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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

A trial of realism?

A trial of realism?


New series to reveal the inner workings of the criminal justice system

Whether it is Silk, Judge John Deed, or Rumpole of the Bailey, legal dramas are loved and loathed in equal measure by lawyers. The most oft-heard complaints: a lack of realism and too much style over substance.

Channel 4 thinks it has solved the problem with the launch of a brand new, 'ground-breaking' five-part series to be aired across one week in May.

The Trial: A Murder in the Family is a fictional crime docudrama about a case which will be tried by a team real QCs, a genuine judge, and a jury of 12 members of the public. The only actors include the accused '“ a man who is pleading not guilty to the murder of his wife '“ the deceased, and some of the witnesses.

The trial centres on the murder of 38-year-old Carla Davis, who was strangled to death in her own home. The accused is her estranged husband, Simon.

The prosecution is led by Red Lion Chambers barrister and the government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Max Hill QC, alongside junior Michelle Nelson.

Meanwhile, the defendant is represented by 6KBW's John Ryder QC and junior Lucy Organ. The presiding judge is Judge Brian Barker CBE QC '“ formerly the most senior judge at the Old Bailey.

Secrets of what being a juror entails will be revealed when cameras 'follow them into the deliberation room as they try to reach their verdict'.

Channel 4 says the show aims to both 'hook viewers with the real twists and turns of a criminal murder trial and reveal the inner workings of the justice system as never seen before'.

Still, lawyers remain sceptical and offered the show's producers suggestions to ensure a more accurate portrayal of crown court life.

'Will there be a day when they fail to bring the defendant from custody?' wondered Sean Jones QC.

The head of Maidstone Chambers, Philip Sinclair, suggested: 'Defendant cannot be produced from cell area because of under-staffing. Vital Prosecution witness on holiday in Majorca.'

Simon Myers QC proposed: 'Late start day one '“ prior overrunning case. Late start day two '“ eight bails at ten. Late start day three '“ deferred sentence.'

'I'm putting £500 on the prosecution being stayed as an abuse of process following grave disclosure failings,' added The Secret Barrister.

The Trial will air from 21 May.