As a child, I used to get pocket money in the form of a five pound note depicting George Stephenson, so-called ‘Father of the Railways’. As it happens, Stephenson was also born a ten-minute drive from the house I grew up in. The small cottage in the village of Wylam, on the banks of the Tyne, still survives as a National Trust property, and it is a building I passed by countless times during my childhood, on Sunday afternoon walks by the river with my family.
I'm completely against the death penalty. But, faced with some of the realities of what abolishing it would entail, I was forced to do some soul-searching about how willing I'd be to do more than just argue about the principle with anyone who'll listen.
His forearm is under my chin. I can feel the blood supply to my brain waning; I hear the sweat drops drumming on the mat and my opponent’s controlled breathing. The choke is tight and expertly executed. My umpteenth attempt to escape fails and, in a matter of seconds, my jaw will shatter and I will pass out. The smallest misjudgment can lead to permanent injury or death.
After all the lawyers and witnesses and experts have had their say, we send away our jury, with varying degrees of understanding of what they've been told and how much weight to put on it, to deliberate and reach a verdict. The next problem is: what goes on in the deliberation room?
So, we've seated our (somewhat skewed) jury. But can we nonetheless trust that they will be able to make an informed, impartial judgment? Even with the best will in the world, it seems highly unlikely.
As allegations against Oscar-winning Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein continue to dominate national media, social media and dinner conversation, the hashtag #MeToo began to open up another heart-breaking dialogue.