Review: Fake Law by The Secret Barrister

Title: Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in the Age of Lies

Author: The Secret Barrister

Published: April 28th 2020, Picador

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Pan Macmillan Au/Netgalley


My Thoughts:


I like to think I’m a critical thinker, I don’t just rely on the first page of google results for information, I never take Facebook posts or tweets at face value, and I’m sceptical of media headlines. In this day and age with information so freely available it should follow that the truth has no where to hide, but instead it increasingly feels as if truth is getting harder to find. It’s simplified to the point of meaninglessness by traditional media, ignored as inconvenient by politicians, twisted in favour of click bait tiles, and buried under social media pile-ons.

Nowhere is this more an issue than in the reporting on the law. “Fake Law”, the Secret Barrister writes, “[is the] distortion[s] of legal cases and judgments, spun and reformed for mass consumption.” Bias is implicit in communication, for which some allowances can be made, but a deliberate campaign to present misinformation as truth erodes society.

“Society only functions if we all abide by common, agreed rules. If we don’t understand our justice system, and if our comprehension is corrupted by misinformation, we can’t properly engage with arguments over its functioning. We can’t critically evaluate its performance, identify its flaws, propose sensible reform or even participate meaningfully in everyday conversation about the stories in the news. Our unfamiliarity also makes us vulnerable to those who would exploit the gaps in our knowledge to push ulterior agendas.”

The Secret Barrister supports his/her argument with examples from several different areas of law including Civil Compensation, Human Rights Law and Criminal Justice. He/she examines high profile cases to show how the media, politicians and/or special interest groups misunderstand or misinterpret the nuance of law. Sometimes this could be blamed on ignorance, the law is complicated and at times convoluted, but too often it is deliberately reframed in order to manipulate or inflame debate to suit an agenda, from oversimplifying the medical issues pertaining to a dying child, to selectively reporting the facts of a home invasion, or promoting ‘exceptional’ cases as the norm to justify capping insurance claim amounts or cutting the budget of Legal Aid.

“It is bizarre that, for a nation so clearly susceptible to suspicion of ulterior motive, we disengage our critical faculties and swallow blindly the propaganda of billion-pound insurance companies. We lie back and allow ourselves to be enveloped in misinformed resentment towards our suffering neighbours receiving restitution, viewing it as a sore on, rather than a credit to, a civilised society.”

I found the range of examples fascinating to read about, some of which I was familiar with, some not. The cases are specific to the UK and its legal system (which is similar enough to the Australia’s that I understand the generalities) but ‘fake law’ is not a phenomenon unique to the UK. It is evident everywhere, under every regime, and has already had an impact on the integrity of legal process, which is particularly noticeable in country’s where the judicial system is unduly influenced by political stakeholders. The law is not perfect, something The Secret Barrister willingly admits, but its principals are worth defending.

“If we lose judicial independence, we lose the rule of law. The day a judge makes a binding decision affecting the rights and liberties of one of us, not on the legal and factual merits, but with a nervous glance to the press and public galleries, or with a beady eye on political favour or punishment, is the day that the decay in our democracy turns terminal.”

I found The Secret Barrister’s narrative to be very readable, the tone personable and the information is presented in a logical and accessible manner. There is a lot to explore, examine, and debate in Fake Law, and I’m happy to recommend you do.



Available from Pan Macmillan Au

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarthaE
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 14:04:00

    I’m glad I slipped over today to see this review. This sounds like a book I would find interesting. Even if it is UK, the issues appear in the American justice system too.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Stay safe and enjoy your reading!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. CindyGale
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 21:47:54

    I like the premise of this book. Thanks for sharing and I loved your review!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. fuonlyknew
    Apr 24, 2020 @ 01:16:07

    I’m sure it does occur everywhere. This does sound fascinating.



  4. Helen Murdoch
    Apr 24, 2020 @ 02:44:05

    Legal books done well are so interesting. I love that this book took on the “fake news” head on and countered it with good research.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. allthebookblognamesaretaken
    Apr 24, 2020 @ 08:34:47

    I think this would be so interesting, as it is an issue here in the US too. I can not tell you how many times idiots here shout that their 1st Amendment rights are being violated if they get fired or banned for saying something stupid. They don’t understand that your freedom of speech is protected by law from you being seized by the government for what you say (exceptions of course for terroristic threats, etc). It does not protect you from other people thinking your are a douchebag, and refusing to listen to whatever racist drivel you are saying.

    Seriously. It is so ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person


    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Apr 24, 2020 @ 14:34:48

      There are several mentions of the US in the book, where Americans have attempted to intervene in UK situations without an understanding of the country’s law, and honestly I think the US is probably one of the worst offenders of disseminating fake law.
      Thanks for your comment.



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  7. Athira
    Apr 27, 2020 @ 02:19:25

    I love the sound of this book. With the amount of information at our fingertips, even law has been dumbed down so that everyone can ‘cite’ it or interpret law. Every once in a while, we need books like these to maintain perspective. I’ll be checking this out.

    Liked by 1 person


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