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From Crime to Crime

Author Richard Henriques

ISBN No 9781529333503

Review date 03/07/2022

No of pages 328

Publisher Hodder

Publisher URL https://www.hodder.co.uk/titles/richard-henriques/from-crime-to-crime/9781529333503/

Year of publication 03/11/2021

Brief

Our Review

price

£ 10.99, paperback

If you are the sort of person who likes a ‘good murder’ – good in the sense of newsworthy – then Sir Richard Henriques’ book From Crime to Crime is for you.

He covers criminal cases he has been involved in – whether as a lawyer or a judge – but his book is much more than that.

The book proper was completed in January 2020, and even before coronavirus Henriques was complaining about the backlog in criminal cases reaching court. Writing a brief foreword to the paperback edition dated November 2020, he argues that the ‘Nightingale Courts’ to meet the emergency of covid were no solution, and instead he advocates judge-only trials, as ‘the only solution to an unprecedented and avoidable crisis in our criminal justice system’.

While Henriques at the very start says that his book is not a memoir, he does give some insight into the life of a counsel; of living in hotels in regional cities. He is also writing to make a case for more funding of courts, and is not shy of being political (condemning ‘ministerial incompetence’, page 1). The book is also a history; he was called to the Bar in 1967.

Much of the book is given over to murder trials, whether his part was as a Queen’s Counsel (to name some of the more famous cases, James Bulger and Dr Harold Shipman) or as a high court judge (Jill Dando, ‘the tragedy of the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers’, the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and the ‘Transatlantic Airline Plot’).

While all fascinating, let’s single out the trial of Barry George for the 1999 murder of Jill Dando. George was in prison for eight years, then found not guilty and released (without compensation). Either way, as Henriques writes, ‘ultimately the process failed’. The case does serve as a reminder of the enormous difference that social media has made to the world, 1999 being one of the last pre-internet years. Henriques recalls the delay to police singling out George, ‘occasioned by the volume of information showered upon the police’, much well-intentioned, but some ‘malicious, obstructive, deviant or simply false’. Some even claimed to be Dando’s murderer. In other words, social media has not necessarily created the social harms of fake news, a toxic online culture and so on; the mischief-making and idiotic people were already there, and social media merely gave them the tools.

One chapter’s case has become oddly forgotten, though much-publicised at the time; the attack on an Asian student one night in Leeds city centre in the year 2000 that led to the trial of several men including Leeds United footballers. That chapter does leave the taste that the legal people treat cases – all with victims and defendants – as a stage (Henriques does refer to ‘a moment of high drama’ during the giving of evidence, page 166) and everyone except themselves are incidental. What appears to matter is how well the various defence and prosecution lawyers perform, which has a bearing on their careers. Henriques however does dispel that in a later chapter on the trial for the alleged murder of a 14-year-old girl in Blackpool, ‘the saddest and most dispiriting of any that I was involved in, either as counsel or judge’. Sadness, as Henriques movingly spells out, at mistakes made by police, the exploitation of young people (in Henriques’ home town) and that ‘the investigative and criminal justice process’ failed the missing girl. Henriques goes into more detail on that score in the later chapter on Operation Midland – the ‘grossly incompetent investigation’ of accusations by ‘a liar and fantasist’, ‘Nick’, against various men in public life. That led to six-figure sums of compensation (paid for, let’s note by you and me as tax-payers), and yet all five officers referred to police standards were exonerated. The reader comes away as Henriques did – called out of retirement to review the affair – that police were ‘taken for a ride’ by someone who was not even a good liar; and then police closed ranks and looked after their own.

Henriques ends with a chapter on ten improvements to criminal justice, including ‘serious fraud trials should be tried either by a judge alone, or by a judge sitting with two assessors’, as otherwise cases are too complex; and increased funding (‘a decade of austerity and incompetence necessitates immediate investment and innovation’, he concludes on page 321).