Bloomsbury £20

The Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer, By Michael Mansfield

The Birmingham Six, Diana and Dodi... Michael Mansfield lets his cases speak for themselves

It has been suggested that he has rather enjoyed basking in the limelight all these years. A sort of Michael Moore figure of the legal circuit, filled with his own hubris, who occasionally moonlights on the 6 O'Clock News as the great public defender of the age. Anyone you care to mention who has had a grievance against the state or big business, or who has appealed successfully against a conviction – the Birmingham Six, Barry George (acquitted on appeal of the murder of Jill Dando), the families of the Marchioness disaster, the family of Stephen Lawrence, Arthur Scargill, and most recently Mohammed Fayed, at the inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed – have been represented by Michael Mansfield.

But to Mansfield's credit, there's not much vanity or swagger in this exhaustively chronicled memoir of a 40-year career at the Bar. It is rather the burning desire to overturn injustice, a love of the underdog, and reassuringly, a love of the law, not his remarkable career, that is most striking.

His reputation could easily have been shredded in 1973, when Mansfield agreed to represent the Price sisters. None of his colleagues wanted to take the case. Even his mother believed it "unthinkable" that he was representing Irish terrorists. Since then he has built a matchless reputation for taking the establishment to task, and asking uncomfortable questions about how the authorities run things.

Mansfield's radicalism emanates principally from being a bleeding-heart liberal, but he also has a singular approach to practising law. "Barristers are supposed to be like surgeons, remaining impartial, not identifying with the client. That is what I was told when I started, and that is what I have always tried to ignore. Although emotional responses can be very difficult to handle, I believe that to deny them in your working life is as ridiculous as denying them in your personal one." And emotional and enduringly loyal to his clients, he is.

He keeps a photo of Angela Cannings (the woman who was given a life sentence for shaking her two children to death), and her newborn son in his wigs box. Mansfield was able to overturn the conviction by convincing the Court of Appeal that the evidence of the paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow was unreliable. He had no hesitation in employing Breda Power (the daughter of Bill Power, one of the Birmingham Six) as his PA, after her father was freed. It is these personal reminiscences that propel the book. In fact, it is difficult to think of anyone else outside government whose career has coincided with so many high-profile incidents and milestones.

Mansfield thinks it highly plausible that Jill Dando was murdered in revenge for the Nato bombing of Belgrade in 1999, which killed a Serbian TV personality. And then there's Diana and Dodi; if it were anyone else, you might suspect it had more to do with selling books than a genuinely held belief, but Mansfield is reliably trenchant when he says: "I have always believed that whatever caused the crash, it was not an accident."

This unqualified acceptance of his clients' version of events, the liking for alternative, grand theories of conspiracy, can be gratingly "right on". Too often we are told of "the state within a state", that "big brother is watching", of Mansfield's belief in a causal link between systematic subterfuge and miscarriage of justice. It has been a brilliant, mostly fascinating career, though. The chapters on the fallibility of forensic science and the limits of DNA evidence (Mansfield calls for a National Institute of Forensic Science to lay down standards for experts who give evidence), could mean that, in time, this might become an important book, too.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker