New court drama hoping to show viewers the ‘inner workings of the justice system’ will star real QCs and an ex-Old Bailey judge

Avatar photo

By Thomas Connelly on

The Trial: A Murder in the Family will air on Channel 4 later this month

A new hybrid legal drama starring some of country’s top lawyers is aiming to give viewers unprecedented access to the “inner workings of the justice system”.

The Trial: A Murder in the Family — airing on Channel 4 from 21 May — focuses on the fictitious murder of a 38-year-old woman named Carla Davis, who was strangled in her own home. Simon Davis, her estranged husband, has been charged with her murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Both of these parts will be played by actors, as will forensic experts, police officers and relatives of Carla and Simon. However, unlike traditional legal dramas such as Silk and Judge John Deed, not all the stars will be thespians. This new five-part mini-series will also include real barristers, a former Old Bailey judge and a jury of 12 members of the public.

Top lawyers to feature in the TV show include Red Lion Chambers’ Max Hill QC, who will lead the prosecution against Simon. Described as a “top-league criminal silk” on his chambers profile, Hill was recently appointed the UK government’s new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. His junior in the fictional trial is fellow Red Lion barrister Michelle Nelson.

Defending Davis is 6KBW College Hill’s John Ryder QC. Described as “very stylish” by legal directory Chambers and Partners, Ryder has a wealth of experience in serious crime matters. He will receive support from chambers colleague Lucy Organ.

Judge Brian Barker CBE QC will preside over Davis’ case in the new drama. An ex-Common Serjeant of London (the second most senior judge at the Old Bailey), Barker said:

Every attempt was made to create surroundings that were as realistic as possible, which I think they were. The team and the cameras were totally unobtrusive, which I was surprised by, and I had a sizeable volume of papers which I could dip into and refer to throughout the trial. There was no script. It evolved as a trial would evolve — there was no stopping and starting once we got into the courtroom, and I was given complete freedom.

This series is directed by Nick Holt, who readers may remember was behind ground-breaking documentary The Murder Trial. Airing on Channel 4 in 2013, this programme followed the real life case of Nat Fraser, who had appealed his conviction for the murder of his wife in Edinburgh. Because the rules on filming legal proceedings are more relaxed in Scotland, viewers were able to watch in-court shots as the hearing unfolded.

Though this documentary was widely hailed as a success, some members of the legal Twitterati have already started questioning just how realistic The Trial will be. Daniel Taylor, a personal injury solicitor, joked:

Elsewhere, 11KBW employment law specialist Sean Jones QC quipped:

Let’s just hope there isn’t a gavel…

You can watch the trailer for The Trial: A Murder in the Family in full here:

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub here.