The Old Bailey’s finest comes up against New Labour’s world of control
orders, house arrest, jury-less trials and SIAC in Rumpole and the
Reign of Terror (John Mortimer, Penguin).
What starts as yet
another trip to court with a member of the Timson clan soon places
Rumpole at the centre of a trial of national importance and up against
the closed ranks of the establishment.
Mortimer seamlessly ties
Rumpole’s world in with contemporary events and themes including last
year’s London tube bombings and highlights New Labour’s obvious disdain
for procedure and civil liberties.
The clash between Rumpole’s
old-school belief in law and justice and a system of trials where the
accused is denied the chance to face their accusers makes for an
uncomfortable lesson in the debasement of our legal system which has
occurred under the Blair government.
Despite the seriousness of
the issues being explored this is an easy and lighthearted read which
often feels like a celebration of the character, time and again Hilda
and the reader are given insights into how other characters see and
As any Rumpole aficionado will have guessed
even a regime of summary arrest and evidence-less trials proves no
match for Mortimer’s iconic creation but as always the pleasure comes
from reading two peerless craftsmen work their magic.