> Skip to content
  • Published: 9 July 2022
  • ISBN: 9780857528919
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $39.99

Unlawful Killings

Life, Love and Murder: Trials at the Old Bailey

An Old Bailey murder trial judge unpicks five extraordinary cases and explores why we kill, what happens at trial and what we can learn about the society in which we live.

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 five 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.

  • Published: 9 July 2022
  • ISBN: 9780857528919
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $39.99

About the author

Wendy Joseph

Until March 2022 Her Honour Wendy Joseph QC was a judge at the Old Bailey, sitting on criminal cases, trying mainly allegations of murder and other homicide. She read English and Law at Cambridge, was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1975, became a QC in 1998 and sat as a full-time judge from 2007 to 2022. When she moved to the Old Bailey in 2012 she was the only woman amongst sixteen judges, and only the third woman ever to hold a permanent position there. She was also a Diversity and Community Relations Judge, working to promote understanding between the judiciary and many different sectors of our community, particularly those from less privileged and minority groups. She mentors young people, from a variety of backgrounds, who hope for a career in law and has a special interest in helping women. Unlawful Killings is her first book.

Praise for Unlawful Killings

Who hasn't wanted to be a judge and sit and deliver verdicts on all those evil people who do the most appalling things to other people - more often than not, members of their own family, or to someone that they know. You might think again after reading Unlawful Killings which will make you question all the fundamentals that you've come to take for granted about offenders, the crimes that they commit - especially murder - and the punishment they deserve. It will also make you think again about our judges and I for one was left gladdened that we have someone of this quality assessing what was right and what was wrong. A page turner that will leave you wanting to know more.

Emeritus Professor David Wilson Author of My Life with Murderers

A superb work providing the reader with a truly authentic judicial insight into the human stories and legal and forensic framework that constitute today's criminal trials of those accused of unlawfully killing another human being. It is permeated too with clearsighted analysis of the backstory to such killings, whether that be the pull of street gangs, the blight of domestic violence, the tragedy of death on our roads or the infliction of violence said to have been caused by mental illness or the ill temper of those with a disordered personality. The author's wit and wisdom deserve as wide an audience as possible.

His Honour David Radford

With compassion, wisdom, sardonic humour and a novelistic skill with pace and words, this is a breakthrough in expressing heinous crime from the position of one who had the fearful job of ruling upon it.

Philip Mould, Philip Mould & Company

Beautifully written and utterly gripping

Joshua Rozenberg, A Lawyer Writes

JUNE'S BOOK OF THE MONTH: Exceptional ... a riveting and revelatory work.

Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

A very rare gem. An author who uses hindsight to contemplate foresight whilst generating genuine insight. The book is written with authority, humility and compassion. Compellingly clever and sharply honest.

Professor Dame Sue Black

I really enjoyed this book. If ever I was on trial I would want my judge to be this one. She is compassionate, in control and understands the reality that exists outside the courtroom. Anyone who has worked in the Crown Court would recognise how true to life the court room scenes are. The fictional crime scenarios make compelling stories. What is unique is that they are placed in a wider context which challenges the assumptions that lie behind our criminal justice policy. A great read for those who want to understand how the system works now and why it is going wrong.

Cherie Blair CBE QC

Absolutely superb. 5 stars for sheer readability alone. Her Honour entertains as she educates us about murder, about the law and about how we human beings are shaped as we create the culture we live with.

Philippa Perry, author of The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read

I inhaled this: brilliant, clear-eyed, compassionate and fascinating.

Olivia Potts, author of A Half Baked Idea

Related titles