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Under the Wig: A Lawyer's Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence
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Under the Wig: A Lawyer's Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence (Hardback)

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'GRIPPING' (The Times)


How can you speak up for someone accused of a savage murder? Or sway a jury? Or get a judge to drop a case?

William Clegg QC is a leading criminal lawyer in London. In this vivid memoir, he revisits his most notorious and intriguing trials, from the acquittal of Colin Stagg to the murder of Jill Dando, to the man given life because of an earprint and the first Nazi war crimes prosecution in the UK.

All the while he lays bare the secrets of his profession, from the rivalry among barristers to the nervous moments before a verdict comes back - and how our right to a fair trial is now at risk.

Under the Wig is for anyone who wants to know the reality of a murder trial. Under the Wig is for anyone who wants to know the reality of a murder trial. It's an intelligent crime read for fans of The Secret Barrister's Stories of the Law and How It's Broken and Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd.

Well-known cases featured:

Murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common

Chillenden Murders (Dr Lin and Megan Russell)

Trial of Private Lee Clegg

Murder of Jill Dando

First Nazi war crimes prosecution in the UK

Murder of Joanna Yeates

Rebekah Brooks Phone Hacking Trial

William Clegg QC, is one of the most celebrated advocates at the English bar. A barrister for 47 years, he has been the go-to lawyer for complex murder and fraud cases for decades. He is head of chambers at 2 Bedford Row, one of the four leading criminal sets in London.


'This is a gripping memoir from one of our country's greatest jury advocates, offering a fascinating, no-holds-barred tour behind the scenes of some of the most famous criminal cases of modern times.'

- The Secret Barrister

'Countless veteran lawyers have produced page-tuners based in the fictional world of law, but in Under the Wig William Clegg, QC, has distilled his extraordinary life in the criminal courtroom into a yarn equally as gripping.'

- The Times

'One of England's best barristers provides a fascinating sometimes hilarious combination of a personal odyssey and insider accounts of the most important and famous court cases of recent times.

'From the infamous case of Colin Stagg and the Wimbledon Murders to war crimes in Belarus and Bosnia and the Murdoch phone hacking trials we share and applaud the author's deep commitment to justice and his infectious enthusiasm for one of the world's greatest professions. An absolute must read for anyone who aspires to join it (and anyone who already has.)'

- Bob Marshall-Andrews QC

'Bill Clegg's memoir draws on some of the most high-profile criminal prosecutions of recent years to illuminate the career of a defence lawyer at the peak of his success.

'Deftly weaving personal reminiscences into the view from counsel's bench, he solves one high-profile murder case long before the police and ensures that justice is finally done in another after the tactics adopted by a better-known QC have led to a miscarriage of justice.'

'Unlike many works of this genre, Clegg's case-book eschews endless exchanges with long-forgotten judges, lawyers and villains. Like the successful jury advocate that he is, Clegg reduces his story to its essence. He speaks plainly, sparing us the the bombast and the braggadocio. And those who still aspire to join the criminal bar will learn more from Clegg than Clegg ever did from Perry Mason.'

- Joshua Rozenberg QC, Presenter BBC Law in Action

'My independent verdict is that I have never read a more accurate portrayal of our profession.'

- Nigel Pascoe QC, Counsel magazine


How can you defend a man like that? How can I defend someone who I know is guilty? It's the question I am asked the most often. It is really a velvet glove on some finger-pointing: how can I, a decent man, speak up for a rapist or murderer? How can I put my professional skills and intellect at the disposal of someone who has committed such a terrible crime?

All advocates are asked this question, perhaps me more than most because of the nature of my career. I have defended more than 100 people accused of murder, probably more than any other lawyer practising in England. The first thing to say is that in English law to defend somebody who I know in the strict sense of the word is guilty is not allowed. If the client tells me they are guilty, I must not tell a court they are innocent.

For crimes such as fraud or drugs, a client may freely acknowledge what they have done and plead guilty, perhaps after I have pointed out the strength of the case against them and told them of the reduced sentence that greets a guilty plea. This happens often; I don t varnish the facts.

Murder, though, is different. Murder is...

Buy the book and carry on reading

William Clegg QC is a veteran criminal lawyer in England. A barrister for 47 years, he has fought more than 100 murder cases, more than any other advocate currently practising in London. As a leading murder case lawyer, he has represented clients at some of the best-known criminal trials in living memory. His cases include: the Wimbledon Common Murder of Rachel Nickell the Chillenden Murders (Dr Lin and Megan Russell) the Earprint Murder the Murder of Jill Dando Private Lee Clegg (Northern Ireland) the Murder of Joanna Yeates Nazi War Crimes in Britain Rebekah Brooks's Phone Hacking Trial and International War Crimes Tribunal (Yugoslavia) He headed 2 Bedford Row in London, a leading barristers' chambers.

More books by William Clegg

Customer Reviews

CLEGG’S IMPRESSIVE MEMOIR ON HOW THE RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL HAS BEEN PUT AT RISK An appreciation by Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, “The Barrister” It is always a great privilege to review a contemporary legal memoir, especially in the dramatic area of criminal law. “Under the Wig” from Bill Clegg is no exception. His collection of reminiscences interspersed with his personal biography should be read by all aspiring barristers seeking to practice at the Criminal Bar today. It will be of considerable interest to applied criminologists and general readers with an interest in some of the “biggest” trials of recent years. “Balance” is what you get with Clegg’s approach and his special legal professionalism as one of our foremost criminal silks. And you get the answers to the usual questions advocates are asked: “how can you speak up for someone accused of a savage murder? How do you sway a jury? Or get a judge to drop a case?” These, and many other simple questions are brilliantly answered in “Under the Wig” revealing knowledge many did not know before. For the uninitiated, the publishers invite the reader to “meet London’s top murder case lawyer as he meets clients in prisons, confronts witnesses in packed courts — and frees innocent people jailed for decades”. Well, it is bit more than that. We liked the many tips throughout the book which any law student needing advocacy assistance will find invaluable, but we will not give you spoilers as you must read the book yourselves to see what we mean. And it is rightly described as a “vivid memoir”, because Bill revisits his most intriguing (and notorious) trials giving us new insight into what happened. The matters range from the acquittal of Colin Stagg to the murder of Jill Dando, and from Britain’s first Nazi war criminal to the man given life because of an “earprint” – yes, an earprint - which the Expert Witness Institute might find of interest as we don’t seem to have an earprint expert here. And between the factual reminiscences set out, Bill’s approach “lays bare the secrets of his profession” as well for those contemplating a legal career. We have all probably been there covering rivalry among barristers to the nervous moments before a verdict — and how our right to a fair trial is now in peril. So, as the publisher suggests, “switch off the TV dramas” and plunge yourselves “into the criminal law in action”. Clegg talks of these renowned matters with an advocate’s candour, including the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common; the Chillenden murders of Dr Lin Russell and Megan Russell; Private Lee Clegg (no relation as the press regularly pointed out in Belfast; Jill Dando; the first Nazi war crimes prosecution in the UK; Joanna Yeates; and the Rebekah Brooks Phone Hacking Trial. The possibility of damage to the rule of law with the right to a fair trial “put at risk” is the abiding memory we have at the end of the book- with “what I like doing more than anything else is reading a new case”, and “that moment when I am about to turn the first page still thrills”- it is the same for me and I don’t specialise in crime anymore as the adrenalin is there in civil justice, too. “Under the Wig” is one of the best memoirs of recent years. Thank you, Bill. The book was published in 3rd October 2018 and is also available as an ebook and an audiobook.

- 23/01/2019
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