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
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003