Halfway through the third series of silk, ITV puts forward its quasi-rival – Law & Order UK, which is starting its 8th (8th?! Seriously? How?) series. If Silk strives for accuracy and occasionally misses in the cause of drama, Law & Order at least has no such pretensions – it’s relationship with verisimilitude is casual to say the least.
Still, it’s a Courtroom Drama, so we’ve got to watch it, right?
Bradley Walsh, the one constant in this show, is back as DS Ronnie Brooks (sporting a very Columbo-style mac and Peter Falk’s world-weary look ). There’s a new kid on the block to go with him – DS Joe Hawkins. He’s got a background in child protection which, as luck would have it, turns out to be very useful indeed…
The episode starts with a seemingly straightforward car crash, but the victim is missing his hands and teeth. This gruesome detail causes some major overacting in Harry’s wife – Lindsey Bernstein. The usual motives – love, money and jealousy are investigated, but the police aren’t getting their man.
Meanwhile, Ronnie wants to check his evidence in an upcoming case involving a hit on a drug dealer and his family. For some reason two people from the CPS ‘help’ him (R v Dale Horgan) with his testimony but giving him a run over. Ronnie has been desperate to get him for ages and doesn’t want him to get off this time (can you guess what happens next?).
These two plotlines clash when Harry’s sister, who is a juror in the trial, finds Harry’s severed hands on her doorstep.
After this we switch to the Court part. The juror who found an unwelcome present of her husband in law’s hands one morning has to be discharged. The defence (rightly) want the whole jury to go and start again. The prosecution have a better idea – let’s just crack on without a jury.
The Judge agrees, but then agrees to discharge herself and so the trial gets swapped to a Judge straight out of central casting. The Prosecution are pleased as they get one over the defence. Then they get worried as they remember they haven’t got any actual evidence, which is something you would expect a High Court Judge to notice. Lockwood J does in fact notice, and the Prosecution come second in R v Horgan.
Is that the end? Like heck it is. This is fiction, so it is all nicely wrapped up in less than 60 minutes and, from the depths of defeat, the good guys pull it together and get their man.
As long as you’re prepared to suspend your disbelief, this is all good fun. It’s pretty standard police procedural fare, that’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s pretty well acted all told, and and fairly well scripted and directed. As a lawyer it is hard to watch without wincing, but I’m sure doctors feel the same about Casualty and I watched the end of Waterloo Road by accident which may or may not be accurate.
And I do like Bradley Walsh, even if he is a detective that could have been compiled by a computer from a list of cliches. Although this may be that I’m hoping that by Series 9 he will actually morph into Columbo, which would be awesome.
So, so many to mention with this show. We won’t go too much in to the police investigation, but it’s a lot smoother than real life – one example being they watch the CCTV within 24 hours and manage not to lose it by the time of the trial. In fairness, there’s normally more, but this time there wasn’t that much court activity…
- Where there are two barristers for one side (as in this case) they sit one behind another, not side by side
- The Judge would probably hear oral ‘submissions’ not ‘representations’.
- If a jury is discharged in these circumstances, then the trial would probably go ahead in front of the same Judge (not least because it saves the witnesses giving evidence all over again, as happened in this case)
- Barristers are now allowed to talk to the media, but it’s pretty rare that you get one reading a client’s statement from the steps of the Court
- Christ knows what the solicitor in Kris Akron’s police interview was doing, but he should probably have got a bit more involved
- Mr Horgan would have been charged with the murder of Harry Bernstein not a conspiracy to murder him. This is on the basis that he was the instigator. The reason why the prosecution would want a murder charge is that this carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
This obviously happens, but is very rare. The provisions to have a trial by Judge alone is governed by Part 7 Criminal Justice Act 2003. For a good analysis of this issue (and what happens when jury nobbling is suspected during a trial) see Guthrie  EWCA Crim 1338.