'This is my major problem with Channel 4's The Jury: Murder Trial'

(Rob Parfitt / Channel 4)
The Jury: Murder Trial presented a re-enactment of a real-life murder trial in front of two different juries to see if they came to the same conclusion. (Channel 4)

You could argue that Channel 4 finally fulfilled its public service remit this week by giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how a jury works.

Well, considering the well-documented delays in our justice system right now, it was probably the closest many of us will get to experiencing jury service.

Unfortunately, there was one small problem with The Jury: Murder Trial. At no point during its (admittedly gripping) four-night run was I convinced by Channel 4’s claims about how real it was.

When I did jury service a few years back I don’t even recall telling any of the other jurors my name, never mind sitting down for coffee and cake and discussing the trial with them outside of the deliberation room. Also, I don’t recall the barristers striding around the courtroom as if they were auditioning for a Legally Blonde remake.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure the judge did a lengthy summing up at the end. For some reason Channel 4 didn’t think this programme needed to include that fairly important piece of legal business.

Pictured (L-R): Lorell, Ollie, Sonia, Adam (Channel 4)
When I did jury service a few years back I don’t even recall telling any of the other jurors my name, never mind sitting down for coffee and cake. (Channel 4)

Anyway, that’s as much as I am prepared to tell you about my own experience. I don’t fancy ending up in the dock myself on contempt charges.

What I can say is that a hot and stuffy courtroom is the very worst place to spend the day with a curry sweats hangover. (Come on, it was my birthday. It had been in the diary for months.) To be fair, my turning up slightly worse for wear didn’t really affect my ability to perform my civic duty.

Read more: The Jury: Murder Trial viewers feel lied to after spotting clue

I certainly feel I did a better job than some of the jurors Channel 4 recruited for this TV experiment, in which two juries “watch the same trial, but will they come up with the same verdict?”.

And that was the other problem with this programme. Channel 4 wasn’t really creating two random real-life juries. It was casting an entertainment show.

Pictured (L-R): Lorell, Ollie, Sonia, Adam, William, Emily, Jodie, Junior(Rob Parfitt / Channel 4)
It felt like Channel 4 was casting for a game show when it came to its jury selection. (Channel 4)

It was almost as if someone at network HQ had watched The Traitors and thought “Hmmm, how can we get a group of normal people to sit around a table in a big room arguing about good and evil?”

In that sense, Channel 4 very much got what it paid for. Okay, so none of the 24 participants went quite as far as waving “Look Mum, I’m on telly!”.

They brought many of the other scourges of modern-day reality shows into that jury room with them though. The main one being our old friend, herd mentality.

Plus, in more than one case a glaring lack of self-awareness was coupled with a staggering fondness for self-promotion. This left me thinking they actually believed their life stories and their truths were more important and relevant than the criminal case they were supposed to be discussing.

Pictured: Defence Barrister - Xavier Ahmad QC (Christopher Simpson) addressing the two juries. (Rob Parfitt / Channel 4)
Despite this, the show was gripping from start to finish because Channel 4’s editing whizzkids did a great job of keeping us engrossed. (Channel 4)

To my shame, I cannot deny that this made for great television. Like millions of viewers, I was hooked from the first night. I spent the rest of the week trying to decide whether the defendant was guilty of murder or not. Given how much the guy playing him looked like a younger version of Brian Potter’s nemesis from Phoenix Nights, this mainly involved me shouting “Den Perry did it!” at regular intervals.

In the cold light of day, I realise that treating a real-life murder trial like it’s a gameshow is not a good look for anyone involved — especially when you consider the real-life victim’s family may well have been watching as their loved one was dragged on national TV by a bunch of Big Brother wannabes.

You get sucked in though. And Channel 4’s editing whizzkids did a great job of keeping us engrossed. I totally ignored the fact that I was being served a cleverly-edited three-hour highlights package of what had actually been a full eight-day trial. Didn’t even ask myself “I wonder if they left anything important out?”

Sadly, the “Day 5 in the Jury Room” aspect of the programme meant I took with a pinch of salt anything it may or may not have had to say about the state of our justice system.

Pictured (L-R) : Defence Junior - Mr Michael Day (Edward Wolstenholme), Defence Barrister Xavier Ahmad QC (Christopher Simpson), Court Clerk (Sonya Orlav)(Rob Parfitt / Channel 4)
It was easy to forget we were being served a three hour highlights package of an eight day trial. (Channel 4)

Plus, I could not shake the nagging feeling that Channel 4 must have somehow weighted the juries in order to produce the shock outcome that the format clearly demanded: that two different juries would come up with two different verdicts.

On reflection, is it that much of a shock? Surely it would only be natural for it to happen from time to time. I’m guessing that’s why retrials exist. The legal experts that Channel 4 spoke to didn’t seem overly convinced by the project either.

However, one of them, barrister Alex McBride, delivered the quote of the week as he shared his thoughts on the jury system in general. “You’re spinning the wheel of justice,” he explained. “You might get lucky, you might not.”

And if some of Channel 4’s cast are sitting on your jury you might get really unlucky.

The Jury: Murder Trial is available to watch on Channel 4 now.