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Just a Show or a Trial?

Casting reasonable doubt into the minds of the audience.

Reasonable doubt, the standard of proof in England and Wales for any criminal case. These two little words are the difference between a defendant’s innocence and guilt. However, just because a defence has placed reasonable doubt in the minds of the magistrates or jury does not mean that the person before them is not guilty.

When watching the dramas on TV such as Silent witness, Vera, The Bay, and McDonald & Dodds, whilst all casting reasonable doubt during the episodes or season, the show always draws to a conclusion.

However, this is not real life. According to the ONS in the year April 19 to March 2020, of the 202 individuals indicted for Murder 63,37% were found guilty and 9.9% were acquitted[1]. The remaining 26.73% either had a lesser sentence, were still awaiting trial or had died pending trial. Nevertheless, just because individuals had been found guilty or were acquitted, it does not mean the verdict was correct.

This is where the latest TV show to hit our screens has got it right. I must stop here and say for those that have not watched the final episode of Showtrial, the rest of this article does contain spoilers, so I would recommend if you do not want to know the ending you stop here.

Now, where was I? Oh yes Showtrial, this is where the show got it right. From the first episode it had me gripped not just through another who done it storyline, but through actually showing the reality of what the job of a duty solicitor is.

There were one or two points that I thought they didn’t get right, talking openly about a client in a public place for one and allowing a client to stay at a solicitor’s property for another. On the other hand, it is the closest thing I have seen on TV without being a documentary to the real thing, in terms of how duty solicitors and their roles work.

The details the show went to keep me gripped to a stage my family were shouting at me to stop so they could enjoy the storyline. One of my highlights was a conversation between two of the prosecutors for the CPS when one said ‘if we get this wrong, we will end up as a case study for law students'.

In Episode 4 I thought they got it really wrong when the duty solicitor sat in her wig and gown next to the barrister and later stated she would be ‘handling’ the examination of DC Cassidy on the stand. I loudly exclaimed to everyone in my house ‘only solicitor advocates can do that!’ that’s when the PI questioned her to which she explained she was a solicitor Advocate.

The trial went on, and the more you heard the more doubt was put in your mind as to Tabitha’s (the main suspect in the show) involvement and guilt. By the time the verdict came around, my house was on the edge of their seats praying for a not guilty verdict. I had friends texting me saying the same. In our minds, there was more than enough reasonable doubt to prove her innocence.

When the verdict we hoped for came in we actually shouted and clapped. It was as if it was a real trial, that is how much it had gripped us.

The ending saw Tabitha talking to Cleo ‘We did it Cleo’ ‘We so totally fooled them’ Tabitha went on to laugh ‘Gotcha’. There it was again, the show had put back in our minds reasonable doubt.

That is where the show got it right. Whilst you have a person convicted behind bars for a crime, and someone who was the main suspect free, for the victim’s family that will never give them comfort. There will always be reasonable doubt in their minds if the correct person is behind bars.

The ending left viewers torn, some saying they wanted a conclusion, they were left disappointed and wanted to know what really happened. Others praised the show for a gripping and compelling ending, that let their imaginations run away from them.

For the BBC and Showtrial, they showed real life. Not very often is there a conclusion that leaves the audience wondering if they got the right person or if a guilty person has walked free.

Look around life is full – full of reasonable doubt.

Written By: Victoria-Jayne Scholes

OULS News Editor

[1] Appendix Table 24: All suspects indicted for homicide, by outcome of proceedings and sex of suspect, year ending March 2010 to year ending March 2020

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