TV’s 4 Finest Legal Eagles

Crusading for justice, sticking up for common folk, and cutting a dash in the courtroom – these are the legal heroes we desperately wish existed in real life. (In fact, one of them actually did.)

Judge John Deed

Martin Shaw as Judge John Deed.


Who'd have thought someone who goes by the name of Justice Sir John Deed would be a swashbuckling hero for the little people? But that's precisely what this admirable fellow is. And, as well as being a champion of liberty, fair play, and sticking it to the Establishment, John Deed also happens to be the judicial system's answer to James Bond.

Suaver than a velvet fox, and with a better dress sense than any pretty boy half his age, Deed is an unashamed womanizer. Well, actually, he's slightly ashamed, which is partly why he had therapy (which he then ruined by seducing his therapist). Not that we mind his flaws - they just add to his charisma, and stop him from being too much of a goody-goody. In short, the single best judge ever to grace our screens. And that's even when he's got that deeply unflattering wig on.

Maxine Peake as Martha Costello.

Maxine Peake as Martha Costello.


First of all, isn't Martha Costello a great name? If you just saw that name, you'd just know she was going to be brilliant and smart and cool before you even met her. The main character in Silk, she's a fiercely driven barrister working her way through the inner circles of London's legal world. She's no-nonsense and gutsy, which is just as well in a social sphere where you can never tell if your best friend is reaching over to pat you on the back or stick the knife in.

Martha is the kind of barrister who'll whip off that wig, stuff it in a carrier bag, and stick a fag in her mouth as soon as she's done her bit in court. And that's just as well, because she's got her work cut out, what with cases including a rent boy charged with indecency, an Asian copper accused of racial assault, and a prison van driver charged with manslaughter when a prisoner dies in their care. Oh, and she returned to work after miscarrying her baby in violent circumstances. Applause, please.

Andrew Buchan as William Garrow.

Andrew Buchan as William Garrow.


The hero of Garrow's Law isn't just a great lawyer - he's a pioneer whose work in the murky world of 18th Century London would essentially create the legal system as we know it today. Based on the real William Garrow, who coined the phrase "innocent until proven guilty", he's a champion in an age when the poor and the downtrodden had few educated people to fight for their rights at the Old Bailey.

A master of the art of cross-examination, Garrow loves nothing more than rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into cases which other eminent barristers would steer clear of. Rape, corruption, murder and treason - they're Garrow's bread and butter. This is the man who delved into the eerie attacks by the so-called London Monster - a precursor of Jack the Ripper - as well as a case involving the rights of slaves being transported to America. A brave man indeed.

Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole.

Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole.


There's one word for Horace Rumpole, and that's "magnificent". A portly old warhorse of the law, fond of cheap cigars and rough red wine which he fondly refers to as "Chateau Thames Embankment", Rumpole has absolutely no airs and graces. He regards barristers as mere "hacks", and doesn't even care about ascending the legal ladder to more senior positions (he calls circuit judges "circus judges").

No, Rumpole just enjoys the rough and tumble of courtroom battles, and getting one over on the prosecution. A proud defender of the needy and the stitched-up, he doesn't believe in pleading guilty, even if his client as confessed. After all, "there is no piece of evidence more unreliable than a confession". A striding, plain-talking, Wordsworth-quoting, pie-scoffing marvel, Rumpole is the man you'd want in your corner if you were ever in a tight spot. Just watch out for that wine.