A court case in the crown court of the fictional town of Fulchester (a name later adopted by Viz) would typically be played out over three afternoons in 25-minute episodes. The most frequent format was for the prosecution case to be presented in the first two episodes and the defence in the third, although there were some later, brief variations.
Unlike some other legal dramas, the cases in Crown Court were presented from a relatively neutral point of view and the action was confined to the courtroom itself, with occasional brief glimpses of waiting areas outside the courtroom. Although those involved in the case were actors, the jury was made up of members of the general public from the immediate Granada Television franchise area taken from the electoral register and eligible for real jury service: it was this jury alone, which decided the verdict. Indeed, contemporary production publicity stated that, for almost all of the scripts, two endings were written and rehearsed to cope with the jury's independent decision, which was delivered for the first time, as in a real court case, while the programme's recording progressed. However, the course of some cases would lead to the jury being directed to return 'not guilty' verdicts.
After an unscreened pilot (see 'Untransmitted stories' below), the first story to be shown was Lieberman v Savage (18 to 20 October 1972). Unusually this was a civil case, whereas the vast majority of subsequent instalments featured criminal trials, with only occasional civil cases such as libel, insurance or copyright claims.
There were some subtle changes in presentation in the early years. In the first year or so stories often opened with photographs of key figures or incidents around the alleged offence over which the court reporter would narrate the background to the case. In other instances there were filmed sequences but these were without dialogue and rarely showed the alleged offence. They were phased out a little earlier than the photos. Thereafter the action would immediately start in the courtroom.
Although the standard format was stories of three 25-minute episodes there were occasional variations. In 1973 there was one story of just one episode and another comprising two. In July and August 1975 a number of stories were presented in single extended episodes at 8.15pm on Saturdays—a prime time scheduling. They occupied a slot of 75 minutes (just over one hour for the story on-screen after adverts are taken into account). This was a brief interlude and the programme reverted to its standard format and daytime location thereafter.
The series was occasionally humorous and was even capable of self-parody. On 27 December 1973 a 52-minute self-contained episode Murder Most Foul had a distinctly light-hearted theme and even featured special Christmas-style titles and music. The 1977 story An Upward Fall, written by absurdistplaywrightN. F. Simpson, was played as a comedy. This bizarre case featured an old people's home built atop a 3,000-foot cliff; its only lavatories were located at the foot of the cliff. Other stories were deadly serious, such as the story Treason in which a White Congolese man is found guilty by the jury and sentenced to death for treason by the court (a crime formally still punishable by execution under British law at that time).
An untransmitted pilot called Doctor's Neglect? was eventually broadcast as part of a repeat run on satellite channel Legal TV over 30 years later, and again on Talking Pictures TV commencing Monday 9th January 2023. Like the first transmitted episode, this was a civil case—in this instance relating to negligence. The pilot story differs in style in some important respects. In particular, it features informal conversations between the barristers in their quarters as well as them giving advice to clients. Neither aspect figured in episodes from the broadcast run itself, which strictly confined legal discussions to the courtroom. The episode also has no jury; the case is decided by a judge alone. David Ashford, a regular in the programme's early stages as barrister Charles Lotterby, plays a different barrister called Derek Jones. Actors Ernest Hare and David Neal make their only appearances, as a judge and barrister respectively.
This was not the only example of untransmitted stories. In February 1974 the scheduled Traffic Warden's Daughter was replaced by The Getaway. In 1979 Heart To Heart, intended for transmission from 15 to 17 April, was replaced by a repeat of A Ladies' Man (originally broadcast 15–17 February 1977). Although neither story was ever broadcast on terrestrial TV they both received airings on Legal TV and have since been released on DVD.
Although the (non-speaking) jury members were members of the general public, the foreman of the jury would have a small speaking role to deliver their verdict. For this reason the part of the foreman had to be played by a professional actor to stay within the rules imposed on Granada by the actors' union Equity.
All episodes of a story would be recorded on the same day.
The show was usually recorded in Studio Two at Granada Television; Crown Court shared the studio with University Challenge. Before Crown Court began transmission, its courtroom set was used for the court scenes in an episode of the sitcomNearest and Dearest, A Pair of Bloomers (transmitted on 20 July 1972); indeed, actor Malcolm Hebden played a court clerk in this episode as well as in several early episodes of Crown Court.
Originally the set was of plain, light-coloured wood panel. In the mid-'70s this was replaced with darker wood in more ornate carvings. In the '80s the courtroom incorporated marble wall panels and copious red padding on much of the furniture. The depiction of the royal arms also changed, initially having the shield fully enclosed by the Garter circlet but later having it in front.
In an effort to make the replica courtroom appear as realistic as possible to the 'jury', each episode was recorded as 'live', with retakes kept to an absolute minimum. The cameras (which at the time of production were large and cumbersome and required an operator to be present) were placed at strategic points and largely kept static, thus reducing any possible distraction caused by production requirements.
The jury were given only 30 minutes to reach their verdict.
Episodes included a brief voice-over narration by Peter Wheeler at the beginning either to introduce the context of the case (for the first episode of a story) or to summarise the events of the case so far (for the later episodes of a story).
Early episodes of the series took the case name as the episode title, e.g. Lieberman v Savage (transmitted 18–20 October 1972) and "Regina v Lord" (25–27 October 1972). After the first eight cases, a short description of the issues in the case was added to the episode titles, such as Criminal Libel: Regina v Maitland (27–29 December 1972) and A Public Mischief: Regina v Baker And Crawley (31 January – 2 February 1973). This style persisted until Regina v Marlow: Freakout (7–9 March 1973); following these episodes the case title was dropped and episode titles became purely descriptive and remained so until the show ended in 1984.
All episodes of Crown Court exist in PAL colour as originally transmitted, including the postponed Heart to Heart.
After the pilot "Doctor's Neglect?", the programme's opening theme was the opening bars of the Fourth Movement (Allegretto) of Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček.
After the pilot "Doctor's Neglect?", the closing theme tune is Distant Hills, the B-side of the 1973 UK number 1 hit by the Simon Park Orchestra, Eye Level, which was the theme tune to the Amsterdam-based detective series Van der Valk.
Episode 64's story about a procedure on an operating table, (vide infra 'List of Episodes'), displays an on-screen title, 'Tables of the Heart'; yet, in the DVD liner story notes it's called 'Tales of the Heart'. It's also the first episode which when the on-screen title 'The Verdict' briefly appears, just before the Jury's denouement is announced, the Narrator's voiceover explains that they are real members of the public.
Repeats and commercial availability
Legal TV and UK Satellite channel Red TV showed episodes from the series until December 2008 when Red TV rebranded itself from an entertainment channel to a music channel.
Satellite channel Granada Plus repeated a number of episodes from series one and two in the late-1990s.
Despite the almost full archive of broadcast quality episodes the series has never been repeated on ITV since the late 1980s.
The story The Eleventh Commandment was included as an extra on Network DVD's 2007 release of The Sandbaggers Series 3 as it features the series' lead actor Roy Marsden.
Similarly, the Network DVD release of The XYY Man included the Crown Court story An Evil Influence (15–17 October 1975) as an extra feature; Stephen Yardley, star of The XYY Man, plays the role of Dr Thanet.
Eight volumes of stories have been released by Network DVD. These are in production order and currently include all those broadcast from the programme's inception to July 1974. The two instalments not broadcast by ITV are also included.
Talking Pictures TV began airing three episodes (one case) a week, beginning in Jan 2023, and starting with the pilot "Doctor's Neglect?".
List of cases
1972-10-11 Doctor's Neglect? Simpson v Rudkin General Hospital Management Board
1972-10-18 Lieberman v Savage
1972-10-25 R. v Lord
1972-11-01 R. v Bryant
1972-11-08 Euthanasia: R. v Webb
1972-11-15 R. v Vennings and Vennings
1972-11-22 The Eleventh Commandment: R. v Mitchell and Clayton
1972-11-29 A Genial Man: R. v Bolton
1972-12-06 Espionage: R. v Terson
1972-12-13 Conspiracy: R. v Luckhurst and Sawyer
1972-12-20 Who is Benedetto Trovato? R. v Starkie
1972-12-27 Criminal Libel: R. v Maitland
1972–??-?? The Medium: R. v Purbeck
1973-01-03 Whatever Happened to George Robins? R. v Barnes
1973-01-10 Blackmail: R. v Brewer and Brewer
1973-01-17 Sunset of Arms: Fitton v Pusey
1973-01-24 Persimmons and Dishwashers: R. v Curl and Curl
1973-01-31 A Public Mischief: R. v Baker and Crawley
1973-02-07 Portrait of an Artist: Kingsley v Messiter
1973-02-14 A Crime in Prison: R. v Ager and Lanigan
1973-02-21 Infanticide or Murder? R. v Collins
1973-02-28 Act of Vengeance: R. v Collings
1973-03-07 Freak-Out: R. v Marlow
1973-03-14 The Mugging of Arthur Simmons: R. v Dempsey and Langham
1973-03-21 Love Thy Neighbour: R. v Thornton and Thornton
1973-03-28 The Death of Dracula: R. v Mattson
1973-04-04 Wise Child: R. v Lapointe
1973-04-11 Beware of the Dog: R. v Page
1973-04-18 Theft by Necessity: R. v Burton
1973-04-19 The Gilded Cage: R. v Scard
1973-04-25 Credibility Gap: Stevens v Porton
1973-05-02 The Long Haired Leftie: R. v Dowd
1973-05-09 Intent to Kill: R. v Duffy
1973-05-16 There Was a Little Girl: R. v Grey
1973-05-23 A View to Matrimony: R. v McNeill
1973-05-30 Settling a Score: R. v Bates
1973-06-06 To Catch a Thief: R. v Halsey
1973-06-13 Patch's Patch: R. v Patch
1973-06-20 Who Was Kate Greer? R. v Archer
1973-06-27 A Right to Life: Abbs v Richards
1973-07-04 The Inner Circle: Heywood v Blower
1973-07-11 The Black Poplar: R. v Tressman
1973-07-18 The Open Invitation: R. v Sellars
1973-07-25 Beggar on Horseback: R. v Erringburn
1973-08-01 The Night for Country Dancing: R. v Airey
1973-08-08 Mrs. Moresbys Scrapbook: R. v Moresby
1973-08-15 My Old Mans a Dustman: R. v Cousins and Cousins and Mayes
1973-08-22 The Judgement of Solomon: R. v Kamuny and Kamuny
1973-08-29 Destruct, Destruct ... R. v Ainsworth
1973-09-05 Public Lives: R. v Williams and Pastor
1973-09-12 The Thunderbolts: Easter v Goss
1973-09-19 Treason: R. v Clement
1973-09-26 A Stab in the Front: R. v Blandford
1973-10-10 Just Good Friends: R. v Beaumont
1973-10-17 To Suffer a Witch: R. v Vincent
1973-10-24 Hit and Miss: R. v Burnett
1973-10-31 No Spoiling: R. v Smithson
1973-11-07 The Age of Leo Trotsky: R. v Smith
1973-11-14 Robin and his Juliet: R. v Tomlin
1973-11-21 The Most Expensive Steak in the World: Da Costa v McIver
1973-11-28 Message to Ireland: R. v Parfitt
1973-12-05 No Smoke Without Fire: R. v Bennington
1973-12-12 Conduct Prejudicial: R. v Pardoe
1973-12-19 Tables (sic, vide supra in 'Production Details') of the Heart: R. v Saul
1973-12-27 Murder Most Foul: R. v Hammond
1974-01-02 The Dogs: R. v Broad
1974-01-09 Further Charges: R. v Elgar
1974-01-16 Hidden Scars: R. v Fowkes
1974-01-23 With Menaces: R. v Aslam
1974-01-30 Do Your Worst: R. v Skelhorne, McIver and Appleton
1974-02-06 Flight of the Lapwing: Cummings v Simon
1974-02-13 Traffic Warden's Daughter: R. v Lianos
1974-02-13 The Getaway: R. v McDowell
1974-02-20 The Woman Least Likely ... R. v Rutland
1974-02-27 A Case of Murder: R. v Povey
1974-03-06 The Assault on Choga Sar: Wainwright v Bowman
1974-03-13 Duress: R. v Mallard
1974-03-20 30,000 Pieces of Silver: Porter v Porter
1974-03-27 Nuts: R. v Holloway
1974-04-03 Confine to Solitary: R. v Hogarth
1974-04-10 Big Annie: Robertson v Ash
1974-04-17 Falling Stars: Leigh v Glynn
1974-04-24 Son and Heir: R. v Carvell
1974-05-01 Death in the Family: R. v Durrant
1974-05-08 Minnie: R. v Barlow
1974-05-15 Vermin: R. v Brimmer
1974-05-22 South Tower: R. v Carney
1974-05-29 Triangle: R. v Prosser and Jackson
1974-06-05 Victims of Prejudice: R. v Clark and Hamilton
1974-06-12 Baby Farm: R. v Francis
1974-06-19 For the Good of the Many: R. v Cardy
1974-06-26 How to Rob a Memory Bank: R. v Warren
1974-07-03 The Wreck of the Tedmar: R. v Blaney
1974-07-10 Two Rings for Margie: R. v Middleton
1974-07-17 No Stranger in Court: R. v Clegg
1974-07-24 Security Risk: R. v Denton
1974-07-31 The Probationer: R. v Cresswell
1974-08-07 Midnight with No Pain
1974-08-14 Not Dead But Gone Before
1974-09-04 The Dogs Next Door
1974-09-11 Good and Faithful Friends
1974-09-18 Strange Past
1974-09-25 On Impulse
1974-10-02 Double, Double
1974-10-09 The Hunt
1974-10-16 The Messenger Boy
1974-10-23 The Dashing Young Officer
1974-10-30 Immoral Earnings
1974-11-13 The Alb of St. Honoratus
1974-11-20 Cover Up
1974-11-27 Beloved Alien
1974-12-18 Pot of Basil
1975-01-02 Ring in the New Year
1975-01-08 The Quest
1975-01-15 A Difference in Style
1975-01-29 The Personator
1975-02-05 Two in the Mind of One
1975-02-12 The Murder Monitor
1975-02-19 Who Cares?
1975-03-05 The Trees
1975-03-12 Bad Day at Black Cape
1975-03-19 The Mad, Mad Man
1975-03-26 Contempt of Court
1975-04-09 The Also Ran
1975-04-16 Take Back Your Mink
1975-04-16 Dead Drunk
1975-04-30 Light the Blue Touch-Paper
1975-05-07 The Healing Hand
1975-05-14 The Obsession
1975-05-21 My Mother Said I Never Should ...
1975-07-19 Who Killed Cock Robin?
1975-07-26 Songbirds Out of Tune
1975-08-02 Inner City Blues
1975-08-16 The Natural Bond
1975-08-23 Evil Liver
1975-10-15 An Evil Influence
1975-10-22 Never on Saturdays, Never on Sundays
1975-10-29 Will the Real Robert Randell Please Stand Up
1975-11-05 Hunger Strike
1975-11-12 An Englishman's Home
1975-11-19 Blood Is Thicker
1975-11-26 The Party's Over
1975-12-03 The Extremist
1975-12-10 Mother Love
1975-12-31 Humpty Dumpty Sat on the Wall
1976-01-07 Crime and Passion
1976-01-14 ... Or Was He Pushed?
1976-01-21 No Questions Asked
1976-01-28 The Right of Every Woman
1976-02-04 Beyond the Call of Duty
1976-02-11 To Love, Cherish – and Batter
1976-02-25 Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil
1976-03-03 The Ju-Ju Landlord
1976-03-10 Ends and Means
1976-03-17 Incorrigible Rogue
1976-03-30 Drunk, Who Cares
1976-04-06 Accepted Standards
1976-04-13 The Jolly Swagmen
1976-05-04 A Bang or a Whimper
1976-05-19 Pigmented Patter
1976-10-06 Stranger in the Night
1976-10-13 Those in Peril
1976-10-20 A Working Girl
1976-10-27 A Matter of Honour
1976-11-03 Inside Story
1976-11-10 Death for Sale
1976-11-17 Treewomen of Jagden Crag
1976-11-24 You Won't Escape When Hendrik Witbooi Comes
1976-12-01 Operation Happiness
1976-12-22 A World of Difference
1976-12-29 Auld Lang Syne
1977-01-04 Beauty and the Beast
1977-01-25 Home Sweet Home
1977-02-01 Loved Ones
1977-02-08 We Are the Champions
1977-02-15 A Ladies' Man
1977-02-22 A Matter of Faith
1977-03-01 Crime Passionel
1977-03-08 A Swinging Couple
1977-03-15 One for the Road
1977-03-22 Such a Charming Man
1977-03-29 A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
1977-04-05 The Family Business
1977-10-18 A Pocketful of Pills
1977-10-25 Capers Among the Catacombs
1977-11-01 Kiss and Tell
1977-11-08 Down Will Come Baby
1977-11-15 The Silencer
1977-11-29 A Place to Stay
1977-12-06 Safe as Houses
1977-12-13 Street Gang
1977-12-20 An Upward Fall: Cosmic Planning Consultants v Rosenberg Research Foundation
1978-01-03 Black and Blue
1978-01-10 Meeting Place
1978-01-24 White Lies
1978-01-31 The Song Not the Singer
1978-02-21 Still Life with Feathers
1978-02-28 Cat in Hell
1978-03-07 To Catch a Thief
1978-03-14 The Change
1978-03-21 The Jawbone of an Ass
1978-03-28 Two Thousand Witnesses
1978-04-11 Common Sense
1978-09-05 In the Heat of the Moment
1978-09-12 Does Your Mother Know You're Out?
1978-09-19 The Crown of Life
1978-09-26 Past Times
1978-10-03 Queen Bee
1978-10-10 The Green House Girls
1978-10-17 Through the Bottom of a Glass Darkly
1978-10-24 Still Waters
1978-10-31 A Man with Everything
1978-11-14 Soft Target
1979-01-09 Beyond the Limits
1979-01-16 Sugar and Spice
1979-01-23 Hospital Roulette
1979-01-30 A Friend of the Family
1979-02-06 Baby Love
1979-02-13 Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother
1979-02-20 My Brother's Son
1979-03-06 Boys Will Be Boys
1979-03-13 The Deep End
1979-03-20 Rebel at Law
1979-03-27 A Hunting We Will Go
1979-04-03 Question of Care
1979-05-08 The Irish Connection
1979-05-15 Heart to Heart
1979-05-22 Betrayal of Trust
1980-08-26 Public Spending
1981-03-09 Proof Spirits
1981-03-16 Foul Play
1981-03-23 Freedom to Incite
1981-03-30 Hen Party
1981-04-21 The Merry Widow
1981-05-04 Cold Turkey
1982-03-23 Talking to the Enemy
1982-03-30 Resurrection Woman
1982-04-06 Ignorance in the Field
1982-04-13 On the Defensive
1982-04-20 Fair Play
1982-05-04 Face Value
1982-05-18 Window Shopping
1982-05-25 Soldier, Soldier
1982-06-01 Too Bad for Tobias
1982-06-08 A Candidate for the Alliance
1982-06-15 The Fiddling Connection
1983-01-11 Seconds Away
1983-01-18 None of Your Business
1983-01-25 Night Fever
1983-02-01 A Black and White Case
1983-02-08 Personal Credit
1983-02-15 Fighting Fire with Fire
1983-02-22 A Proper Man
1983-03-08 Told in Silence
1983-03-15 Mother's Boy
1983-03-22 Living in Sin?
1983-03-29 A Matter of Trust
1983-04-05 A Sword in the Hand of David
1984-01-03 Gingerbread Girl
1984-01-17 The Son of His Father
1984-01-24 Whisper Who Dares
1984-02-01 Dirty Washing
1984-02-13 Her Father's Daughter
1984-02-21 There Was an Old Woman
1984-02-28 Burnt Futures
1984-03-06 Mother Figures
1984-03-13 Big Deal
1984-03-20 Love and War
1984-03-27 Paki Basher
References and footnotes
1 2 Down, R., Perry, C. (1995). The British Television Drama Research Guide, 1950–1995. Dudley: Kaleidoscope. ISBN1-900203-00-6
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