Silk on BBC

I really enjoy this series, although at times the errors in the legal process make me want to squirm. The courtroom scenes are awful – it just isn’t like that and no-one who behaved as Martha Costello does would ever get Silk.

However the tensions that arose in this first episode are very real. I’ve been in the Court of Appeal (awful place three ghouls ready to tear every comment, every argument to shreds particularly if you defend ) and wanted to shout at the judges that they are being unfair and can’t they see how the evidence has been concocted. But, you don’t do it, you sit in your seat, stand when you have to stand you do it, and show respect to the court even if you don’t feel

Then there is the criticism that Martha is too emotional. Clive Reader tells her in this first episode that she is acting like the client’s mother not his lawyer and that is another conflict in a legal life, trying to be as objective as you can because that  is the best thing for your client. The reason for that is that if you fight a case you can’t possibly win and the client is convicted then he will be given a tougher sentence than he would if he pleaded guilty. In this episode I believe the correct course of action would have been for the client David Cowdray to have pleaded guilty to manslaughter ( the Crown would probably have accepted that on the basis that he could not have reasonably foreseen that pushing the police officer would result in him falling and hitting his head on a metal lamp post which then resulted in his death ) The court would then have asked for Social Enquiry Reports which would have identified his schizophrenia. Martha could then have argued that instead of a prison sentence he should receive a Hospital Order for him to be treated for his illness.  So bad law but good story line.

There is another rule broken for the sake of the drama; never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. The photographs taken of the police officers together outside a house while one of them was still giving evidence did reveal a breach of the rules, but no barrister would use that without knowing whose house it was. In the scene where David’s girlfriend confirms that he had a camera and the police took it, Martha realises she can’t call her as a witness because when she was cross examined by counsel for the prosecution she would give evidence that would support the Crown’s case. These are the sort of decisions a barrister makes every day, the programme makes them more  extreme.

The senior clerk Billy Lamb could have been based on my original clerk. Old fashioned, not really interested in change. I am looking forward to the arguments between him and the new practice manager Harriet.

Looking forward to Episode 2.

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About scribblingadvocate

Born in Lancashire, Law degree from Sheffield University and MA in Creative Writing from Exeter. A barrister for twenty five years, who appeared in the Crown Courts in and around London. When I retired we moved to live in Devon, first on Dartmoor, more recently overlooking the Exe Estuary. After twenty years I still feel an exile from London. Married, no children but own an affable Springer Spaniel. I love reading, walking and travel. I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Exeter University and have written three books, Crucial Evidence, Reluctant Consent and Legal Privilege, all set in London. You can email me

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