Television

Gary Bell is the real rudest man in Britain - and he's on your side

His family were panicked about The Legalizer. You can see why. But you'll love him...

30 November 2013

9:00 AM

30 November 2013

9:00 AM

Gary Bell is the rudest man in Britain. I have known the bastard for years and no one —move over, lightweight Starkey — comes even close to matching his bluntness, his tastelessness, his heroic urge to offend at all costs regardless of how much collateral damage he causes his friends, his family or indeed his own reputation and career as a brilliant QC.

But Gary has a dark secret: underneath that elephantine carapace of intellectual arrogance, gratuitous cruelty, and room-clearing crassness beats a heart so warm and tender it makes Princess Diana look like Hannibal Lecter.

If a mate were in serious trouble, Gary would be the first to rush to the rescue. Well, wobble to the rescue because, as Gary would be the first to acknowledge, he is exceedingly fat. This kind, decent nature may just be in his genes, but it might also, I suspect, have something to do with his extraordinary back story.

Looking at Gary today in his pinstriped suit and wig, listening to his accent, or hearing his very persuasive accounts of what it was like playing the Wall Game and Field Game at ‘School’, you would not doubt for a moment that here was a man born into the old Establishment. But he wasn’t. Gary in fact comes from a dirt-poor Nottingham mining family, with a chequered history to match. One day, however, he set out to better himself; studied law at Bristol (which is where I first met him: he employed a friend of mine to correct his pronunciation every time he sounded too common), became a world-class debater (rivalled only by his sparring partner Michael Gove), before making his way up the legal ladder to his current eminence as one of Britain’s top criminal barristers.


And now he’s presenting a new daytime BBC1 series called The Legalizer. He and his family have been panicking about this for months — and no wonder, for it’s daytime TV in the same morning time slot as (ITV’s) Jeremy Kyle. The time, in other words, when people who don’t have jobs, lives or futures begin emerging from their beds, tuck into their first Greggs sausage roll and litre of Sunny D and begin vegetating in front of the moving pictures on their giant, taxpayer-funded screen. (Which might sound snobbish but is also true and is very much the sort of thing Gary would say because he fully understands the underclass: they do, after all, comprise the majority of his clients.)

As a result of this, The Legalizer suffers from a maddening flaw: though it lasts 45 minutes, there are only about 15 minutes’ worth of actual entertainment or interest in it. The rest is pure padding — endless recaps of what the previous segment told you five minutes ago, put there, presumably, on the grounds that the target audience is presumed to be either so drugged up or stupid that if the not-exactly-complex narrative isn’t regularly signposted for them they’ll switch over to watch the freaks on Jeremy Kyle.

This patronising is a big mistake. First, I think it’s very insulting: not even crackheads, not even windsurfing and Geordie Shore-studies undergraduates with hangovers are really that thick. Second, it gets in the way of what, beneath all that filler, is a really worthwhile and watchable programme.

The premise — a bit like the Cook Report — is that Gary Bell goes round the country exposing and remedying malpractice. In the episode I saw, for example, he visited a handicapped Muslim woman from Huddersfield who’d been sold a very dodgy mobility scooter; and a rather Milfish Welsh housewife whose camper van had been utterly ruined by the firm that had been supposed to customise it so it could carry her beloved scrambling bikes.

All right, so the sums involved were fairly small: £10,000 max. But the damage done to these ordinary, decent and very likeable families was enormous. As a victim myself, I know whereof I speak: out there in this big, bad world of ours are some seriously unpleasant, utterly unprincipled shysters who prey on the vulnerable and unwary. If you escape their clutches, well, lucky you; but if you don’t, the helplessness and isolation you feel is awful, because frankly no one else really wants to know, there’s often no recourse, and on some level you blame yourself.

There are hundreds of thousands of mini-tragedies like this all over Britain and it’s really heartwarming to see a high-level QC descending from his eyrie to draw attention to these people’s plight, give them hope, bolster their faith in the English justice system and perhaps even get them their money back.

And Gary is a natural at this because although — see Wall Game above — he can be the most brilliant fake, he’s also extremely down to earth in a way that few middle-class people can be. Confronted with a disabled Muslim woman, for example, he doesn’t go: ‘Cripes. A disabled Muslim woman. Better tread on eggshells here.’ He banters with her, cracks jokes, takes the mickey — in a way that brings out the best in her and puts her at her ease.

Gary, mate, stop worrying. You’ve done good. (But for God’s sake sort out that bloody editing!)

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Show comments
  • guru

    I am getting to kbnow of Gary Bell for the first time today but my wife has had a great lot of news about your exploit.i think you are doing a great job.

    • guru, well with my experience of TV shows, it is exactly what is says, “a show” and that’s all it seemed to be, I was an antique dealer when these shows turn up in auctions it is all edited and put together, I see myself bidding on things that I would never buy, experts giving their opinion on items as if they know the outcome, the problem is it is filmed after the event.

  • Briony SC Edwards

    I just watched the same episode and I agree that the BBC have padded out a show that should be just be 30 minutes. Very pleased to hear about Gary Bell’s background though – To be a barrister is a secret dream of mine and has been since I was 12 or 13 years old… but my background of limited means has made me feel that this isn’t possible for far too long. So thanks Gary, you’ve inspired me.

  • workingatbringretired

    I enjoy watching this programme but I am not impressed with your description of the target audience. I think that after years of getting up early and working 10 hour days as a civil servant, I am entitled to have a lie-in and watch some tv before I start a day full of activity. I find Gary Bell a lovely person with plenty of compassion and good for him for working so hard and proving that you don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your miuth to succeed.

  • Beatricemay

    I had this program recorded for me as I was working, and I enjoyed it. I too am not impressed with your description of the target audience. I have taken a case to the Small Claims Court against my local Council. It is a small Claim as not being a member of your ‘target audience’ it is all I can afford to do. Although I am fairly certain that I have a case to bring which is far more relevant to the facts, not being the proud owner of a tv which fills half of my living room, paid for by the State, I am unable to fund this as I fall into the category of being retired, but still having to work to ensure that ends meet, and have just enough money saved to bury either myself or my husband but not both.
    At the beginning of my dispute I engaged the services of a Solicitor at £140 per hour, she in turn consulted a Barrister at just under £700 for 1hr, twenty mins. of which was wasted as my Solicitor hadn’t bothered to inform the Chambers that she wouldn’t be attending. Neither of them could find a point of Law on which to bring my case. I spent one day researching the Building Act 1984 and indeed found the relevant Section 106. under which I believe my case should be brought. My Solicitor had two and a half years to find this point of Law but didn’t bother, however she did consult the Barrister on this point and took the credit for finding it, and he said ‘Ooooh yes!!’. Too late, between them they have had all my money and I am left bringing a Small Claim on my own, whilst the Council use the services of a Solicitor paid for by the State, what an irony! I can only hope that their Solicitor is as crap at the job as mine was. So, whilst I enjoyed the program I can’t help wondering, is there actually a point to Barristers?.

    • Picquet

      Sounds like you have a case to bring to the Small Claims court there…

    • Beatricemay, that is why I’m terrified to get involve with solicitors or barristers I just can’t afford the cost if they drag the case on, my predicament is I am a 24/7 carer for my wife with a brain injury the case has ended but 12 years later we are still waiting for her compensation to be released. I desperately need help from a barrister on what to do, I need them to come round to talk to me about our situation, but it seems to be a nightmare trying to achieve that, but I notice on the TV that Gary Bell visits people in their home but I could not fine his phone number to talk to him and get advice on our situation, my wife the badly injured party had washing machines dropped on her at the height of 30 feet and suffered horrific injuries.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Actually, there are plenty of barristers, mostly of the journeyman variety, who could match Gary Bell for (in their case, unwarranted) intellectual arrogance and certainly for rudeness. Equally bogus too.

    • The Laughing Cavalier, well you’ve hit a cord there
      with me, “bogus” I had my fair share of bogus solicitors that is why
      we are in this horrible situation that our solicitors have left us in, having
      to care for my wife after a horrific brain injury with no income. Grounded at
      home not being able to take her out now.

  • ButcombeMan

    I do not know this programme but I do know or rather used to (because I no longer watch it) “Country File”.

    In my view it has become unwatchable, hopelessly padded, hopelessly tells you what is going to tell you then goes on to something else, just as if the audience had the attention span of a gnat.

    This tyle of editing will be the downfall of the BBC, “Magazine format” I think it is called.

  • Danielle Krupa

    Oh come one: this is how it starts we all clearly like different thinks would should just be thankful that people of such high power want to give us tips.
    I am currently writing a book, about barrister in law, a female one so i am entirety grateful for barrister that want to give us tips, it a chance to see into there world for once. Seeing on in action helping people has increased my respect for the law.

  • STEVE WEST

    SO CAN HE OBTAIN MY ‘ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO A FAIR HEARING’ (HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998 ARTICLE 6 ) AGAINST CARDIFF COUNCIL – IN A KERB TRIP WHICH FRACTURED MY SPINE, RUINING MY LIFE PHYSICALLY & MENTALY, ? SO FAR THE COURT DISMISSED MY CASE DUE TO NON ATTENDANCE,- THOUGH DOCTORS LETTER’S CONFIRMED MY DISABILITY ( ACTUALLY CAUSED BY THE COUNCIL ! ) – UNDER THE ACT THE COURT DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER TO DISMISS THE CASE, BUT I AM NOW STUCK IN LIMBO. 8 YEARS LATER THE KERB IS STILL DANGEROUS EVEN THOUGH THE COUNCIL TRIED, BADLY, TO PUT TARMAC OVER THE 2” LIP ……………..WHERE CAN I GO FROM GEAR, I DISLIKE SOLICITORS – THEY ARE CROOKS & THE LAST 5 I HAVE USED HAVE LET ME DOWN LEAVING ME OUT OF POCKET…………………

  • Valerie English

    I am a bit of a fan of Gary Bell………..though these small claims are simple enough for a BBC programme……….but would like him to take up a case of fraud within a massive institution such as the local council!! I am still chewing hard on my case leaving me with raw and which has not yet come to anything that will allow me compensation…………untill a further 6 months……and then too late as the cut off (necks not included) is 6 years! I feel strongly that hanging should be brought back for all council “workers” who hide their filthy corruption under a load of legal jargon (law upon law, line upon line, this way a little, that way a little)………………and get away with it because silly me had a TRAINEE “so called” solicitor who didn’t listen to common sense as she was far too involved in making up her time to get her self certified within the law society to which I understood to be about the size of a pin head………….i am still thinking of chaining myself to a lampost at Temple as a sacrifice to her gods……………not just for attention but who knows……..someone might film me to earn a few bob on YouTube and throw me a coin or two as I scream her name out in total mental agony of ever setting foot in thie firm who employed her and asking for help!

  • GORDON WANLESS

    major holiday company failed to provide tour manager for educational 9 day tour of swiss railways. do i have claim for breach of contract ? regards

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