Barristers lose it over Quiz courtroom blunders

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By Aishah Hussain on

‘Was that a gavel I just heard?’

Actress Helen McCrory (Sonia Woodley QC) was praised by viewers for her Quiz performance (image credit — ITV)

Barristers have taken to Twitter to point out a number of supposed legal inaccuracies in ITV drama Quiz.

The three-part series premiered last Monday and is based on the real-life story of ‘coughing Major’ Charles Ingram and his wife Diana, who along with co-conspirator Tecwen Whittock, were convicted of attempting to cheat their way to the £1 million cash prize on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.

The actors were praised by viewers for their gripping performance in the drama which aired in hourly instalments and drew in almost six million viewers on Wednesday night’s finale.

Yet, the legal Twitterati, including anonymous bar blogger The Secret Barrister (SB), were quick to point out a number of courtroom blunders in the show’s re-enactment of the trio’s criminal trial at Southwark Crown Court. “It was a complete bingo card of legal fictions,” SB quipped.

Below we profile some of the most glaring errors spotted by barristers:

2 Hare Court crime barrister Fiona Robertson tweeted a detailed thread listing a total of 14 legal errors. “Cannot take the eye twitches anymore,” she wrote. “The legal errors in Quiz are making my head explode.”

Tom Sherrington, a criminal barrister at St John’s Buildings Barristers’ Chambers, pointed out Celador producer Mark Bonnar’s witness summons is in fact a mock-up from a civil, and not a criminal case. There is no “claimant” (or “plaintiff”!) in a criminal trial.

Fellow criminal barrister Maximilian Hardy of 9 Bedford Row humorously tweeted:

CrimeLine, a resource for criminal law professionals, pointed out:

Ishan Kolhatkar, former 2 Hare Court criminal barrister turned BPP director of education technology, commented:

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SB published a blog post over the weekend containing a breakdown of the errors with handy explainers, before questioning whether it mattered that Quiz had got the law so “hopelessly” wrong?

“Is this not simply what anybody has to endure when watching a fictionalised representation of their specialism?”, he or she wrote. “The only difference, surely, is that lawyers are prima donnas sufficiently precious to compose laborious Twitter threads and blog posts on how and why the errors offend them?”

The post continued: “Pedantry is our stock-in-trade, and we can and do deploy it indiscriminately and, inevitably, sometimes needlessly. But I do think there’s a distinction, and a point, here. I think there is validity among the snark.”

One Twitter user responded:

Hardy added: “Knowing the rules and rejecting them for purposeful dramatic licence is one thing but a wholesale failure to represent reality adds nothing and takes away a lot.”

SB concluded: “[I]naccuracies in the way we depict our justice system damage our understanding of something that matters to us all, more than I think we realise.”

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