The Twelve (3 stars)

The Twelve

credit: Thomas Nolf VRT Eyeworks

Belgian drama about a court trial and the private lives of its jury

A woman is on trial for her life, facing charges of murdering her best friend in 2000 and killing her own toddler daughter while in the midst of a custody battle some 18 years later. This is the set-up for Walter Presents' latest continental affair, a Belgian ten-parter which focuses on both the case and the private lives of some among its dozen-strong jury.

A Cannes winner for its screenplay, The Twelve follows the ins and outs of a horrible trial which has the local media baying for blood and willing to pay for leaks from within the jury room. Meanwhile, away from the legal proceedings, jurors are living their own equally chaotic and torrid lives, which feature domestic coercion, autism, illegal business practices, childcare issues and sex addiction. There are very few moments of levity (though the chief defence lawyer has a crackingly wild beard) while the uninitiated might be intrigued to hear that Flemish is closer to the Scandi languages than to French.

While The Twelve maintains the essential drama of classic courtroom fiction (did she do it, and if not, will she be wrongly convicted?), arguably the most eye-opening aspect are the many differences between the Belgian court system and the UK version we're used to seeing on TV. The lawyers may all wear gowns, but at least there are no daft wigs on show, while there's a sense of freedom about who talks and when: jurors can raise their hands to ask a question while the accused is free to indulge in a slanging match with witnesses during cross-examination. This might not be quite enough to keep some viewers enthralled, but The Twelve is a fascinating look at European justice and a trauma-filled exploration of what people are capable of in their darkest moments.

Channel 4, Sunday 18 October, 11pm; all episodes available on All 4 from Friday 16 October.

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