The Trial: Lawyers react to new docudrama starring real QCs and an ex-Old Bailey judge

‘First major inaccuracy, it started on time’

John Ryder QC and junior barrister Lucy Organ

The legal Twitteratti was out in force yesterday evening as Channel 4’s new docudrama starring real lawyers hit television screens.

The Trial: A Murder in the Family — a five-part series which concludes on Thursday — focuses on the fictitious murder of a 38-year-old woman named Carla Davis, who was strangled in her own home. Her estranged husband, Simon Davis, has been charged with her murder.

With actors drafted in to play the defendant, the victim and various witnesses, producers — keen to get as close to a real trial as possible — recruited a host of top legal minds to fill other key roles.

Lawyers making their drama debuts last night included Red Lion Chambers’ Max Hill QC, 6KBW College Hill’s John Ryder QC and ex-Old Bailey judge Brian Barker CBE QC.

To add an additional element of realism, the jurors — whose deliberations are filmed via a Big Brother-style network of cameras — are 12 members of the public.

But what did lawyers make of episode one?

Tom Gilbart, an employment barrister at Manchester’s Nine St John Street Chambers, suggested producers should have adjourned the first episode and not paid the actors to ensure accuracy.

Echoing Gilbart’s sentiments, Rupert Jones — a barrister at Citadel Chambers — felt the trial’s prompt start wasn’t a true reflection of real court life.

Hopefully producers will have included at least one technology failure in the forthcoming episodes, said 36 Bedford Row barrister Rebecca Herbert.

Well at least we haven’t see a gavel… yet.

However other lawyers were more forthcoming in their praise for the show. Matthew Scott, a criminal specialist at London’s Pump Court, took to his blog last night to write:

Judging by the first episode The Trial is television at its best: dramatic, informative and compelling viewing. It’s just a shame about all the ad-breaks.

Episode two airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 4. You can watch episode one on catch-up here.

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17 Comments

Dai the Fish

“It’s just a shame about all the ad-breaks.”

Get used to it. This is how crim justice will be funded in future. More effective than meerkats. With a small extension to the duties of the trial judge we can have :

“Members of the jury, before you retire to consider your verdict, have you ever worried about getting the right car insurance quote? …”

(46)(1)
Cathy

This comment is really funny – it made me laugh out loud. Thank you, Dai 🙂

(1)(0)
Alan P

I’m thinking about suggesting a programme to Channel 5 called ‘Jo Maugham Saves the World’.

It would simply be a camera following the life of Jo Maugham QC, without any editing or questions.

(39)(1)
Pantman

It’s just a shame about all the ad-breaks.

Does anyone watch live, commercial television? I just record eveything I want to watch on my DVR, and then start watching it at least 15 mins after it has started – never watch the ads, just skip through them.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Switched off after 5 mins – as did everyone in the criminal justice system.
Max Hill – first class brief.

Erm other?

(1)(3)
Old Lag

Ryder QC comes across quite poorly – a bit of a hammy thespian, who seems much too interested in preening his bouffant hair at every opportunity.

It also seems all a bit flat…

(5)(4)
effieofthelump

Day 3 of Channel 4- The Trial watched…….

Query -…….. Why has nobody verified who made the first phone call to the emergency services that was promptly cut off- I am figuring it was the victim and that the murderer cut her off then killed her. In this whodunit- I am currently believing the husband is guilty as sin.

The programme is entertaining and perhaps does show that all jury members need to be aware of their own potential biases and check them before making a decision. It also shows that those in the legal profession can be out of touch with real people.

(0)(0)
Malcolm Fowler

Why are the Crosn and defence advocacy teams hardly talking to each other? In reality there is much camaraderie at the bar and indeed amongst Solicitor and Higher Court Advocates such as myself and our system is all the better for it.

How come the former foreign builder lover of the deceased came to be called by the Crosn since he could scarcely have advanced its case and rather provided the defence in cross examination with the only serious ammunition it has had so far.

Why are the advocates’ musings so uniformly banal, unsurprising and so unrelated to and unenlightening about the case before the Court?

Why are the individual jurors’ contributions to camera so badly edited as to be hard to follow and why similarly are exchanges amongst jurors so truncated as to lack any dramatic development? This is almost certainly to be unfair to them.

(1)(1)
Malcolm Fowler

I have now seen more of this irritating missed opportunity to educate the public.

How shocking for the uninitiated to be shown a sequence of events where in mid-evidence, indeed following completion of examination in chief but before cross examination defence counsel are advising their client in conference on how to deal with that cross examination! That is prohibited by professional rules. There were other, authentic ways to deal with that aspect.

How artificial also to suppose for a moment that the Crown would call the “runner” witness and the foreign builder former lover just so that Ryder can in cross examination put leading questions to them both helpful to the defence cause. Those witnesses’ existence and the purport of their accounts might indeed properly have been disclosed to the defence by the Crown but then it would have been for the defence to make the decision to call them or not and, if so, examine them in chief rather than as in cross examination.

I accept that Skinner might well have been called by the Crown but would he as a question of judgment have been so called, just so that Ryder might have a shy at him?

Another thing: are jurors not instructed not to discuss the evidence amongst themselves until after all evidence has been called? Again this is a question of informing the public as to what would really have happened in practice rather than simply to present a flabby and vague impression of how it might really have been.
What a mess!

(1)(1)
zn

The jury members seemed naive and jumped to conclusions. I think jury members should be selected to include a few scientists lol

(2)(0)
Ryan Downes

Great closing speeches by both prosecution and defence QC’s. However I do think the judge could have been involved a little more than he has so far.

(0)(1)

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