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

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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.

 

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Available from Pan Macmillan Au

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Review: Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

Title: Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse

Author: Cassandra Pybus

Published: March 3rd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Inspired by her ancestors connection to the woman known as the ‘last Tasmanian Aborigine’, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus, is a stunning historical biography.

Born around 1812 on Bruny Island, Truganini survived the capture, forced relocation, attempted assimilation and sanctioned extermination of the First Nations population of Tasmania, before dying in 1876. Drawing on a number of historical sources, including personal journals, oral histories, government records, and newspaper archives, Pybus pieces together the story of Truganini’s extraordinary life.

Placed under the ‘protection’ of Christian missionary George Robinson as a teenager she was induced to behave as his emissary/guide aiding in his self-appointed task to ‘save’ the indigenous peoples, by leading them Into exile. She was to spend more than a decade with Robinson, accompanying him to ‘New Holland’, before fleeing his patronage, only to be accused of murder and be sent into exile on Flinders Island, and later Oyster Cove. Even in death she was denied self-determination, her wish to be cremated and her ashes spread over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel ignored for over a hundred years.

Honestly I have no words to communicate the deep sorrow I feel for the fate of Truganini and all of the indigenous peoples. This harrowing narrative reveals a spirited and courageous woman who suffered unimaginable losses – the annihilation of her country, her culture, her kin, and her identity. Pybus’s account is rendered with honesty and empathy, shedding light on the shameful history Australia is yet to reconcile.

Profound, poignant, and perceptive, Truganini should be required reading for all Australian’s to aid in our understanding of, and acknowledgement of, our past.

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Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD $32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository