The (unofficial) results are in: Archbold victorious in battle of criminal law bibles

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Three-quarters of barristers back old text over newer rival

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has revealed 75% of its members would rather use an alternative, more traditional practitioners’ text than the version currently favoured by the courts.

Since 1822, judges and lawyers would usually refer to Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice in the courtroom. The red-backed book costs £395 and weighs 2.64kg.

Then, in July last year, a group of judges decided that the popular practitioners’ text should be replaced by the much newer Blackstone’s Criminal Practice.

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While the text is both lighter (2.58kg) and cheaper (£375), last year’s decision upset some lawyers who were fans of Archbold. The switch also created confusion when both texts were referred to during criminal trials.

The CBA, the representative group for criminal barristers, also had concerns about how last year’s decision was made. In the words of Chris Henley QC, the association’s vice chairman, judges made the call “at the last minute, when many of us had already committed to purchase one or other.” He also lambasted the “complete lack of consultation”.

The CBA called on its members to share their views on the battle of the criminal law bibles. Now, the CBA has revealed the bar overwhelmingly prefers the older, heavier, more expensive text to its newer, lighter, cheaper cousin. Carmelite Chambers’ Henley said:

“The result of the CBA’s online consultation on practitioners’ preference for Archbold or Blackstones is interesting. 597 members responded. 75% said they prefer to use Archbold, 20% Blackstones and 5% said they had no preference.”

The next step is for these results to be communicated to the senior judiciary. Judges have argued that switching the texts has saved approximately £100,000.

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