The Murder Trial: Channel 4 plans to televise major UK court cases using One Born Every Minute format

Next week's documentary about a high profile Scottish murder trial is just the first in what the broadcaster hopes will be many more

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The Independent Culture

Channel 4 will kick off its intention to televise major court cases in the UK with a two-hour documentary called The Murder Trial.

It is only the second time cameras have been allowed to film a murder trial in Britain, and the first time an entire case has been filmed, although the practise is popular in America.

The documentary, which airs on Tuesday 9 July, follows the case of a man accused of murdering his wife in 1998 and the broadcaster promises front row access to “one of the notorious and high-profile trials of recent Scottish history”.

The subject is a retrial of Nat Fraser who was convicted in 2003 of the murder of his wife, Arlene, mother to their two young children, in 1998.

His conviction was quashed in 2011 as a miscarriage of justice.

The documentary will follow what happens during a fresh six-week trial at the high court in Edinburgh which took place last year.

No trace of Arlene’s body has ever been found.

Channel 4 says viewers will have “extraordinary access” to the process of justice, including hearing evidence from key witnesses.

Director Nick Holt, who won a Bafta for his 2010 documentary Between Life and Death, which followed patients in a brain injury unit, told The Independent last month that it was time to reconsider the role of the television camera in the legal process.

“We talk a great deal about open justice but we have to have a debate about how open justice can be. There is a public gallery for a reason. You are tried by your peers, there in the jury box, and watched by the public gallery,” he said.

“We have a right to see this process which costs us an enormous amount of money and which we are very good at and very thorough at. There is nothing to hide, nothing shameful going on. The process of filming demystifies the legal process.”

Negotiations with the Scottish Court Service and the Lord President’s Office began in 2009. Before filming, all judges in Scotland were consulted, but shooting was postponed at the last minute because of legal concerns.

The Lord President, Lord Gill, has now ordered a halt on all filming applications in the wake of the Channel 4 film to review the policy of allowing cameras in.

But Channel 4 has made it clear that The Murder Trial is the first of what it intends to become a frequent subject for its documentary makers.

"It is our intention to do more," Channel 4 documentary commissioner Nick Mirsky told The Guardian. "For Channel 4 it is a really good thing to do. At Channel 4, do we feel that justice should be open? Yes we do. We all as taxpayers pay for this. It is useful we invest in this."

Channel 4 has previously put film cameras into hospital emergency and maternity departments for shows such as One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours in A&E. It has used similar techniques while filming The Murder Trial.

The documentary will be shown as some courts in England prepare to open their doors to fixed cameras in October.