Channel 4’s TV trial matches actors and barristers to generate compelling drama

[The Trial: A Murder in the Family / Channel4]

The Trial: A Murder in the Family, Channel 4’s drama that involves actors, top barristers and real jurors finished yesterday evening after four hours of riveting viewing.

The drama started from a fictional premise: “Simon Davis” is on trial for the strangulation of his estranged wife, “Carla”. The alleged killer is prosecuted and defended by real QCs (Max Hill and John Ryder), supported by junior counsel, in a courtroom presided over by a genuine retired judge, Brian Barker.

The dozen peers deciding Davis’s fate are members of the public, hearing evidence from experts and witnesses who are a mix of actors and members of the public. For those who have not watched it, we will not spoil the ending by revealing whether Davis is found guilty or not.

The great revelation of the experiment is the insight into how a defence barrister operates. It’s fascinating to watch Ryder stripping the initially confident evidence of prosecution witnesses down to the few non-contestable facts their testimony contains, as The Guardian wrote in its review of the programme.

The Guardian wrote: “The Trial: A Murder In The Family is a judicious and gripping attempt to get round the visual restrictions on court reporting, even if the basis on which some jurors reach their conclusion is alarming. A Channel 4 prime time crowd is probably pretty law-abiding, but from this day forward viewers are likely to be especially careful not to risk putting their lives in the hands of a dozen strangers.”

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