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Crown Court is back on ITV with Judge Rinder

PUBLISHED: 00:46 04 December 2017

Crown Court is returning to ITV with Judge Rinder passing judgement

Crown Court is returning to ITV with Judge Rinder passing judgement

ITV

The classic courtroom daytime drama from the 1970s and 1980s will return to ITV with Judge Rinder presiding over a murder case

It was ideal afternoon TV viewing for anyone who fancied getting their teeth into a legal dilemma and now, after a hiatus of more than 30 years, Crown Court is back on ITV with a new judge presiding over the case and a new jury – us.

Crown Court was a long-running drama based in the fictional Fulchester Crown Court and saw cases split into three episodes; the first dealing with the case for the prosecution, the second with the case for the defence, the third showing the summing up and verdict, which came from a group of real people rather than actors (other than the foreperson).

ITV is bringing back Crown Court in a brand new primetime slot at 8pm on Friday and the presiding judge will be star-spangled barrister Judge Robert Rinder. In addition to being shown in the evening rather than the afternoon, the show will also differ in other ways: the jury will be the viewers themselves and the case is a two-part murder trial inspired by a real-life case of arsenic poisoning. Presumably one from a few years ago – it’s not easy getting hold of arsenic these days. Or so I’m told.

The programme will present the case of James Byron, accused of murdering his wife. Doctors, police, friends and family members will portray him as an adulterous and callous man with “a penchant for poison” but there is a hint of doubt: did his wife commit suicide, instead? Or was it a tragic accident? (Did she, for example, mistake it for mouthwash?)

After the case, Judge Rinder will reveal the verdict of the original jury; guilty as charged, or will James be a free man? In the meantime, let’s travel back to 1972 and see what the original Crown Court was all about. My Nan loved it, although her verdict was always that hanging was too good for them all. Even the innocent ones.

The case for Crown Court:

* The series began in 1972 after ITV decided to add a further 20 hours of television to its weekly schedule.

* Subject matters didn’t flinch from being controversial – there were storylines about rape, terrorism, domestic violence, drug abuse, murder, racism, espionage and infanticide, all of which were put before a jury of real people rather than actors.

* Writers included the playwright John Godber and Jeremy Sandford, who wrote Cathy Come Home.

* The show was based on an earlier, unscripted, programme called The Verdict is Yours, which had run from 1958 to 1963. Anglia Television revamped the show to become The Verdict, but only four episodes were broadcast in 1996.

* Writing Crown Court scripts was notoriously difficult because they needed to be accurate, authentic and evenly balanced. Often, the actors involved didn’t know whether or not their character was guilty.

* The stories in Crown Court take place in the fictional town of Fulchester. The town’s name was later adopted by Viz comic who used it as the base for characters including Billy the Fish.

* The show was a training ground for many aspiring actors who went on to have successful careers following their appearance in court - Peter Capaldi played a rockabilly with a Flock of Seagulls-style bright red haircut (he was a witness for the defence, although by rights his fringe should have been in the dock), Fawlty Towers’ Polly (Connie Booth) played a lawyer in a rape case (Manuel, Andrew Sachs, was a barrister in 1978) while Jim Broadbent was a journalist in 1984 who was accused of obtaining secrets from a civil servant.

* In 1975, that nice Nigel Havers tuned in a dropped out as a velvet loon pants wearing cannabis smoker and three years later, Pauline Quirke was in trouble as a thieving hotel warden. And while Honor Blackman may have been an Avenger and a Bond Girl, in 1979 she was in the dock accused of malicious libel while Liza Goddard was on trial for attempted murder in 1978 and Philip Glenister was a charmer who may have defrauded his love interest in 1979.

* Other stars who appeared included Peter Sallis, Juliet Stevenson, Ben Kingsley, Brenda Fricker, Colin Firth, Derek Griffiths, Bob Hoskins and Michael Elphick.

* Running from October 1972 until March 1984, and consisting of 879 thirty minute episode over 11 series, it was, and is still is the longest running fictional court room drama series.

* The jury were picked on the basis that they were eligible for jury service in the Granada Television area.

* Elizabeth Dawn – who would later play Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street – can be seen in some episodes as a non-speaking prison officer.

* The famous theme music was Sinfonietta 4th movement by Janáček, and each episode closed with Simon Parks ‘Distant Hills’.

* Crown Court is on ITV at 8pm on Friday December 8.

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