Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

The Trial

Series about the Crown Prosecution Service. Prosecutors in the Complex Casework units of CPS Mersey-Cheshire and CPS South-East prepare for trials in two historic cases.

The Crown Prosecution Service is often under scrutiny for its decision-making. Now for the first time the CPS has allowed cameras in. Filmed over 18 months with prosecutors in Merseyside, Cheshire and the South East, including the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, this groundbreaking series goes behind the scenes to reveal how our criminal justice system really works and what it takes to secure a conviction. Each episode focuses on a different part of the process, following prosecutions and those involved in the case from start to finish.

In the final episode, prosecutors in the Complex Casework units of CPS Mersey-Cheshire and CPS South-East are preparing for trials in separate historic cases.

In 1993, a few days after her 16th birthday, Claire Tiltman was murdered in an alleyway. Since Colin Ash-Smith admitted to other knife attacks in the same area, he has been the main suspect for the crime. In 1996 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for those offences. But without direct evidence, he was not charged with the murder of Claire Tiltman.

Claire's parents died before seeing her killer brought to justice and a group of her school friends took up the campaign to keep the case in the public eye. Now, using a change in the law which might allow the jury to know about Ash-Smith's other attacks and the similarities between them, prosecutor Nigel Pilkington is trying to build a circumstantial case against Colin Ash-Smith.

In Mersey-Cheshire, a non-recent sex abuse case is being prepared for trial. Keith Cavendish Coulson is facing 42 counts of indecent assault on boys in the 1970s and 80s. He says they're lying and that it never happened. The CPS's handling of non-recent sex abuse cases is often highly controversial and Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, is involved in overseeing the case.

Cases committed a long time ago are charged and sentenced according to the law at the time. As Cavendish Coulson's offences were in the 1970s and 80s, they can only charge him under the old law of 1956. Historic cases also present challenges, as the memories of witnesses might have faded and evidence might no longer be available. But moving testimony from Cavendish Coulson's accusers suggests they have far from forgotten these offences.

1 hour

Last on

Wed 22 Jan 2020 22:00

More episodes


You are at the last episode

See all episodes from The Prosecutors



Role Contributor
Production Company Gold Star Productions
Executive Producer Sacha Baveystock
Producer Sara Hardy
Producer Blue Ryan
Director Sara Hardy
Director Blue Ryan
Editor Gwyn Jones


Featured in...

Explore changes in the law and try your hand at decision-making as a Prosecutor

Explore changes in the law and try your hand at decision-making as a Prosecutor

Visit our interactive pages to see how you’d prosecute a modern slavery case.