I have to admit that Silk has been one of my favourite TV Dramas of the last few years. It manages to combine a bit of realism – especially the portrayal of the Barristers’ clerks and the power that they can exert – with the pure fantasy of a young pupil stealing his first wig! There are also great performances from Maxine Peak as Martha Costelllo QC and Rupert Penry Jones as Clive. The new series begins on BBC 1 tonight. I have it on series record already.
There is something compelling about courtroom dramas, from the dry humour of Rumpole to the wonderful Judge John Deed who managed to sit in judgement, appear for both sides and maintain a romance with the only barrister who ever appeared in his court.
But even these do not match the drama of the real thing.
I can remember spending far too many hours glued to my TV screen during the OJ Simpson and Louise Woodward trials in the USA a few years back. I found myself watching them with that same sense of nervous excitement and fear that I would have if they were my own cases.
We may soon be experiencing similar dramas over here.
In the Queens speech last week the Government confirmed a commitment to permitting the filming of court proceedings. This has been warmly welcomed by the main broadcasters who, in a joint statement, have said;
"The presence of cameras in our courtrooms will lead to greater public engagement and understanding of our legal system. We look forward to working closely with the judiciary and the government to ensure that justice will now truly be seen to be done."
Of course it is not all OJ Simpson style glamour and drama. Many court hearings can be rather technical and dull – not always good TV. But there can also be moments of high drama and it will be fascinating to see how this works out.
However, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this will lead to more open justice when, at the same time, there are proposals to hold some court hearings in absolute secrecy. That is actually a far more disturbing proposition.
I would love to hear Ms Costello QC arguing that one!