There was once a black woman who loved gardening. She visited the Chelsea Flower Show, which for a person of colour can still feel like a fairly brave thing to do. The risk turned out to be real. She was pulled out of a queue for the ladies’ toilet and accused of pickpocketing, allegedly having been seen elsewhere putting her hands into other women’s handbags. There was no sign of stolen property, but she still had to go through a crown court trial before being acquitted.
This is far from the most upsetting of the things experienced by women at the hands of the legal system documented and explained by the formidable QC Helena Kennedy in this book. Others have wider political and social significance – from #MeToo to FGM, domestic violence, immigration detention and the grooming of girls by gangs of sexual predators. The poignancy of the Chelsea Flower Show woman, a hospital sister whose only offence appears to have been a love of flowers, comes from its everyday nature. These are the stories that don’t make the news, and that only someone who has spent a lifetime at the criminal bar can offer. But there are also anecdotes that few can weave into a coherent, passionate narrative, building a case based on evidence, statistics, facts and experience, as Kennedy has done.
By Afua Hirsch
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