'Every day in the UK lives are suddenly, brutally, wickedly taken away. Victims are shot or stabbed. Less often they are strangled or suffocated or beaten to death. Rarely they are poisoned, pushed off high buildings, drowned or set alight. Then there are the many who are killed by dangerous drivers, or corporate gross negligence. There are a lot of ways you can kill someone. I know because I've seen most of them at close quarters.'
As one of just a few judges licensed to try murder cases at the Old Bailey, the author has presided over many of the high-profile cases that all too often grab our attention in dramatic media headlines - for every unlawful death tells a story. But, unlike most of us, a judge doesn't get to turn the page and move on. Nor does the defendant, or the family of the victim, nor the many other people who populate the court room.
Peeling apart six dramatic murder and manslaughter cases, Unlawful Killings removes this distinction between 'them' and 'us'. By detailing the inner workings of the Old Bailey and UK law, the author makes clear that each of us has a vested interest in what happens in the court room - especially when it comes to the death of a fellow human being. Any one of us could end up in the witness-box or even in the dock. And yet most people have only the sketchiest idea of what happens inside a Crown Court. With breath-taking skill and deep compassion, the author describes how cases unfold and illustrates exactly what it's like to be a murder trial judge and a witness to human good and bad. Sometimes very bad.
Right now, with our courts straining under the weight of the many heinous crimes being committed, it's not merely the system that is flawed. The fracture lines that run through our society are becoming harder and harder to ignore and, from a unique vantage point, the author warns that we do so at our peril.