Broadchurch Episodes 3 & 4

The series continues with heightened drama but the representation of the legal process is corrupted by the story line. broadchurch1

In episode 3 the prosecution call DC Miller,  the wife of the defendant, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that; the law is that a wife is a competent witness against her husband, but she is not compellable.  What that means is that her evidence is capable of belief but if she declines to give evidence she cannot be forced to do so. In the circumstances where she is known to have assaulted her husband, I think most barristers would be reluctant to call her. She added very little to the issues for the jury.

Episode 4 has a number of glaring errors in the trial scenes. It is a long time since a witness was allowed to make a dock identification. In a real trial, if that was to happen, the defence would ask for the jury to leave the court and make an application for a retrial. Actually it makes Justine look incompetent as she allows the witness to deviate from her witness statement by asking if she recognised the man. There was no need for the question; the witness had given the evidence about seeing a man already, although what evidential value that had was difficult to understand. If the judge ruled that the trial should continue, cross-examination would be much more rigorous. The witness would have been asked about her previous statement, the time she made it and why she had left out the name of the man she saw. It is one of the common mistakes that a witness makes to say I told the police but they left it out. The police officer who took the statement would then be called and would inevitably say that the witness had not identified the person they saw and the defence can then assert that the witness is at best unreliable or a liar.

I did like the part where the defence silk says to her junior who is convinced their client is guilty, ‘Don’t say that. We never know for sure. He gets his defence.’ The sort of comment a real barrister would make to a pupil, particularly one who is described by her opponent as a rottweiler.

 

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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 until I retired and moved to live on Dartmoor. Married, no children but own an affable Springer Spaniel. I love reading and have written a novel called Crucial Evidence set in London Legal

3 responses to “Broadchurch Episodes 3 & 4”

  1. Frank Lives says :

    Notwithstanding the fact that the judge is wearing a barrister’s wig throughout!

    • scribblingadvocate says :

      That’s a small detail compared with all the other things wrong. Do you think it should be more realistic or are you happy with the story line.

      • Frank Lives says :

        The storyline isnt as good as first series although that’s because there is a lack of mystery. I’ve seen worse courtroom dramas so I think it’s one of the more realistic I’ve seen. The confession exclusion has to have been the worst offence so far.

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