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Six Days of Justice (1972-75)

Courtesy of FremantleThames

Main image of Six Days of Justice (1972-75)
Thames Television for ITV, 10/4/1972-19/5/1975
24 x 50 min eps in 4 series, colour
ProducersReginald Collin
 Peter Duguid
Directors includePeter Duguid
 Jonathan Alwyn
Writers includeTrevor Preston
 Tony Parker

Cast: John Abineri (chairman); Jill Balcon (chairman of the bench); Ivan Beavis (court officer); George Waring (clerk); Meadows White (usher)

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The cases heard in a British magistrate's court.

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Although reasonably popular when first shown, Six Days of Justice can now be seen as a legal drama that was ahead of its time, both for its sensitive treatment of down-to-earth topics and its naturalistic acting, especially when compared with such melodramatic near contemporaries as The Main Chance (ITV, 1969-75), Justice (ITV, 1971-74) and Trial (BBC, 1971). Its sober and low-key approach perfectly suits the small-scale cases heard in a magistrate's court. Although an early script deals with witchcraft ('With Intent to Deceive', tx. 8/5/1972), the stories mostly strive for verisimilitude, turning even such seemingly mundane matters as non-payment of rates into compelling drama in P.J. Hammond's 'Open House' (tx. 15/5/1972). Screened after the 9pm watershed, Six Days also improves on the more popular and not dissimilar daytime show Crown Court (ITV, 1972-84) thanks to its more realistic dialogue and a comparative frankness in sexual matters.

Each series is made up of six episodes (hence the title) and set exclusively in the courtroom or in the adjacent corridor. A few episodes are set in the juvenile court, one of the busiest sections of the British magistracy. 'Who Cares?' (tx. 1/5/1972) depicts, across several weeks, the interaction between a magistrate (played by Bernard Hepton) and a 15-year old pregnant runaway unwanted by either of her divorced parents.

The first series employed an austere, minimalist look, with everything in the courtroom except the floor painted in shades of white. Peter Duguid subsequently took over as producer and principal director and had Fred Pusey completely re-design the set, making it warmer, more colourful and less remote. He also actively encouraged the actors to improvise around the script, making their performances much more credible in the process.

Duguid's approach really pays dividends in episodes like 'The Complaint' (tx. 12/11/1973), written by Tony Parker, which looks poignantly at the fate of an indecent exposer who, despite a genuine desire to stop, isn't strong enough to overcome his compulsion, and 'The Counsellor' (tx. 1/5/1973), by Rex Edwards, which uses a case of petty theft to explore engrossingly a story of middle-aged amour fou.

There are no set characters, though George Waring recurs as the court clerk, while Jill Balcon, John Abineri and others appear semi-regularly as magistrates. They only exist as court functionaries, however, and are not otherwise developed as characters, as this would have compromised the realism of this finely acted and well-written series.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Old age burglar (3:20)
2. Witness testimony (3:07)
3. A hopeless case (5:12)
Complete episode - 'The Complaint' - Part 1 (20:00)
Part 2 (15:57)
Part 3 (16:40)
Crown Court (1972-84)
Jury (1983)
Balcon, Jill (1925-2009)
Bux, Ishaq (1917-2000)
Legal Drama