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A. P. Herbert

Sir Alan Patrick Herbert (September 24, 1890 - November 11, 1971) was a British humorist, Member of Parliament, barrister, and novelist.

He studied at New College, Oxford, and was admitted to the bar in 1918. In 1935 he became a member of Parliament for Oxford University, where he was returned until the University seats were abolished in 1950. While in Parliament, he advocated the abolition of the entertainments tax, and for reform of the laws of divorce and obscenity. He was knighted in 1945.

He wrote eight novels, including The Water Gypsies, The Middle Parts of Fortune, The Secret Battle, and Holy Deadlock, and wrote fifteen plays. His work appeared often in Punch magazine, where the work for which he was best remembered, his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law, was first published. Over his lifetime he publised sixteen collections of the Misleading Cases. These were satirical pieces on various aspects of the British legal and judicial system; they often had a sharp political point beneath their satire. Many of them featured the exploits of Albert Haddock, a tireless and veteran litigant.

A P Herbert's Misleading Cases were successfully adapted for television by the BBC, with Roy Dotrice as Haddock, and Alastair Sim as the judge.


In recent years, it appears, there has entered for the first time, systematically, and unashamed, into the administration of British justice the repellent figure of the agent provocateur, which is a French expression signifying an official spy who causes an offence to secure a conviction; and I use that phrase partly to impress upon you your own profound ignorance and partly because there is no other. There is no other phrase, and for a very good reason; the idea is so repugnant to British notions of fair play and decency that it has never found expression in our language. I have seen no comment, judicial or other, upon the importation of this loathsome practice; it has stolen in, unblessed and almost unobserved, and has taken a firm place in the national life. It is not employed for the suppression of the major crimes, where official dishonour might be forgiven in a noble cause; no constable causes himself to be murdered or robbed for the protection of the public by the apprehension of a dangerous person. But it is the constant support of small prosecutions for small offences wisely invented by righteous people for the hindrance or prevention of public enjoyment.

--- Rex v. The Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Chief Inspector Charles, Inspector Smart, Sergeant Oliphant, and Constable Boot (1930)