Best cross-examiners on telly!

Best cross-examiners on telly!


From an early stage in my legal studies, I’ve been giving myself regular “edutainment” — that is, combining education with entertainment to make procrastination worthwhile!

My main distraction through the years has been televised legal drama. Some new boxset would often come along, begging to be binge-watched, and many an inspired hour was passed this way. Looking back, however, I realise that I’ve outgrown the majority of them, especially American shows such as The Practice. Now, as a pupil barrister myself, I tend to value authenticity over action and emotion.

Thus, if I had to recommend three legal dramas to law students, I’d pick:

Rumpole of the Bailey
Garrow’s Law
Kavanagh QC

I do not plan to discuss the relative merits of these shows. Rather, in this post, I want to share my three favourite cross-examinations of all time (one from each show). It was scenes like these which motivated me to keep going whenever the Bar seemed out of reach. Of course, watching telly wasn’t my only motivation! But I can say, beyond reasonable doubt, that drama had a part to play in spurring me on — so it’s quite right to acknowledge it.


Rumpole of the Bailey

In the pilot episode, Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt, Rumpole discovers during the lunch adjournment that his young client is illiterate. And yet, a Detective-Inspector had just given evidence in court that the boy made a full, frank confession at the police station — reading the whole thing aloud before signing his name to it.

Watch how Rumpole commits the officer to his story, then utterly discredits him on cross.


Garrow’s Law

In Episode One (Series One), Garrow is called upon to defend a servant girl accused of murdering her child at birth, having cut its throat with a knife. The defence case is that the child was born dead; the umbilical cord having gotten twisted around its neck; its throat wounded as a result of the desperate mother using a knife to cut the cord.

An expert witness is called by the prosecution. He begins by supporting the prosecution’s case entirely. Watch how Garrow then deploys medical knowledge, forcing the cocksure expert to think again.

And this is based on a real 18th century case, by the way.


Kavanagh QC

In the episode, Men of Substance, Kavanagh appears for the prosecution against a big-time drug dealer named Gregson.

Gregson owns a haulage firm, and was caught taking possession of a lorry full of heroin. He denies all knowledge — blaming his illegal drugs operation on a manager employed by him. Kavanagh reveals the truth by going through Gregson’s lavish assets, one by one, exposing his (unexplainable) millionaire lifestyle. Indeed, Kavanagh uses common sense questions to unpick an elaborate lie.

Alas, the following clip is audio only, but well worth listening to. You may need to adjust your volume level.


I hope you’ve enjoyed watching these clips, and hearing some fine (albeit scripted) cross-examinations.

To read my other post on the art of cross-examination, Click Here



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