Battle of the bibles: Archbold v Blackstone’s feud reignites

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Top judge faces questions over his involvement in courts’ decision to ditch popular practitioners’ text

A battle for supremacy between two leading criminal law textbooks has resurfaced thanks to Sir Brian Leveson.

In the red corner, Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice. Weighing in at hefty 2.64kg, it is published by Sweet & Maxwell and costs an eye watering £395. In the blue corner, Blackstone’s Criminal Practice. The lighter of two, it weighs 2.58kg, costs £375 and is published by Oxford University Press.

So what’s the book related beef? Well, since 1822 judges and lawyers would usually refer to Archbold during criminal trials. Then, in July last year, a group of judges — including Queen’s Bench Division president Leveson — decided that the popular practitioners’ text should be replaced by the much newer Blackstone’s.

The decision, which apparently saves the courts around £100,000 a year, upset some lawyers who were fans of Archbold, and created confusion when both texts were referred to during criminal trials.

Now over a year on, the decision to ditch Archbold has been called into question after it emerged that Leveson is a member of Blackstone’s editorial advisory team. On this point, a spokesperson for the Judicial Office told The Times (£):

Sir Brian did not specifically recuse himself from discussion of the issue in judicial executive board. As is apparent from the first page of Blackstone’s, and was both known to the Lord Chief Justice and common knowledge, Sir Brian is (along with 13 others) an unremunerated editorial adviser to Blackstone’s.

Debate reignited, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) is seeking the thoughts and views of its members on the matter. In a message posted by association chair Angela Rafferty it said:

Many of our members have expressed concern that the change of official text was brought in quite suddenly and with little thought for those who use these books every day.

Concern has also been expressed that the minutes of the meeting where it was decided to switch to Blackstone’s have not been released, with the Judicial Office maintaining that it is under no obligation to do so.

Expect further battles as what is being dubbed the ‘Game of Tomes’ rumbles on.

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Blackstones is better.






Blackstones is better both in terms of the layout and the commentary. Nuff said innit.



I wonder if the recorder of the minutes has noted a lot of illuminating detail. A year’s worth of Foi ping pong might unearth them.

At least they haven’t come up with “after inquiry it has been established that the minutes have not been filed and cannot now be found.”


Not Amused

I’m sorry … criminal lawyers can read?



Not Amused – you are a fool.

Criminal lawyers can clearly read so don’t attempt humour unless it contains wit.



She doesn’t do much well but clearly humour is something she should never attempt (was that actually an attempt though ?)



I agree. Not Amused should never attempt humour. So so so bad.



How do you know Not Amused is a female?



Because sadly I bother to pay attention. You might want to try it some time.



Typical comment from a cretinous brickwallopp



Blacker, is that you?



Typical comment on a comment from a fucking moron.



Blackstones is a very very nice practitioner text but as everyone knows who knows their shit in crime archbold is the bible. Both incredibly over priced by their greedy publishers though especially for digital versions.


Dave Barrister

Every Crown Court judge has a copy of Archie down his trousers, even if Blackstone’s is out on the bench for show.

I have found Blackstones to be genuinely wrong on the law twice this year. I’m moving back to Archie, who cares about layout or modernity if it’s unreliable when it counts!



99% of criminal practitioners can’t afford either book anyway.



You’re not wrong there. I know of several Barristers who club together to share 1 copy.

In these uncivil times, I’ve moved away from the Criminal Law. I now carry around a copy of Blackstone’s Civil Practice.



It was not a sudden decision last year, BPTC providers have been teaching using Blackstone’s not Archbold since 2014 in preparation for the changeover as that would be the text being used by the Courts by the time many of the students got in to practise.
It is more accessible both in how it is written as well as the price.
Many younger members of the Bar will be looking for this move to Blackstones to remain



ICSL prescribed Blackstones over Archibald more than a decade ago.

Don’t say you weren’t warned!


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