12:03, April 01 295 0 theguardian.com

2018-04-01 12:03:11
All MPs to be sent Secret Barrister book after campaign

A book by a mystery author about the crisis in the justice system that has become a surprise bestseller will be given to every MP.

All 650 members of the Commons will be sent a copy of The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken after the Criminal Bar Association and Young Legal Aid Lawyers launched a crowdfunding appeal that has raised almost £12,000 towards a £25,000 target, after reaching an initial goal of £10,000 in just three days.

The anonymous blogger behind the book, known to their 90,000 Twitter followers as The Secret Barrister, is “thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed” at the response.

The concerns raised in the book – public service cuts, court closures, dwindling legal aid and the subsequent impact on trials – are not new. But the way these issues have been presented through the stories of real cases witnessed by the author has clearly struck a chord.

“A large part of the problem with criminal justice is how little the public know and understand about its esoteric workings and its troubling deficiencies,” the barrister said.

“So I’m particularly glad to have heard from so many members of the public who have read the book and been shocked at learning the reality of criminal justice at the coalface.

“The message to MPs we have been trying to get across for some time is clear. The criminal justice system is on its knees.”

Since its release, the book has reached number 14 in Amazon’s top 20 bestsellers list and made it into the Sunday Times top five.

On the day of publication, the MP Valerie Vaz told parliament: “If the government want the jurisdiction of our courts, they have to get their own house in order. I suggest the leader of the house and all members of the government read the book by The Secret Barrister.”

Jamie Coleman, acquiring editor at publishers Pan Macmillan, says: “What we have seen from the immediate response is that this is a story everyone cares deeply about.

“When we heard our author was donating their royalties on the copies for the MPs to charity, it felt only right to match their contribution and do our bit to jointly support the barristers and solicitors that work long hours to keep the system going, especially by offering pro bono services.”

In a joint campaign, the CBA which represents more than 4,000 criminal barristers, and Young Legal Aid Lawyers, which supports aspiring and junior barristers in the legal aid sector, urge their members: “The law is broken. We need your help to shine a light.”

On the crowdfunding page they write: “Every week brings news of another criminal trial collapsing due to lack of adequate resources. The disclosure debacles are just one very high-profile example of the damage being done to our once-great system from chronic and deliberate lack of investment.”

The news comes amid plans for mass walkouts in England and Wales by criminal barristers, who have voted to refuse new publicly funded cases in protest against government cuts.

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