THE STRANGE CASE OF THE LAW: Wednesday 20th June, BBC4, 9pm
Shakespeare? Cricket? Binge-drinking? If you thought that Britain’s finest cultural export came from this list then think again because in this compelling (and exceptionally niche) documentary, barrister Harry Potter (yes you heard us right..) puts forward the argument that England’s early system of Common Law was our greatest gift to the world.
Simon Cowell will be disappointed..
It’s a bold claim to make, but Potter pulls it off with aplomb. He’s clearly passionate about the subject, and he combines this with a deep knowledge of the material. A natural raconteur, he reads from historical legal documents in his imposing Scottish voice. It’s a dramatic rendition, but a small smile crosses his face as he finishes the passage and he makes the material fun, without narrowing it’s intellectual scope.
Potter relishes in telling the audience that âcompensation cultureâ? originated not with Americans spilling hot coffee, but rather, a book of law from the 10th century, which happens to be one of the first examples of the written English language. It’s an interesting fact, not to mention a stark illustration of man’s priorities when it comes to dispute.
Stylistically fantastic, The Strange Case of the Law makes great use of depicting historical scenes with a courtroom style sketch animation, deftly avoiding the inevitably disappointing sight of a few armour-clad actors going mad in a field.
If there are subjects considered too boring, too filled with jargon to appeal to a mainstream audience, then this topic is definitely one. But with credit to Potter, this fate has been deftly avoided and the results are fascinating. It’s on BBC Four, so there’s clearly a demographic at work here, but it’s no reason to dismiss it as stuffy or as academia-lite.