'Each judgement really does matter' Judge Rinder talks about integrity and his journey from lawyer to TV star.
N the face of it, Robert Rinder may not be the most likely candidate for TV stardom.
OBut he has become an unlikely cult icon in the daytime television world since first stepping into the shoes of his on-screen persona Judge Rinder.
Despite the fictional setting, the straight-talking arbitrator is a very real barrister who takes every one of his cases very seriously, no matter how trivial, silly our ridiculous they appear.
Fitting into the reality TV category, the programme, set in a mock courtroom, first hit our screens back in August 2014 and straight away received obvious comparisons to a certain Judge Judy.
But Rob's character couldn't be further away from his American counterpart. And when you meet him in the flesh, you realise his character isn't too far away from the man playing him.
"I really care about each case, and each person that comes on the show. Of course I'm going to tell someone they've been stupid if they have, because they've been stupid," said Rob, speaking exclusively to the Manchester Evening News.
"It's not me making it up, that's the way I talk. I used to say the same to my clients when I sat with them in prison.
"People want it to be honest and factual, and that it isn't there just to ridicule. I am always mindful of the integrity of the person that comes."
When show bosses first invited the M.E.N. to go behind the scenes of the set, based at ITV Studios in MediaCity, it was impossible to gauge their intentions or know what to expect after a certain other show on the same channel was axed weeks earlier.
The Jeremy Kyle Show was suspended indefinitely following the death of a participant, 63-year-old Steve Dymond, a week after a programme featuring him was filmed. But while some shows may be criticised for chasing 'good TV whatever the costs' - it becomes clear when speaking to Rob that he couldn't be any less interested in that side of it.
"What's good for television - I am absolutely indifferent to it," he said. "I very often will come off and think it has been the most thrilling thing in the world because we have tackled a really difficult legal issue and they are in the green room utterly bored out of their brains."
Scrutiny over the aftercare that guests receive after being on TV has been thrown into the spotlight following Mr Dymond's death, and the tragic suicides of Love Island stars Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis.
While Rob is careful not to speak of the two shows specifically, he explains how his programme helps its guests, and reveals that the production crew works closely with charity Mind to get a better understanding of mental health issues.
He adds: "Another thing I am proud of is, where for instance I believe there's been an issue of custody, such as in family cases, I am able in aftercare to offer them mediation.
"If in the course of a proceeding it might emerge that a defendant has a gambling problem, I will always ensure that they are given the best advice possible and access to gambling anonymous. Even in some instances the relevant therapy."
Speaking in his modest dressing room situated several floors above the warehouse-style sets that make up much of the ground floor at ITV studios, Rob is clear from the start that while the show is classed as entertainment, it is the integrity of his profession that matters to him.
Brought up by his single mum Angela, who worked hard to put him through law school at the University of Manchester, the 41-year-old was called to the bar in 2001 and began his pupillage at London's All of the contention, the money something Judge Paper Buildings.
After 14 years working on a number of challenging cases, including prosecuting for the 2003 murders of Leticia Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis, who were shot outside a hair salon in Birmingham, he found himself at an unexpected crossroads - and a desire to move away from traditional law.
Rob said: "I only work doing publicly defended or publicly funded prosecutorial cases and you have to be able to invest everything from your emotional capital into it. You have got to really love it. You have to be completely committed.
"The instance you start to - not necessarily fall out of love with it - but seeking passions elsewhere makes it very difficult, especially when the work is very serious. I got a bit down I think, a bit depressed, as many people do mid-way through their career.
"I was bored and because some of my friends are actors, I wrote a version with a TV production company of crown court and went to flog it to various places and found myself at ITV.
"I spoke to a woman called Helen Warner who said my idea was the worst thing she had ever read. She gave it not just her undivided indifference - I think the word semiliterate was used."
Despite his lack of knowledge in TV, however, there was something about Rob that ITV's director of daytime liked, and she introduced him to a producer called Tom McLennan who was working on a courtroom TV show.
The rest is history - along with his first very important lesson of TV.
"One of the first cases I ever dealt with involved a matter of about PSstuff, the isn't about - it's about else Rinder PS140," remembers Rob. "I found myself saying something like 'this case is worth PS140, that's not a lot of money.' We're really regulated as you know by Ofcom and the series producer, who is not really supposed to speak in my ear when it's germane to any fact or issue that I have to determine or give judgement about.
"I heard her go - 'do you want to rephrase that, you sound like a right posh d***head'. I thought that was a very important intervention."
When Rinder walks onto the set before filming begins, the audience give him a warm round of applause, and he greets them in a friendly and polite manner while telling them to be aware that the set's many cameras could pick up any small gesture or facial expression.
Watching the programme being filmed gives you an idea of how professional the operation is. Both studio and production crew - many of whom are nowhere to be seen, working on the show's future cases - shoot an impressive six programmes a day, as live, with next to no reshooting (unless a line is fluffed).
Speaking of how each case is brought to TV, Rob speaks highly of his team, from the producers to the researchers.
He said: "It can take 90-100 hours to get that one case on television. The guests come here with all of their stuff and the crew will spend a long time going through it making sure it's in the right order for court.
"Then they frame the case for me, summarise it and provide me with a statement. They also come up with innovative ideas on behalf of the defendant, mindful that they are here without lawyers."
Despite appearing in BBC Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, Rob is not an avid reality TV watcher.
"I am probably one of the few people who never watched Love Island," he declared.
"I think there are understandably armchair critics who have a certain view about reality TV without necessarily knowing the integrity and the people who make it. My team care deeply about the outcome of the cases and as far as I am concerned the integrity of each judgement really does matter."
While there are many things that Rob and his show cannot change - an absence of legal aid, 'appalling' payday loan companies and the 'inadequate' staffing and resourcing of the child maintenance service - the show can still help people sort out their problems.
"Many cases are moments not about conflict but about an opportunity for the family to hear one another," explained Rob. "I spend a lot of time explaining about the importance of listening, to hear, to be fair and to respond.
"But above all I will start the family proceedings by saying this is an opportunity not to listen to each other, but to hear one another.
"What happens in the course of the journey of a trial, is that you often see that what the parties are there to sue one another about is wholly irrelevant.
"All of the stuff, the contention, isn't about the money - it's about something else. And hopefully the opportunity we give them helps them sort it out."
integrity matters McLennan on a The along "I sayin"All of the stuff, the contention, isn't about the money - it's about something else Judge Rinder
Robert Rinder's courtroom may be a TV studio but he takes it seriously
Each case can take 90-100 hours of preparation before it goes before the judge
Judge Rinder with his Strictly partner Oksana Platero
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|Publication:||Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)|
|Date:||Jun 9, 2019|
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