Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written and informative and the SB is right to lament the levels of public ignorance about the way the system works. But perhaps we are all partly responsible for that.
The SB is an accomplished writer who through vivid metaphor can enliven the most recondite legal concepts. Some passages of Fake Law have the tone of a law lecture, but the truth is not always fascinating and it is rarely easy. Still, this is an urgent and highly readable book. You will come away from it feeling that your mind has been purged. The intellectual project that started with the Enlightenment — purveying truth and slaying mendacity — unfortunately requires constant renewal. Fake Law is a valuable contribution to that unceasing battle.
His first book, The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken, about the dire state of the British criminal system, was a bestseller. This book is equally well written, both punchy and providing concise explanations of complex laws. This time, he is focused on the media’s failure to report legal matters accurately, taking in the Brexit-related attacks on the judiciary, a defence of the Human Rights Act and how hard it can be to access legal aid. As a journalist, reading an attack on the media rankles a little. There are brilliant correspondents who unknot Gordian legal rulings for their readers; the doyenne of the field, Frances Gibb, who recently retired from our sister paper The Times, came to mind as I read this book. The Secret Barrister does make this point, but not until the epilogue.