Silk (Series 3, Episode 1)

Silk_(TV_series) 1


Forget Law and Order UK, everyone’s favourite legal drama Silk is back (24th February 2014) to kick off the third series. Here’s a legal look at it (written up as the programme was airing, so apologies if it’s a bit disjointed).



Series 3 kicks off with an appeal being dismissed by the Court of Appeal. There’s then a party (for Clive becoming a QC) in the Royal Courts of Justice at which Martha and Clive begin to get it on in what looks likes Courtroom 7, before Martha puts a damper on it by passing out.

Then, it all gets a bit more serious. Martha’s head of chambers, Alex Cowdrey QC, has a problem. His son has been nicked for attacking a copper at a demonstration and so half of Chambers run down to the police station.

The police officer has died and so David is up for murder. For some reason both Martha and Clive are representing him (two silks is pretty good going) and they go off for a bail application. The prosecutor is deeply unpleasant and winds Martha up. Clive decides not to go to Manchester where he’s been offered a four month fraud so he can help out.

So, we move to the trial. The prosecutor is still being quite slippery but Martha’s going for the partial confession that David has made. She smells corruption. And a breach of PACE. And then the clerks have got some evidence that the police officers have been talking overnight and going to the home of the widow when they shouldn’t have done.

Next up is Inspector Wright who is pretty bullish. But it all falls apart when it turns out that he has added words to his notebook during the trial. Worse still for the prosecution, their star witness admits that he is giving evidence because the police promised to stop harassing his brother. He does stick to his guns that David was the aggressor.

It’s 50-50 as Martha says. But then David’s girlfriend refuses to give evidence because she says David was actually being aggressive. And, as Martha finds out, it turns out that David is schizophrenic and was hearing voices at the demonstration.

Cue ethical dilemma. Despite the lawyers around her cautioning her to raise the mental health issues and get a new trial, she goes ahead and makes a closing speech that is sailing very close to the wind ethically.

The jury come back and we find out that (1) David was only up for Manslaughter and (2) The jury have acquitted him of that.

Meanwhile, there is a side plot that involves a realistic (if dramatised) tension in the clerks room between the old school Billy and the new world of Practice Managers.




Silk is top quality drama. Well written, well constructed and well acted. But frankly you wouldn’t come to us for a drama review, so we won’t carry on too much more pretending to be TV critics. It’s generally very accurate (as far as legal dramas go) and so when we set out the following factual issues, don’t be too critical of us :


 A couple of points:

  • An appeal is dismissed not refused (I know, that makes us sound a little bit anal).
  • The Custody Sergeant points out that barristers don’t go to the police station. This is actually no longer the case (plenty do) but whilst the father would be there as an appropriate adult (to look after his interests if he is under 18 – it’s a bit unclear) Martha and Billy wouldn’t be allowed in.
  • It’s pretty unlikely that Martha would be independent enough to represent her head of Chambers son (although not a complete given). Most likely the prosecution and defence would get lawyers in from out of London)
  • Martha and Clive wouldn’t be interviewing potential witness like David’s girlfriend. This is, however, a TV staple and makes for good viewing. Without that it would be a bit disjointed.
  • Someone such as David (young boy with no previous convictions) would probably get bail, even though this is a murder/manslaughter
  • The questioning of Inspector Wright may have been stopped by the Judge as it got a little bit heated
  • The trial would probably not have carried on once David’s mental health issues became clear (that’s a big one, but a bit of dramatic licence is needed)



A great opener to the third series. There are a couple of inaccuracies, but partly because of the strength of the writing and acting, they do not disturb a lawyer’s enjoyment of the show.

See you next Monday …

Silk_(BBC_One) 2

This entry was posted in In the news on by .

About Dan Bunting

I'm a lawyer who works for myself. Legal geek, maths freak, general dullard and jack of all trades. Here’s a few views on law and occasional musings on life. Usual caveats about not relying on anything I say etc applies.

5 thoughts on “Silk (Series 3, Episode 1)

  1. Jan Scott

    Bit confused. Yeah, it’s fiction but as a ICV I’ve never seen anyone interviewed in a custody suite cell. In my local nick detainees are always as far as I know taken to a room to talk with their briefs. When I asked this on Twitter (happy to learn) I was told it WS frequent. Is my nick an exception?

    1. Jan Scott

      Please ignore this as you answered it via Twitter. That the respondent was thinking of court cells not police station cells, where rooms are provided for consultation with legal reps.

      Nice to see the custody record used but the custody Sgt doing the half hour checks? All of them? Nah, that’s what detention officers are for.

  2. John Allman

    I just watched it myself. I think you have been too lenient, Dan.

    I am not a lawyer mind you. But I did receive a schizophrenia diagnosis myself in 2002, although I learnt of this only last year. I’ve also attended, and even organised, demonstrations. In 2004 I gave a TV interview about hearing voices. I passed the CPE in 1995, and the selection procedure for the Inns of Court School of Law, but couldn’t take up my place. I have successfully defended myself in a magistrates’ court, and was awarded a costs order against the police. With this limited background, I noticed some annoying or puzzling content beyond that which you mentioned, Dan.

    Firstly, I didn’t notice a defence case being put at all. (The possible defences were self-defence and insanity, but the evidence for either was weak. McNaughton Rules insanity is a high hurdle to jump. Mere schizophrenia diagnoses, on the other hand, are handed out willy nilly.) Is a jury normally asked to decide whether there is case to answer at the end of a prosecution case like this, before any defence case is put? If so, then the question to the jury wasn’t “guilty” or “not guilty”, but “case to answer” or “no case to answer”, wasn’t it, surely?

    Secondly, isn’t the phrase “diminished responsibility” only relevant when there is a homicide with the mens rea of murder, but proof (to the civil standard?) of an impaired mental state?

    Why would the trial have needed to be stopped if the accused had been hearing unexplained human speech at the time of the offence, Dan?

    Where the heck did the diagnosis of schizophrenia spring from out of the blue? Do barristers diagnose schizophrenia, or is that still the job of a psychiatrist? My anti-mental health stigma buddies would probably find the entire episode politically incorrect, because of the disablist stereotyping of folk on the schizophrenia spectrum.

    There was also no evidence that the accused’s unlawful actions were the cause of the victim’s death.

    Could the “refused” rather than “dismissed” in the case of the appeal at the beginning have referred to the refusal of permission to appeal?

    I found the first episode of the first series of Silk promising, but it became more like a soap opera written by people running out of plot ideas since then, in my opinion. I doubt there’s quite as much romance, drama, intrigue, office politics, corruption and plain old sexual immorality in the average set. Is there??? And all this emotion! Like real lawyers (any more than health professionals, or soldiers in battle, or relief workers in famine-stricken zones) continue to have normal human feelings, about people’s lives been saved or destroyed, all in a day’s work?

    The formula works though. Every episode, the courtroom drama junkie gets the happy ending of a verdict, whilst the soap plot rumbles on and on in the background for 18 or more episodes.

  3. Pingback: Silk (Series 3, Episode 2) | UK Criminal Law Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s