New comedy about pupil barristers fighting over tenancy to hit BBC screens

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Actors from Black Mirror, The IT Crowd and Game of Thrones star

Image via the BBC’s media centre

A new comedy about pupil barristers learning the criminal law ropes has been commissioned by BBC Two. Cast members include Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans), Gwyneth Keyworth (Black Mirror, Game of Thrones) and Prasanna Puwanarajah (Doctor Foster, Silk).

The TV programme, Defending The Guilty, follows bright-eyed young pupil Will (pictured far left), as he attempts to navigate through criminal law practice with the help of his pupil master, Caroline (pictured middle left).

Will isn’t the only pupil at his set, and it seems his fellow trainee barristers are more than happy to stab each other in the back as they all vie for the one tenant position on offer. This storyline may resonate with aspiring barristers who know all too well how competitive the profession can be: this year, 2,089 bar hopefuls submitted at least one application via the Pupillage Gateway, which hosted just 224 pupillage spots.

The 2018 Chambers Most List

Shane Allen, controller of BBC Comedy Commissioning, says that “a terrifically vibrant and sure-footed pilot” made the decision to take Defending The Guilty to full series “very quick and easy”. He continued:

“There’s a very universal theme of having high ideals when entering this professional world versus the cold hard, cloak and dagger reality of how the legal profession truly operates.”

Defending The Guilty is based on a book of a similar name by criminal barrister Alex McBride, called Defending the Guilty: Truth and Lies in the Criminal Courtroom. McBride tells Legal Cheek:

“I am delighted and stunningly lucky to have ‘Defending the Guilty’ adapted by the brilliant Kieron Quirke and Big Talk Productions. It sure beats pleading cases in the criminal courts.”

He may be right about that one: shortly after McBride’s book was released, he wrote an article for Legal Cheek in which he admitted he would advise his younger self against the career path he chose. “The criminal bar can’t offer much at all,” sole practitioner McBride said, “if you want to own a flat — forget London — or have a middle class, professional lifestyle, you are in for a long wait.” We wonder whether Will the pupil will feel the same way after his training.

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Hopefully it will reach TV screen while we still have a criminal bar.


Will it be as inaccurate as The Split and Silk were?

The Brown Knight

Hopefully criminal barristers will one day soon start to realise that NO ONE CARES about criminals getting decent representation. People are just about interested in the NHS.

No one thinks the risk they will end of in the criminal justice system is sufficiently likely so as to invoke their sympathy for the criminal legal aid. If they did, insurance companies would offer policies. But they don’t, because no one would buy one.

NO ONE CARES. Except…criminal lawyers who live in a little echo chamber complaining to each other, going on discussion panels with each other, writing articles no one else reads and standing outside courts wearing wigs and gowns and Gucci bags.

No one cares….

The end.




I care, you dog.

The Brown Knight

yeah but you are no one


I am more than you


I thought they were Arya Stark?

Not Amused

I care. I also think caring is a British value.

The problem is that we have spent 40 years pretending British values are somehow racist.

Now that is incredibly silly given that Britain is and always has been multi-ethnic, religious and cultural and that if Britain is not number 1 in the list of “most liberal countries” then it is at the very least top 3. But that is what we did.

Now we have millions of citizens who don’t care. The result will be more police corruption and more innocent people put through hell. Well done lefties. Slow hand clap.


Errr…. what?


What you mean of course is that racists and idiots are the people who go on and on about ‘British values’. Britain is a multi-everything place as you pointed out, but that doesn’t stop the right from screaming ‘British values’ while voting UKIP or introducing targets for forcible removal.

What you are really saying in this post is that the right wing are anti-British, which I would agree with, but you try to suggest somehow that this is the fault of people who point out racism.

A trust fund with a trust fund

Was this typed by a nurse at your dementia treatment facility?

Corbyn. Symphathiser

What a facile, useless, entirely empty attempt at socio-political critique. At no point have you defined what you think “British values” are (I’m going to guess “good things”). You’ve also not shown how ‘the left’ is leading to more police corruption – given that the Met a mere twenty years ago acknowledged that it was institutionally racist, before what characters such as you denounce as “identity politics” was a thing, can you give a concrete link to people being more socially aware and the police somehow becoming even more racist?

As a point of information, what you think of as “identity politics” has been around for decades. If you lived in the US in the 60s you would have denounced the civil rights movement as identity politics. You would have decried the Bristol Bus Boycott as the work of snowflakes.

Grow up.


I think this qualifies as yet another example of worryingly ill-thought out diatribe/polemic purporting itself to be intelligent thought from the usual registered source.

Add it to the pile. Cherish it.


Caring is a British value? Jesus pal, maybe for ourselves. Read a fucking book about colonialism. Probably the least caring country on earth. Disgusting.


The intention was benevolent- to civilise the savage.

The practice was.. well.. not always matching the intention.

That said, why do many of the ex-colonies remain members of the Commonwealth and choose to retain things like the common law legal system (and even appeals to the Privy Council, in some cases)?

Sixteen of them even retain the Queen as their Head of State!

It can’t all have been bad.


Colonialism evil yawn. Get over it. Its history


Nah whitey get out of my coins and stamps and criminal appeals, mon!

White Personage

That’s racist, my man!

I am offended!


A quick google suggests criminal defence insurance is indeed available in the UK.

Trainee at MCF

Then whats the need for legal aid given everyone is so worried about having the mighty state turn on them that they buy criminal defence insurance. Yeah, no one has it.


Tecnically the insurance as a product is available but no broker is selling it. So as an individual you can’t buy it.


More Brown Trout than Brown Knight I think…


Jesus Christ


The biggest joke is that the actors will be on fees ten times higher than the professionals they are portraying.

The Brown Knight

Why is that a joke? Should actors be paid proportionally to the people they portray? So an actor playing a banker gets x but the one playing the cleaner (despite being the key role in a drama about a cleaning company) should be paid NMW??

Urrr… admit what you said is very very badly thought out and we can move on


Brown Knight…u ok hun?

The Brown Knight

Shut up and go away


There will be a reckoning and the tap will be turned back on.

We all ready pay for things plenty of people dont care about


I was having a reckoning just now. Following this, I *reckon* you’re actually something of a bellend.

You’re welcome. Try and learn from this.


How can I learn from such a facile post? You are an adiot TGF. And so thoroughly representative of your displaced generation. You were born on the wrong side of history. Get over it ffs

Diane Abbot QC

You have missed the point entirely. The show will undoubtedly portray criminal litigators as glamorous and exciting but in actuality the actors pretending to be them are earning much more. That was the irony pointed out. None of this nonsense about being paid proportionally to what is being portrayed.

You must not be very good at reading judgments.

Polly Portillo

What do the people of Hackney have to say about it?

Andrew Neill

DIANE ABBOTT!!!!!!!!!!!!


Diane Abbot QC

I’ve got nothing more to say

A trust fund with a trust fund

…which is almost always the case for a bbc drama


Can’t wait for the episode where they lampoon their chambers’ obsession with diversity


Did the Asian chap used to be in Grange Hill?

Trainee at MCF

OMG thats so racist!!!


How so? It was a genuine question.

Mammy Briscoe



“trainee barrister”

Corbyn. Sympathiser

A documentary about Trumpenkreig’s loser life would be a comedy.


Or very very dark tragedy ?


This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


I hear he likes to watch some very niche adult videos whilst crying.


Criminal barristers. Sigh.

Yet another standard lawyer trope in the UK media. I refer back to my comment laying out a show idea for the BBC in the article reviewing the new divorce lawyer (sigh x2) show:

A few seconds to whip that idea together and it would easily be complex enough to run for 3-4 series minimum.

Also, it should be known that Hollywood has done a great job of trying to get more practice areas of the law involved: Damages (class-action lawyers), Suits (more of a soap opera but allegedly corporate lawyers), Michael Clayton (corporate lawyer), Law & Order (crime but prosecution side), etc. Criminal law is still featured heavy in American media but they’ve put in the resources to quality movies and series involving other areas.


Suits is absolute garbage though

Not. Guiltay.

As was clearly the case with Silk, absolutely no research will go into this! I can’t wait to see the Pupil Barrister doing a Murder Trial at the Old Bailey.

Judge Yu Fon Giwtee

Happen allatime in my coun’ree




I confess I am a whinger but life just isnt fair!!!!!


Great. I have an imitator too. Arrival ! 😇


Film ‘a day in the life of a Jones Day partner’.

There’s your comedy.


Nah, there’s your cheesy 70’s style porno!


Well if it’s a comedy it won’t be accurate will it. An episode where they all cry in the shower every morning for a week isn’t going to get the ratings in and anyone who has done pupillage knows walking on eggshells trying not to p*** anyone off for a year (or in some cases 18 months) has very little laughs in it.


Amazing about the entertaining industry in putting barristers’ life on TV. I wonder if anyone has dared to invite Lady Hale to watch the drama on family court and divorce.


Assuming everyone who goes before the courts is a criminal shows way too much deference to the State, which has capacity to be wrong and/or misuse its power. Legal advice and represention, at public expense when necessary, helps the system to apply the law fairly and people should care about that.

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