William Clegg QC is a lawyer specialising in serious crime. He has fought more than 100 murder cases, more than any English barrister currently practising the law. His first book, Under the Wig: a lawyer’s stories of murder, guilt and innocence details some of his most famous cases.
1. When did you develop your interest in the law?
When still at school I decided I wanted to become a barrister on the basis of watching Perry Mason on television. I always enjoyed debating and acting in school plays, and the theatrical side of the job was what first attracted me to the profession.
However an interest in the law, as opposed to advocacy, did not really develop until I was an undergraduate at Bristol University when I appreciated for the first time how the combination of law and advocacy could be used to win cases.
2. Your book is an excellent read. Did you always have it in mind to write your story sometime?
It had never crossed my mind to write a book and I was completely dumbfounded when Michael Hickman of Canbury Press came to see me and asked if I would accept a commission to write the book. I had many moments when I questioned the wisdom of the whole exercise, but in the end have been extremely pleased with the result and astonished by the reception it has received from the critics.
3. You have fought over 100 murder cases. Does anything surprise you?
The circumstances of any individual murder have long since failed to surprise me, but what does still surprise me is the reaction of some of those who have been bereaved. In some cases I have known real sympathy for the family of the murderer, forgiveness by other bereaved families, and a desire to help avoid similar tragedies with others. This has been a humbling experience.
4. What is on your ‘to read’ pile at the moment?
I am afraid that I read so much in the course of work that reading for pleasure is limited to holidays when what I enjoy is a good crime novel. The author I am currently enjoying was introduced to me by my publisher and is Phillip Kerr, whose Bernie Gunter novels I am hooked on.
5. Have you ever read a book that changed your life or made you look at things in a different way?
I do not think any book has changed my life, sadly not the diet books my wife sometimes leaves around the house, nor do I feel that any book has really made me look at things differently in the way that some film and television has, in relation to global warming and world poverty, for example.
6. What was the best advice you were ever given?
Life is not a dress rehearsal, enjoy it while you can.
7. You are one of the speakers at the Lavenham Literary Festival. Can you give us a small taste of what to expect?
I have given talks at a number of book fairs and literary festivals, but the chance to talk at Lavenham is very special because it is home. I think that I will speak about some of the more famous cases I have acted in - the Rachel Nickell murder, the shooting of Jill Dando, and the Private Clegg prosecution for murder - and try to explain where I think the police investigations went wrong, as in each case an innocent man was charged with the murder.