Trial by television takes a dramatic twist

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The Independent Online
ONCE to watch TV actors play out a courtroom drama in front of a jury of real people you had to be taking a sickie. The three- day format of Crown Court in the Seventies meant people often extended their sick leave after they were well so they could see the verdict from fictitious Fulchester on a Friday afternoon. But now it is back and you won't have to lie to your boss.

This summer ITV is resurrecting the Crown Court format in Accused, a weekly hour-long courtroom drama that will air in the evening peak time. Actors will again play the defence, prosecution, witnesses and judges, while members of the public will form the jury, and come to an unscripted verdict.

ITV announced the new show in its Spring and Summer season launch yesterday and hinted that the viewing figures for the Louise Woodward trial had influenced its thinking.

"There is scope for a court room drama in peak time," said David Liddiment, ITV's director of programming. "The idea of using members of the public for the jury has always been an attractive idea. Crown Court used to have fantastic writers and powerful stories and I want this to be a modern drama with really contemporary stories." Mr Liddiment said that using real people in a jury was the closest television could come to Court TV in America which attracts big audiences for major trials. In the UK, satellite channel Sky News quadrupled its viewing figures when it followed the Woodward trial.

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