Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book recommendation: Magna Carta by Prof David Carpenter

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land." Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. Alongside a new text and translation of the Charter, David Carpenter's commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta's text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life. It also uses Magna Carta as a lens through which to view thirteenth-century society, focusing on women and peasants as well as barons and knights. The book is a landmark in Magna Carta studies. 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta's creation - an event which will be marked with exhibitions, commemorations and debates in all the countries over whose constitutions and legal assumptions the shadow of Magna Carta hangs. Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book recommendation: According To The Evidence (Colonel Brain) by Henry Cecil

Alec Morland is on trial for murder. He has tried to remedy the ineffectiveness of the law by taking matters into his own hands. Unfortunately for him, his alleged crime was not committed in immediate defence of others or of himself. In this fascinating murder trial you will not find out until the very end just how the law will interpret his actions. Will his defence be accepted or does a different fate await him? Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book recommendation: Law, Liberty and the Constitution: A Brief History of the Common Law by Harry Potter

Throughout English history the rule of law and the preservation of liberty have been inseparable, and both are intrinsic to England's constitution. This accessible and entertaining history traces the growth of the law from its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. It shows how the law evolved from a means of ensuring order and limiting feuds to become a supremely sophisticated dispenser of justice and the primary guardian of civil liberties. This development owed much to the English kings and their judiciary, who, in the twelfth century, forged a unified system of law - predating that of any other European country - from almost wholly Anglo-Saxon elements. Yet by the seventeenth century this royal offspring - Oedipus Lex it could be called - was capable of regicide. Since then the law has had a somewhat fractious relationship with that institution upon which the regal mantle of supreme power descended, Parliament. This book tells the story of the common law not merely by describing major developments but by concentrating on prominent personalities and decisive cases relating to the constitution, criminal jurisprudence, and civil liberties. It investigates the great constitutional conflicts, the rise of advocacy, and curious and important cases relating to slavery, insanity, obscenity, cannibalism, the death penalty, and miscarriages of justice. The book concludes by examining the extension of the law into the prosecution of war criminals and protection of universal human rights and the threats posed by over-reaction to national emergencies and terrorism. Devoid of jargon and replete with good stories, Law, Liberty and the Constitution represents a new approach to the telling of legal history and will be of interest to anyone wishing to know more about the common law - the spinal cord of the English body politic. Harry Potter is a former fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge and a practising barrister specialising in criminal defence. He has authored books on the death penalty and Scottish history and wrote and presented an award-winning series on the history of the common law for the BBC. Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book recommendation: The Great Defender: The Life and Trials of Edward Marshall Hall KC, England's Greatest Barrister by Edward Marjoribanks (Author), Gary Bell QC (Introduction)

When Sir Edward Marshall Hall died in 1927 it was the end of an era. Tall, strikingly handsome and charming, the barrister was the finest advocate ever seen in the English criminal courts. Known as 'The Great Defender' as he fought tooth and nail for his clients, those in the shadow of the hangman's noose were often saved from execution by his dramatic and eloquent defence. His closing speeches to rapt juries were legendary and there was never a free seat in the public gallery or on the press bench when he was in the Old Bailey. Marshall Hall did not win every case - the 'brides in the bath' murderer George Smith and poisoner Frederick Seddon were sentenced to death - but not without a fight from the amazing advocate. One of his finest victories came in 1894 when he saved the life of Marie Hermann, a former Austrian governess who had resorted to prostitution to feed her three children, one of whom was blind, after her husband abandoned her. Charged with the murder of an elderly client, even she believed she would be hanged. Marshall Hall gave an impassioned plea to the jury which ended with him, with tears on his cheeks and pointing to her in the dock, begging, 'Look at her, gentlemen of the jury, look at her. God never gave her a chance. Won't you?' They did, and she was found not guilty of murder. Despite success in court, Marshall Hall's personal life was tragic. His first wife, Ethel, whom he adored, informed him on their honeymoon that she could never love him and died in agony following a botched, secret abortion after getting pregnant with her lover's child. This biography, written by his friend Edward Marjoribanks, with an introduction by criminal barrister Gary Bell QC, details many of the advocate's famous trials and his life outside court. Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book recommendation: Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories: From Lady Chatterley's Lover to Howard Marks by Thomas Grant

Having been born into the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group and served under Louis Mountbatten in the Second World War, Jeremy Hutchinson went on to become the greatest criminal barrister of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The cases of that period changed society for ever and provide a fascinating look into Britain's post-war social, political and cultural history. Hutchinson's role in them was second to none. From the sex and spying scandals which contributed to Harold Macmillan's resignation in 1963 to the fight against literary censorship through his defence of Lady Chatterley's Lover, Fanny Hill and Last Tango in Paris, Hutchinson was involved in many of the great trials of the period. He also defended George Blake, Christine Keeler, Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson, art faker Tom Keating and Howard Marks. Case Histories provides entertaining, vivid and revealing insights into what was really going on in those celebrated courtroom dramas that defined an age, as well as painting a picture of a remarkable life. Available from Amazon.