Synopses & Reviews
Allyson May chronicles the history of the English criminal trial and the development of a criminal bar in London between 1750 and 1850. She charts the transformation of the legal process and the evolution of professional standards of conduct for the criminal bar through an examination of the working lives of the Old Bailey barristers of the period. In describing the rise of adversarialism, May uncovers the motivations and interests of prosecutors, defendants, the bench, and the state, as well as the often-maligned "Old Bailey hacks" themselves.
Traditionally, the English criminal trial consisted of a relatively unstructured altercation between the victim-prosecutor and the accused, who generally appeared without a lawyer. A criminal bar had emerged in London by the 1780s, and in 1836 the Prisoners' Counsel Act recognized the defendant's right to legal counsel in felony trials and lifted many restrictions on the activities of defense lawyers. May explores the role of barristers before and after the Prisoners' Counsel Act. She also details the careers of individual members of the bar--describing their civil practice in local, customary courts as well as their criminal practice--and the promotion of Old Bailey counsel to the bench of that court. A comprehensive biographical appendix augments this discussion.
"Among the most thoroughly-researched explorations of the relationship between the upper branch of the legal profession and the reforms of the criminal trial to date. . . . Rooted in meticulous research into the diverse working lives of the individuals who made up the London bar, [it gives] readers a sense of the day to day practice at the Old Bailey. . . . A significant contribution."
-- Journal of Social History
"Provides invaluable groundwork for future research into the development of legal ethics and professional discipline."
Law and History Review
Includes bibliographical references (p. 331-351) and index.
About the Author
Allyson N. May lives in Toronto and has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Toronto.
Table of Contents
London, crime, and criminal justice -- The emergence of a criminal bar in London -- Constructing a career -- The criminal trial before the Prisoners' Counsel Act -- Public reaction and professional concerns -- The bar, the bench, and the Central Criminal Court -- Changing the rules : the Prisoners' Counsel Act -- Justifying advocacy.