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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 13:54 GMT
BBC puts celebrities in TV court
The BBC has lined up celebrities and public figures for the jury

Disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer, actress Honor Blackman and Blur bassist Alex James are to take part in BBC Two's new courtroom show The Verdict.

They will form part of a celebrity jury in a fictitious court case featuring a footballer charged with rape.

BBC Two controller Roly Keating said the series would show the inner workings of the jury system.

But one victim's charity has warned the programme may upset victims of rape when it is broadcast early next year.

The Verdict will also feature Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah, footballer Stan Collymore and actress Patsy Palmer.

The case features the fictitious rape trial of an internationally famous footballer, Damien Scott, and his friend, James Greer.

Jeffery Archer - former Tory MP
Honor Blackman - actress
Stan Collymore - former footballer
Jennifer Ellison - actress
Jacqueline Gold - businesswoman
Alex James - musician
MegaMan - musician
Dominic McVey - entrepreneur
Patsy Palmer - actress
Sara Payne - campaigner
Michael Portillo - former Tory MP
Ingrid Tarrant - TV presenter

The 12 jurors will sit in judgement on a four-day unscripted trial in a real courtroom, presided over by a real judge - the recently retired Lord Neil Denison - with real barristers prosecuting and defending.

The jury will then retire to begin their deliberations, with TV cameras to observe the jury as it reaches it verdict.

Mr Keating said: "This is a hugely ambitious project which brings the law to life in a completely new way.

"It will be fascinating to follow the twists and turns of the case, see the dynamics and power struggles within the jury, learn about the jury system with its inherent flaws and strengths."

But Andrew Buckingham of national charity Victim Support, said there was a fine line between entertainment and education.

"There is nothing wrong with trying to demystify the criminal justice process but it is important to control how you do that," he said.

"The BBC has assembled together a very eclectic mix of celebrities and public figures.

Party Animals
Party Animals is from the writers of This Life

"Our concern would be that the novelty factor, and their interaction as they deliberate, may overshadow and detract from the real issue that this is a rape trial.

"There is no doubt that it will be entertaining but I'm not sure how educational it will be.

"It may also upset some people, particularly rape victims, witnesses and those who have served on a jury for a rape case, that this is being used for entertainment."

The show is one of the highlights of BBC Two's winter and spring 2007 schedule which was unveiled on Tuesday.

Other new shows include Jennifer Saunders's The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, set in the world of confessional TV shows, political drama Party Animals and Louis Theroux visits Las Vegas in Louis & The Casino.

Graham Norton presents a new talk show for BBC Two, The Graham Norton Show, while Top Gear also returns with Richard Hammond.

And in The Truth About Food, presenters - including Colin Jackson, Fiona Bruce and Vic Reeves - will take viewers on a journey of discovery to find out what food can do for them.

Meanwhile, Torchwood has been recommissioned for a second series, but it will move from BBC Three to BBC Two.

Filming is due to start in Cardiff in Spring 2007 and the series will hit screens later next year.

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