- Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, by The Secret Barrister. Picador. $34.99.
The unnamed author of this book is described as a junior barrister, practising in the area of criminal law. We are told that their (sic) first book and personal blog have won many awards in Britain. The law that is described and the cases dealt with are all from England and Wales, which makes the book of little more than academic interest for someone who is not resident in Mr Johnson's realm.
That being said, it raises a number of issues which have universal application, most notably the way that politicians loaded with ambition but short on talent can use the decisions of judges and juries as an excuse to make themselves heard over economic din. That there are criminals in our society and that we deserve to be protected from them goes without saying; what also needs to be said is that society must be confident that the decisions of courts are made against established principles of jurisprudence and not as a reaction to mob fury.
The author takes a number of UK politicians to task, people whose names may be known to British readers, but will mean little to people on this side of the world. One who seems to annoy him particularly is Tory MP Chris Grayling, described as Justice Secretary, whose observations and actions are probably well known in Britain. Names like Theresa May, Tony Blair and Nigel Farage are familiar in this side of the world, but few would have heard of people like Michael Howard, Harriet Harman, Philip Davies or David Blunkett, or understand what side of politics they represented.
The other target for the author's tirade is the media. In this country, we sometimes criticise the fourth estate for political bias, but we are quite civilised compared to the British press who seem to be shameless in their one-sidedness. Much of their confected frenzy and that of politicians concerns decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which is put in the form of Britain being told what to do by the European Union.
In fact, the author points out, the ECtHR has nothing to do with the European Union and was in fact the brainchild of Churchill and "runs on rules inspired by British common law and resolves 99.4 per cent of cases in favour of Britain".
Though this is a book about a boring topic, occasional flashes of bright prose will keep the reader going: like his accounts of "contagious tabloid hysteria" or "the brilliantine grins of perma-tanned legal professionals" or "politicians throwing platitudinous grenades from the sidelines".
It raises questions about our rights and how they can be imperceptibly eroded to our disadvantage or outrageously twisted to the benefit of special interests.