BBC brings on wrong guest to talk law with Lord Sumption

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By CJ McKinney on

Turns out there are two famous Americans called Robert Shapiro

Robert Shapiro (the lawyer): Credit Joeblow2017 via Wikimedia Commons

Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption sat by bemused last night as a star BBC presenter apologised for bringing the wrong guest on the programme.

The PM radio show, presented by Evan Davis, wanted to bring OJ Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro on to chat law with Sumption, but wound up talking to a political adviser to the Democratic Party.

In the broadcaster’s defence, the adviser’s name is also Robert Shapiro.

West Wing Shapiro, who appears to have been unaware of the mix-up until Davis began describing him as OJ Simpson’s lawyer, paid homage to Sumption before explaining the mix-up — to the presenter’s horror.

“First of all, let me say it’s an honour to be on with Lord Sumption”, Shapiro said after being introduced as OJ Simpson’s main man. “Second, let me say that I am Robert Shapiro, an adviser to Democratic presidents, not the lawyer. You’ve called the wrong Robert Shapiro”.

The programme wanted the lawyer Shapiro on to discuss putting TV cameras in the Crown Court. US broadcasters have long been able to show full criminal proceedings — perhaps most famously Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, in which the American football star was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

Although advisor Shapiro still had plenty to say about the issue, Davis described the howler as “the worst mistake we’ve made on air since I started on this programme”.

The Ministry of Justice announced yesterday that BBC, ITV and Sky will be allowed to show sentencing remarks from big cases in England and Wales, following in the footsteps of Scotland. But it will require the permission of the judiciary and it will still be illegal to show any other part of the trial.

Some lawyers complained that judges would be attacked if the public saw them in action, but the Lord Chief Justice took to Instagram to welcome the move.

Sumption stepped down from the Supreme Court in December 2018 but plans to remain in the limelight through a weekly Times column (not that anyone will read it behind the paywall) and has also been making frequent broadcast appearances.

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