After nearly two years of negotiations, Windfall has secured access from the Scottish Court Service, which confirmed to Broadcast this week that it has granted permission to film during murder trials in the High Court for the first time.
C4 declined to provide details of Murder Trial (working title) but said it would offer a “fascinating and rarely seen insight into the inner workings of the High Court”, and a view of the “legal process and human drama of each case”.
Broadcast understands it will follow multiple murder trials from start to finish and reveal the background of both the cases and the people involved as they progress.
The series was ordered by documentaries commissioning editor Mark Raphael and has been earmarked to TX in 2012. It will be series produced and directed by Nick Holt, who won a Bafta this year for BBC1’s Between Life And Death.
One source said Windfall had been granted access because of “the time it has taken interviewing people, getting to know the Scottish system and understanding the problems it will have to overcome”.
Those include the need for further permission from the Crown Office, the prison service and the police.
Executive producer Kate Barker has been leading the negotiations, and Broadcast understands the series could only air once the cases involved have concluded and a verdict has been delivered.
The indie will also have to gain consent from each individual featured in the series, as part of the stipulations for filming in the Scottish courts that were laid down in 1992. Filming is still forbidden in courts in England and the last significant Scottish courtroom series was BBC2’s The Trial in 1994.
Former BBC Scotland head of legal Alistair Bonnington worked on The Trial and warned of the difficulties and expense involved. “It was so difficult to make, it put everybody off doing it again. I would not advise any company to make a programme like this,” he said this week.
Broadcasters are currently lobbying for cameras to be allowed into English courtrooms. The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who oversees the Crown Prosecution Service in England, has said he supports the presence of cameras in civil and criminal courts “in principle”.