Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 1997

How to Defend Yourself in Court, by Michael Randle

reviewed by Christina Lamb

Given the inclination of most to cross their fingers hoping the inside of a court room is a sight they’ll avoid experiencing firsthand, this book may not initially appear an attractive choice of reading material. However, in the hands of Michael Randle, whose own court appearances obviously benefited from his charisma and wit, this How to... guide is equally valuable to general readers and those in need of its practical advice.

Randle stood trial at the Old Bailey in 1991 for his part in organising the escape from Wormwood Scrubs of George Blake, a prisoner serving a 42-year sentence for espionage. Believing Blake’s punishment to have been cruel and inhuman, Randle conducted his own defence to argue that his actions had been necessary. The jury found him not guilty, against the direction of the judge.

This book takes a determined libertarian stance, affirming our right not only to justice, but to challenge unjust laws and to retain our dignity and self respect. Advice is given through all possible stages of the procedure with clear explanations of what can be expected to happen and when. The question of whether conducting your own defence is likely to be the best course of action is examined with consideration of influencing factors, such as how and when previous convictions can be mentioned in court. A keen understanding of the many pitfalls is weighed up with the benefits, not least the preferable outlook in playing an active part in your fate, rather than laying the matter passively in the hands of indifferent professionals. There are tips about how to act in areas of procedure where something may not be expected, but doing so may help your case; and a five page glossary helps demystify legal gobbledegook. But the choice needn’t be all representation or nothing in going it alone. Randle advocates using as much free legal assistance in preparation and support as is possible.

Many risks are evidently involved in achieving justice, with the dry inflexibility of the written laws requiring interpretation by individual characters and differing tempers, all of which may affect the outcome of cases. The clock can almost be heard ticking throughout the book as the race to gather maximum information proceeds. Randle’s research system employs the study of speechmaking, role play, familiarisation with court buildings, observing key figures in action as well as learning from case studies. Humour injected in appropriate places reminds us of the important emotional considerations involved, and the value of keeping our spirits up.

The advantages of being well informed and prepared are obvious, and in our censorious country it’s not only those who knowingly trespass on the grey areas of legality who should familiarise themselves with this subject. Whether you need a little help making sense of the extended appeals procedures in news reportage, or you’re about to find yourself in a Julia Somerville style appearance in the papers, read this insightful book carefully and keep it handy.

URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 2000-01-09 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :