Barrister/Solicitor in UK in "Broadchurch"
January 13, 2015 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American watching right now (well, paused it to ask this question) the most recent episode of Broadchurch. I've been a bit confused about Charlotte Rampling's character, but because I read a bit about the barrister/solicitor distinction, I assumed that the idea was that she's an ace barrister and would be the one representing the prosecution in court.

Okay, but now with what she does in this episode and what the defense team are doing in this episode, everyone seems to be more like in the American mode where they're all both solicitors and barristers -- the barrister for the defense who appeared in the previous courtroom scene is working as a solicitor in planning the defense, and Rampling's character is apparently solely going to be planning the prosecution and acting as a barrister in court. I do understand that there's increasing numbers of lawyers doing both, but this is all very confusing to this American.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also with the prosecution apparently all being conducted by a private individual and at the behest of the victim's family with no apparent involvement with the state at all. That just seems really weird to me as an American.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2015

I can't believe I'm linking to the Daily Mail, but:
'Very annoying watching such twaddle': Fans complain ITV crime drama Broadchurch is littered with legal inaccuracies

I wouldn't put much stock in it to actually understand any real legal system.
posted by zachlipton at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

FWIW, private prosecutions are definitely a thing that exist in the UK. Unfortunately they don't track numbers so I (or, I think, anyone) can't tell you how common it is. Here is the Crown's fact sheet on it.

Not a UK lawyer and haven't seen it so I have no opinion on the main thrust of your question.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:08 PM on January 13, 2015

I'm not a UK lawyer but I study the UK legal system and my sense is that it's very unlikely that a prosecution for murder or manslaughter would be privately conducted rather than conducted by the CPS. That seems like the definition of a standard case where it's in the public interest to prosecute and the idea of a private prosecution is especially weird given that the case was preceded by a police investigation. I haven't watched the episode but is there any explanation of why the police didn't refer the matter to the CPS once they decided there was enough evidence to prosecute? The only reason I can think of is that the police and CPS decided that there wasn't enough admissible evidence to secure a conviction and abandoned the case and then the family decided to try a private prosecution as an alternative.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:27 AM on January 14, 2015

Response by poster: He pleaded not guilty at whatever the equivalent to an arraignment hearing is, immediately after which the worried and distraught family of the victims, on their own and on the advice of someone I don't recognize, decided to approach this supposedly highly regarded lawyer to prosecute the case. For fear, I guess, that a CPS prosecution would be ineffective. I'll take a look at the scene again...

Okay, the quote from that person after being asked "what happens now?" was "It's a full trial, I'm afraid. We need to make sure that the CPS finds you the best QC..." What does QC stand for?

Can you answer my question about the solicitor/barrister distinction, too? Is it that in fact this distinction has mostly broken down in at least these kinds of cases or is it that the show has just conveniently ignored the distinction for dramatic purposes? (And I also sort of wonder how influenced by American media courtroom dramas this all is.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2015

QC = Queen's Counsel.

CPS can engage private barristers to assist them in complex cases, says Wikipedia.

Haven't been watching Broadchurch myself.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:01 AM on January 14, 2015

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