Secret judge is secret no more
Insights from author who has seen more murderers than the average judge
A few weeks ago, Penguin Random House sent me an advance copy of Unlawful Killings, which they will be publishing in June. The author’s name was given as “Anonymous QC”.
Is this a rival to Secret Barrister, who also has a new book out in the summer?
No. We were told by the publishers that
As a barrister, the author has both defended and prosecuted homicide cases for decades and, as a judge, has for some time been on the bench at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey.
That narrowed it down a great deal and, from the information in the book, it was easy enough to work out who the author was. I agreed not to name Judge Wendy Joseph QC until today, when she celebrates her 70th birthday and officially retires from the bench.
These extracts from the introduction to her book explain her purpose:
As well as punishing people after they have killed, we should have demanded clearer analysis of and better answers to why people kill…
Although mental illness makes increasing numbers of us vulnerable, both as the victims and the perpetrators of crime, there is less and less help available for the sick.
The internet allows those with perverted ideas about sexual contact with children to put those ideas into practice, and the dark web is out of our control…
We have constructed a set of rules by which we expect the people of this country to live, and a terrifying number of young people are opting out of it, disaffected, signing up to an alternative: the gang. And in the world of the gang, they are creating their own language, their own rules, their own way of life which brings them into direct conflict with ours.
I’m well positioned to write this book because I’ve seen more murder trials than the average person. In fact, I’ve seen more murder trials than the average judge…
There should be nothing mysterious about the way the courts work, and nothing frightening — unless you happen to be guilty of a crime….
So, in this book I lift the curtain and let in the light of day… I describe what it is like to watch the suffering of the bereaved and the family of defendants, to watch the struggles of witnesses and jurors, to look into the eyes of a child and send him to prison for life.
I do this by telling the stories of different trials and the characters involved in them. It would be wrong as well as hurtful to identify particular individuals as they appeared in actual cases. I haven’t done that, so it would be pointless to try to identify anything in this book with any case I have sat on.
Rather, I have taken aspects of what I have seen over decades — the people, the events and issues — and mixed them together to create for you a representation of what really can and does happen in a courtroom like mine. And just what it is like to be the judge.
It’s not fair to review a book three months before it’s published. But I’ll say this now: it is beautifully written and utterly gripping.
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