he's a typical barrister. I enjoyed this enormously as an ex Police officer and likewise by my wife a former court usher. The dread of 'yoof' court stays with us too! A great insight into the workings of the legal system and procedure at court - enjoy!
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on 15 April 2010
Clear and well written insider knowledge of the English Bar. I managed to finish it in two days so it keeps your interest. Its written in a style more atuned to the outsider to digest but don't let that put you off if you see yourself as a plucky amateur.

Plenty of eye opening situations and case examples. I particularly enjoyed the story running through the chapters about his daily life as a 'pupil'. If you have an 'interest' in the law or on how 'justice' is delivered on a day to day basis or would like to understand how the whole system is a lot more of a conveyor belt than an art form then this is good place to start.
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on 13 January 2013
I found this book quite fascinating in relation to the behind the scnes look at what a barrister does and a little about how the law works. Unfortunately the good read was tempered by the author's attempts to make the reader feel sorry for the hard time that barristers have on the whole, which was rather stymied by contradictions, such as pleading poverty on behalf of those in training whilst simultaneously describing designer shopping purchases and nights out. The descriptions of the pupil's room antics, involving much swearing apperently, did come across as the author thinking it rather big to be using the f word in every sentence (or maybe pupil's rooms are like sixth form dorms!). Anyway, if you can get past these indulgences, the book is quite a fascinating read; the cases described and the workings of the adversarial system of the law in this country are worth a read.
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The author describes some of his more memorable cases as a barrister and also provides some fascinating insights into how the criminal justice system works and the historical origins of such features as trial by jury. I found this book interesting reading and I know it will make me look at the reports of trials in a different light. The disadvantages of the current system are highlighted as are the advantages.

Certain sections of the media always suggest that the courts are not tough enough on crime but the author provides the evidence to show that sentences are getting longer and the rights of the defendant are gradually being whittled away. I found his descriptions of life in a barrister's chambers interesting as well and very reminiscent of John Mortimer's Rumpole stories. I could have done without the repeated use of heavy duty swear words. In fact that is my only criticism of the book. That aspect may be true to life but I don't think it is necessary and I find it offensive.

Well worth reading if you're considering going into the law as a career or if you just want more information about the criminal justice system from a general reader's point of view. It is written in an easy and approachable style and complex subjects are explained in everyday language. A good and informative read and I enjoyed it.
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on 18 December 2011
As a regular professional witness in Crown Court, Coroner's court and Family Division of the High Court I found this entertaining and to a certain extent educational. The side notes are interesting although I did not check the references for accuracy. Overall I would recommend this book. It is light-weight but is intended to be so. It is easy to pick up/put down and I had it finished in three days. I would like to have known the final "happy outcome" which I presume was the case. There are two locations where time vanishes (slowly) with no uitility; one is at airports and the other is in courts of law. This was illustrated time and again in this book and I can vouch for the accuracy of this. The author conveys the heirarchy of the legal profession in a way that is fully understandable and I would say well illustrated. The book is well written albeit produces little new or taxing vocabulary. The "bad language" was not in my view particularly offensive and in today's world has become background. This is a book that I enjoyed and was worth buying.
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