NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Nat Fraser case: Murder trial to be broadcast on TV

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Media captionJenny Hill reports

A real-life murder trial is to be broadcast on television, giving a rare insight into the court system.

The programme was filmed over a period of six weeks at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

It follows the retrial of Nat Fraser, whose face is shown on screen as the jury returns the verdict against him on the charge of murdering his wife.

The documentary - The Murder Trial - was made by Windfall Films and is to be screened on Channel 4.

It follows the trial from start to finish and features several of the figures involved, providing a rare insight into proceedings in Scottish courts.

Image caption Nat Fraser maintains he did not murder his wife Arlene in 1998

The producers secured permission from all of the key witnesses in the high-profile case following lengthy negotiations.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "The Scottish High Court gave permission for this extraordinary and unique access - to film the case of a man accused of murdering his wife.

"Her body has never been found, there is no weapon, no crime scene and her husband appears to have a cast iron alibi for the day she disappeared.

"For the first time ever, remotely-operated cameras have been placed inside a British criminal court to capture a murder trial in its entirety for this brand new feature-length documentary.

"The victim in the case is Arlene Fraser and her family have now been waiting over 14 years for justice."

Young children

Nat Fraser, 54, of Elgin, in Moray, did not give evidence during the trial, but agreed to be filmed during the case after the programme-makers visited him several times in prison.

Image caption Advocate depute Alex Prentice, QC, prosecuting during the televised retrial

The documentary also looks at the lives of the people involved in the case and shows video from the couple's wedding, press conferences and interviews with Arlene's parents.

Fraser's daughter Natalie, who was five when she lost her mother and firmly believes in her father's innocence, was one of the first people who agreed to contribute to the programme. She had not spoken to the media before.

Fraser was first convicted in 2003 for murdering Arlene, the mother of the couple's two young children. She had disappeared five years earlier and her body was never found.

He was jailed for at least 25 years but started a long appeal process.

The former fruit and vegetable wholesaler, who has always maintained his innocence, finally had his sentence quashed by the Supreme Court in 2011 as a miscarriage of justice, but a retrial was ordered.

'Ruthless efficiency'

Cameras have been permitted in Scotland's courts since 1992 but only if all parties involved have given their consent.

Image caption Nat Fraser's defence counsel John Scott was also filmed

Fraser's retrial was filmed just weeks after cameras were allowed in a Scottish courtroom to record the sentencing of David Gilroy, for the murder of Suzanne Pilley.

The filming of the sentencing of Gilroy was much more proscriptive than the Fraser case, with the camera required to focus on judge Lord Bracadale throughout the sentencing.

Nobody else featured in the footage except court officials. Gilroy was not filmed by the camera and the footage was vetted by the courts service before it was distributed.

Crown courts

In a rare previous case, Lord Ross allowed a BBC Scotland news programme into the High Court for the sentencing of two armed robbers.

The senior judge had branded the sentencing system in Scottish courts a "charade" because prisoners did not serve the full term, and he invited in the cameras to witness his judgment. On that occasion, in 1996, the whole court, including the two accused, was filmed.

In October 2012, the new Lord President, Lord Gill, announced a suspension of all filming in Scottish courts pending a review.

Image caption The High Court in Edinburgh filmed during the Nat Fraser retrial

He had determined that the "current policy requires revisiting and given extended consideration".

There are three or four requests to film court cases in Scotland each year.

Filming in English courts has been banned since 1925.

However, TV cameras could be allowed to film sentencing in crown courts in England and Wales under recent government plans.

Initially broadcasters will be able to film the Court of Appeal from October.

Proceedings in the Supreme Court - the final court of appeal - can already be filmed, and later this year lawyers' arguments and judges' rulings in appeal cases will also be allowed to be filmed.

The Murder Trial will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 21:00 on Tuesday 9 July.

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