Channel 4 to axe `outdated' criminal justice show

TRIAL AND ERROR, the highly-regarded programme which investigates miscarriages of justice, is to be axed by Channel 4 despite its reputation as "the network's conscience".

The Trial and Error team, headed by campaigner David Jessel, will air one of its final investigations on 26July - into the conviction of Sion Jenkins of the murder of his foster daughter Billy-Jo. The case made headlines last year after 13-year-old Billy-Jo was killed by a metal spike in the garden of her Hastings home. Explaining the programme decision, a Channel 4 spokesman said: "The point about Channel 4 is that you move forward, and have to keep reinventing yourself." He said that the methods of Trial and Error, including in-depth examination of forensic evidence, will still be used to uncover miscarriages of justice. These will appear within the Channel's Dispatches strand, and will be presented by Jessel. The spokesman added that, while the arrangement for two or three Trial and Error programmes a year is to end, there may still be occasional individual investigations using the programme's title and format.

Just Television, the company which makes Trial and Error, has received a second blow. Channel 4 has decided not to renew its contract to provide an in-house investigation team for Dispatches. The contract expires in September.

"It seems that Channel 4 was no longer prepared to put up the money for a strong inside investigative unit, and wants to take one-off bids from independents instead," television executives said. Insiders at the BBC said the Jessel team, which used to produce the BBC's rival programme Rough Justice, left the corporation in 1992, protesting that the BBC had not offered them sufficient commitment.

"If Trial and Error is to go, while Rough Justice still survives, then perhaps that shows that the Jessel team should have stayed in the BBC all along," said one Corporation executive. Jessel said yesterday: "Channel 4 has always stood by us and sponsored investigative journalism and I'm sure the commitment is going to continue."

Trial and Error has taken up 15 cases during its six-year run at Channel 4.