24 Sep 2008

A real court drama – The Open University and the BBC present The Barristers

Trainee Barristers are followed in this new series

Trainee Barristers are followed in this new series

TX: BBC TWO, Broadcast dates to be confirmed

From their ranks come prime ministers, judges and social reformers but, of the thousands who start out on the road to becoming a barrister, many do not succeed and even fewer will make it to the top. Years in the making, The Barristers is a ground-breaking fly-on-the-wall documentary produced by an award-winning film crew from BBC Bristol, who were granted unprecedented access to court life.

Co-produced by the BBC and The Open University, The Barristers is a four-part documentary series giving an honest and intimate insight into all aspects of court life – from the young people aspiring to join the profession, up to the most senior QCs and judges. The country’s most powerful profession opens its doors for the first time in its history, revealing the highs and lows of a life in chambers, the struggle of new barristers to balance their vocation against graduate debt and exploring the perceived elitism of this occupation – all at a time when the courts and the Bar are facing great change.

Cinema and fiction about the courts have, to a large degree, shaped people’s perceptions of the legal system. Gary Slapper, Open University Professor of Law and academic advisor to the series, says The Barristers will change this: “People are more aware of the Bar but their knowledge is based on fiction – what goes on in courts and how barristers work are still largely a mystery. The Barristers is path-cutting as a series in so many ways and aims to demystify the legal system and show people the real story. Access to this extent for TV crews is unprecedented – never before has filming taken place within the precinct of the Old Bailey and in the highest court in the land.”

Julian Mercer, Executive Producer of the series, said: "The Barristers is the product of nine years' collaboration with various agencies of our legal system. In Anatomy of a Crime , the same production team followed criminal investigators and prosecutors. Now we're delivering a unique insight into the life and work of advocates in criminal, family and civil law. And we show the many hurdles aspiring barristers must clear simply to get a foot on the lowest rung of the professional ladder."

Tim Dutton QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said: “The Barristers is something of a landmark for our profession. For many years the Bar has tried to communicate the great strides it has taken toward greater inclusiveness. The work done by the Bar Council to make the public aware of our work, and to widen access to a vigorously competitive profession is apparent throughout all four episodes.

“At a time when public funding, which enables the most vulnerable in society to have a voice, is under threat as never before The Barristers demonstrates the vital public service work done by barristers, the long hours we work, and the determination to achieve excellence.”

To accompany the series The Open University is producing a booklet called ‘Ten cases that changed the law’, by Professor Gary Slapper, outlining historic legal cases that have developed our system and influenced new laws.

Gary continued: “The English legal system is something people should be very proud of. Our society is based on rules, and the legal system ensures they can be enforced. The law courts are an essential organ of democracy; and the Bar is the blood that makes this organ work. Although the courts aren’t an everyday part of people’s lives, they are absolutely integral to our way of life.”

The Open University, which produces more Law graduates than any other institution in the UK, now has a new entry level law course, Starting With Law, aimed at those who are interested in knowing more about the legal profession and who may be thinking of pursuing a career in law.

Editor’s Notes

For additional pictures please contact k.hardwick@open.ac.uk

The Barristers is a co-production between The Open University and the BBC.
The Executive Producer for the BBC is Julian Mercer.
BBC Commissioning Executive for the Open University is Emma De’Ath.
The Broadcast Learning Executive for The Open University is Caroline Ogilvie.
The Open University nominated academic for the series is Professor Gary Slapper.

Associated Open University courses and programmes:-
Y166 – Starting with Law
W100 – Rules, Rights and Justice
W150: An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland
W200 – Understanding Law
W201 – Law: The individual and the State
W221: Employment Law and practice
W222: Business and consumer transactions: law and practice
W223: Company Law and practice
W300 – Law: agreements, rights and responsibilities
W301 – Ownership and Trusteeship: rights and responsibilities
B05 – Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
E06 – Diploma in English Law
C77 – Certificate in Legal Studies

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