These are rough notes I made at the time of watching the individual episodes. Apologies for any typos and errors. They contain spoiler details such as an indication of the verdict (and my thoughts on that). The episodes are presented in order of viewing, which is as they appear on the Network DVDs rather than production or broadcast order.
The court considers a case of medical negligence, after a man collapses and dies having just left A&E. Was it the hospital, the doctor, the nurse – or no one’s fault?
The wrong music! No jury! Scenes set outside the court room! This doesn’t feel quite right, and no wonder – this was an untransmitted pilot and the formula still needs tweaking. That said it’s still a compelling watch. David Neal is impressive as one of the barristers – it’s a shame he ended up doing General Hospital instead of more of these. Jeremy Bullock is our Who connection of the week.
Lieberman V Savage
A property dispute between a millionaire property magnate and his former fiancée concerning the ownership of the luxury penthouse apartment he gave her, before calling off the engagement after finding her with another man – his own son!
The format is all in place, but it’s a weird case to kick things off, the sort of thing that wouldn’t normally go before a jury. It’s actually a really engrossing case with unexpected depth and various twists. It shows how much you can do with a simple court-room format where people get up and talk, and how they react under questionining.
Regina V Lord
A school teacher attacks a young PC (Dr Who’s Ian Marter – and his boss is Christopher “Jago” Benjamin!) so badly he’s in ICU for two days. What drove her to it, and does it give genuine grounds for defence against charges of GBH?
It’s genuinely impressive to find the series venturing so early into unusual territory. The case initially revolves around a letter written by the police to the headmistress – a disturbing display of police and Home Office surveillance of the time which was capable of wrecking lives – but then becomes about a defence of ‘temporary insanity’. I hadn’t expected a 70s jury to be quite so trusting of psychological evidence an they’re actually more lenient than I would have been – but Helen Lord is a desperately sympathetic defendant.
Conspiracy – Regina V Luckhurst And Sawyer
The prosecution of a left-wing journalist and his naive student girlfriend for the bombing of a right wing publishing house.
The first episode sets up a reasonable circumstantial case but the crucial eyewitness has some flaws, and when there are two witnesses establishing alibis for the accused it’s hard to see the verdict being anything other than not guity. The defendants are their own worst emenries with their radical outbursts and refusals to answer questions.
The Eleventh Commandment
Two women are charged with shoplifting after the theft of a red silk dress from a department store, but the store detective fails to catch them in possession of the garment.
After last week’s bombing, this one couldn’t be a bigger contrast; mind you, £32 in 1972 money for a dress is quite exorbitant. The case loses focus and drifts into odd domestic arrangements at one point, but in general the case is as gripping as ever. The lack of a ‘smoking gun’ in the form of the stolen garment is a fatal flaw for the prosecution who otherwise have a strong case well presented by the Demon Headmaster. In a rare break from the norm, a slip by one of the defendants at the end reveals the actual truth. And is that Liz Dawn as a background extra, one of the prison warders?
Regina V Vennings & Vennings
A 20-year-old student is charged with smuggling after the boat he’s sailing back from Cherbourg is found to contain £200,000 of refined heroin, while corresponding charges against his stern father are quickly dropped.
This case had almost the reverse problem to its predecessor – here the suspect has ben caught red-handed with the goods even though he denies knowledge. Unfortunately the defence witnesses get caught out in all manor of lies and half-truths and it’s impossible not to find him guilty. Along the way the show unwisely breaks format with scenes outside the presence of the jury (as the accused absconds) and a bizarre scene which descends into domestic melodrama as the judge takes chareg of the questioning. It’s all a little odd, and quite the poorest story thus far.
Regina V Bryant
A repeat offender is accused of taking part in the robbery with violence of a bank courier, but he says it’s a police frame-up.
Every legal drama has the ‘defendant takes over his own case’ story sooner or later, it’s just a surprise that Crown Court goes so melodramatic so early in its run. The fun part is that the defendant in question is played by Taggart himself, Mark McManus – and even more disturbingly, he’s got a London accent. His wife is Diane Keen, and the overzealous detective nemesis is played by Minder’s Glyn Edwards. It feels a little overcooked, but McManus’s performance in particular makes this a particularly enjoyable story. Ultimately it proves that a layman should never represent himself in court: Bryant’s defence relies on his character and assertions of a police frame-up which is doomed to fail; the actual evidence against him is a mere one eye-witness identification which shouldn’t be enough to convict, but that rather lets lost in the theatrics.
Euthanasia – Regina V Webb
Laurence Webb admits giving his terminally ill wife a lethal dose of morphine: was it out of compassion, or cold-blooded murder?
Mercy killing is still a hot button issue today, and this 45-year-old examination is somewhat blunted by being an early and naive look at the subject rather missing the important points. It’s clear that the crime is cooly pre-meditated, which should be enough to convict; but the prosection tries to gild the lilly and suggest he wanted his wife dead so he could marry his mistress, and it’s not terribly convincing. In pursuing this, they rather lose the main question of whether it’s murder even if done out for genuine love, meaning the jury ends up deciding on manslaughter. Mark Eden is the not particularly likeable defendant, and Ivy Tilsely is an uncredited non-speaking extra as a jury member!
A Genial Man – Regina V Bolton
A prominent local politician is accused of sexually assaulting his 18 year old secretary in his office.
Wow, talk about prescient: a story that’s 45 years old, and yet I saw this on the very day in 2017 that a Tory cabinet minister resigned over sexual misconduct – times change, but people apparently don’t. You get the feeling that this story has been written with scrupulous care to show the reality of a sexual assault case: the defence do nothing wrong, the witness – while timid and an ideal ‘victim’ for a sexual predator – sticks resolutely to her story and is supported by the circumstantial evidence. Against this, the politician just says “It’s not true” and replies on his reputation. It’s depressing how much of a foregone conclusion the verdict from the white, middle class, middle aged and mainly male jury is despite the clarity of the case. It’s easy to understand why victims didn’t come forward to be subjected to this sort of ordeal with so little hope of finding justice. One hopes that today things might be different. It makes this one a hard watch, but a commendable piece of drama.
Espionage – Regina V Terson
A senior civil servant is accused or removing confidential papers from her work and taking them home where they can be seen by her boyfriend – a potential East German spy!
I’ve rarely been quite so aware of my own bias in a case as I am here. The accused’s arrogance in deciding that she knew best – about the classification, about taking the papers home, that her boyfriend wasn’t a Communist honey trap – was breathtakingly arrogant, to my mind at least. But maybe that’s because I’ve handled classified material myself and made sure to follow the rules to the letter. I was surprised but pleased when the jury didn’t follow for the “but she’s such a nice lady!” defence and various obfuscations about how and why material gets a secret classification.
Who Is Benedetto Trovato? Regina V Starkie
An obscure British artist is accused of selling a forgery of a famous painting by 16th-century Venetian artist Benedetto Trovato to an American collector for £20,000. Did she know in advance – or did she even paint it herself?
An unusual story in that it feels less like the usual ‘looking into a courtroom’ affair and more a proper play of the week. It’s ironic then that the prosecution case in this story is one of the best developed and most solid of the series to date, without the usual gaps of brevity. Really though the main point is to satirise the capriciousness of the art world, taking aim at critics, reviewers and experts all of whom are made to look pretty silly by one sly means or another. Ultimately the main plot point is the bombshell delivered by the defendant which would be over the top even for Perry Mason – but that said, it’s still quite delicious. Richard Hurndall guest stars, looking the spit of a tall William Hartnell in a 3rd Doctor green smoking jacket; and Jerome Willis (Stevens from The Green Death) is delightful as a Marxist art critic.
Criminal Libel – Regina V Maitland
A rising if temperamental star of British tennis is on trial of libel for writing a letter to his girlfriend’s father accusing him of being “an abortionist” and “a murderer”.
An unusual case in that it’s the defence that have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt this time – and in a case of “he said, they said” there’s no chance of that so the verdict is inevitable. Along the way it’s an engrossing family drama and character study about a domineering father and the two women in his family who are completely overwhelmed by it. I’m not entirely sure about the accuracy of the judge’s legal instructions regarding libel here – a sealed letter addressed to the libelled man seems like it’s not been ‘published’ and can’t possibly be used to defame unless it is distributed more widely, but maybe the law has changed between 1973 and now.
The Medium – Regina v Purbeck
Did Simon Purbeck defraud vulnerable wealthy woman by posing as a psychic?
An interesting one. By law, the prosecution has to prove that medium Simon Purbeck is a fraud, but their case is short and relies on three flawed witnesses (gullible, nervous breakdown, pompous and besotted) while the defendants are all pretty strong. It’s also clear that Purbeck’s Trust has done everything possible to avoid explicitely breaking the law by procuring payments (while clearly preying upon their believers’ vulnerabilities). The only way that you could find them guilty is if you have a preconceived notion that all mediums are by definition frauds. It’s why I’m disconcerted by the verdict, since while I agree with it I can’t help but feel that nonetheless pre-existing prejudice rather than the facts of the case was behind it.
Whatever Happened to George Robbins? – Regina v Barnes
George Robbins is missing. The prosecution think that have a firm murder case, but can it succeed in the absence of a body?
At last, a full-on murder case! Albeit complicated by the lack of a corpse in this case. The problem here is that the defendant is thoroughly repugnant – even before he steps into the witness box he’s grinning, gurning and leering like the worst criminal in a B-movie melodrama. His explanations are clearly bogus and his cooked-up alibi is paper thin. But the problem is, the prosecution has virtually no evidence linking him to the crime other than a ‘I’ll kill you!’ outburst, an eyewitness with something of her own to hide and who can’t give a positive ID anyway, and some weak forensics about bullets and carpet fibres. One of those cases were you feel dirty delivering the inevitable ‘Not guilty’ verdict despite knowing he’s guilty as hell.
Blackmail – Regina v Brewer and Brewer
A Church of England cleric has to testify about being blackmailed over his affair with a young parishoner.
Here, there is little disagreement about the facts of the matter: a married C of E cleric has been sent letters demanding money by his former lover, or else she’ll go public. Is this blackmail, or does she just want recompense for the money she’s lost out on due to their affair? The cleric doesn’t even want to prosecute but his wealthy wife is insistent. There’s an interesting section where the cleric has to be treated as a hostile witness by the Crown (something I’ve only seen in US legal dramas). Ultimately there’s a loss of interest in the verdict as it comes down to motivation and what the letter of the law allows; in general, it’s more a character study with especially good insights into the cleric, his wife and lover. It feels a bit rushed toward the end, and a mid-trial revelation hands the sympathy entirely to the defence meaning they’re always likely to get the benefit of the doubt in the final verdict. And in the end, you have to say it feels right and that this was no case of criminal blackmail.
Sunset of Arms – Fitton v Pusey
A retired major sues an academic for libel after a book insists he deserted under fire in the Korean War.
The first true shocker of a verdict. The defence has three independent witnesses corroborating aspects of the book’s claims, while the prosecution brings only one witness, the plaintiff, whose testimony is shaky, patchy with areas where he doesn’t remember; at odds with the evidence and other testimony and at times making no sense. Plus the plaintiff admits falsifying evidence in the official account. The result? The plaintiff wins! Bizarre. You couldn’t accept it in a scripted verdict. But the story itself is a triumph: I started off thinking “Oh no, not the Korean War…” but the episode sucks us in and transports us around the world and back 20 years, gripping us and making us care about the events without ever leaving the single set courtroom. An example of just what heights quality drama can achieve.
Persimmons and Dishwashers – Regina v Curl and Curl
Two brothers deny running a violent protection racket in Fulchester.
Another shocking verdict. The prosection case is painfully weak, relying on a single statement taken from a victim who has since lapsed into a coma. The defence have no chance to verify the grounds of the accusation, and the man who actually commited the assault is never conclusively linked to the accused (he’s missing, presumed to be proping up a motorway bypass.) But the prosecution has virtually no other evidence after another ‘victim’ recants his statement after suffering a convenient pre-trial injury. Even the statement itself is questionable and the integrity of the two policemen who took it is called into question. In many ways it shows the real life difficulty of pursuing such a case, but more should have been tracking the money at least. Given how poor the case is, it’s astounding when the verdict comes in. They’ve clearly been swayed by public outrage, and on this occasion … It’s quite a good thing that they were.
A Public Mischief – Regina v Baker and Crawley
A complex land deal suggests that a local councillor used his privileged knowledge of the rerouting of a motorway bypass to make a handsome profit buying a piece of land for some housing. Was his former secretary in on it too?
One of the driest and most technically complex cases I think I’ve ever seen on Crown Court – which probably makes it one of the most realistic. Only in the final part do we get anything resembling human emotion and drama, with a sad tale of a dead love affair. Otherwise, trying to keep all the dates about who said what to whom straight is hard enough, let alone the small lies and deceptions that are going on. It does seem as if the story is aiming to make a point about how all (local) politicians, even the apparently decent and principled ones, have their snouts in the trough and are up to some sort of petty corruption of one sort or another. It’s hard to stay focussed on the accused rather than everyone else who gets equally smeared by the case. But ultimately the proof isn’t just not there despite plenty of circumstantial smoke – even if it was, it seems that the accused have been very clever and never actually crossed a legal line. They’re not the most likeable bunch but you can’t help admiring a job well done.
Portrait of an Artist – Kingsley v Messiter
A famous artist dies and leaves behind two wills: one leaving everything to his business manager, the other to his model and muse. A jury has to decide which one takes precedence.
As the title says, this is a portrait of a dead man and also of the two women in his life. It’s a fascinating character study and also a compelling one when it comes to legal detail about exactly what makes for a a legal will. The plaintiff is smart, smug and arrogant while the defendant is sweet and simple which immediately colours one’s view. The prosecuting barrister Helen Tate lays into the defendant Rose Messiter too heavily and accidentally underlines how she doesn’t have the knowledge or intelligence to pull off the fraud that’s being alleged. At one point Tate seems to have made a serious blunder – only to extract a confession from Rose about lying on the stand which nearly changes everything. But it’s surely a dangerous line to suggest the artist wasn’t mentally competent to sign a will – when their own will predates it by only two and a half weeks! However the defence also goes too far in alleging that the business manager tried to intentionally destroy the second will … by sending it to the Tate where it was bound to be discovered. In the end not everything is clear but the right decision is made by the jury – thank goodness only a relative burden of proof rather than beyond reasonable doubt is required or we could have been here all day! Great stuff though, and totally captivating.
A Crime in Prison – Regina v Ager and Lanigan
A prison officer is charged with bringing in contraband for one of the prisoners at Fulchester’s Parkmoor jail.
The episode doesn’t really appear very interested in how court proceedings work, and is rather all over the place with witnesses just being thrown up almost at random and neither side all that capable of constructing a case so it’s hard to tell what they’re actually trying to do. The defence tries to discredit a witness one minute only to then admit what was being alleged the next. The prosecution calls a witness who provides no evidence but is a terrific character witness for the defendant. And a sudden change of plea in open court makes no sense. The first episode is largely played for laughs with prison vernacular needing simultaneous translation, and only works because of the performances of a sparkling pre-startdom Bob Hoskins and a warmly wry turn from William Mervyn as the presiding judge. Testimony from a prostitute is an excuse for OTT risqué comedy from the gum-chewing vamp who cheerfully lies with apparent impunity which totally contradicts her own previous statements and recordings of phone calls. It’s only when Glyn Houston steps into the box as the defendant that the story takes on any gravitas or dignity, and so the verdict comes as little surprise even though the jury has to overlook some squalid circumstances. The director (Bob Hird) seems to be going for a more ambitious artistic style than usual but it misfires badly in a strong of technical gaffes, and the performers are also very mistake-prone this week (one witness drops the Bible before he can say the oath).
Infanticide or Murder? – Regina v Collins
An under-age girl gives birth to a premature baby, and the body is buried by the girl’s father in the front garden. Was the child born alive, and did someone kill it?
Bloody hell, this is strong stuff. Even without anything graphical on screen, the accounts of the birth and the different explanatiosn fr its death are really difficult to listen to. These days there’s no way it could be aired before the watershed, and even then it could come with a plethora of support lines for those affected by the issues – it’s genuinely disturbing. It’s striking that the entire prosection case (a pathologist and a nosy neighbour) are dealt with before the first commercial break, leaving the rest of the story to the testimony of the family: the father, who is a horrifying relgious zealot; the submissive mother; and the 15-year-old daughter who is old beyond her years – and one of the most striking and chilling portrayals of a pure sociopath I’ve seen on British TV. In the first episode it feels natural to blame the fundamentalist father who describes the dead child as an ‘abomination’ but his ultra faith also means that you can discount him as the guilty party the minute he swears his innocence on the Bible. With no direct evidence as to who killed the child, any defence counsel would cast doubt by accusing the mother or child, and he doesn’t have to as they spontaneously confess on the stand all by themselves. The mother is clearly being self-sacrificing, leaving the horrific realisation of the truth which is confirmed in the final credits after the inevitable not guilty verdict on the father. Strange to see the prosecutor having to argue not once but twice as to the innocence or a witness!
An Act of Vengeance – Regina v Collings
An acid attack on a young man returning home is blamed on a cousin, as the result of a bitter family feud between two branches of the Collings family.
Once again, a series from over 40 years ago could hardly find a more relevant and timely subject, given the rie of cases of people throwing corrosive liquids into the faces of unsuspecting victims. It’s shocking today, so how much more so in 1973? The victim is Michael Cashman, midway between his debut as a 14-year-old in Gideons Way and his better known role in EastEnders, but his appearance is somewhat masked by dark glasses and a bandage over one side of his face. The trouble is that after this drmatic opening to the case, things go off the boil: the family feud said to be responsible for the attack proves rather tepid, and only the close relatives of the victim seem worked up about it. We only get to see the accused from the other side, and he’s underplayed to the point of being reasonable and courteous so it never seems likely he would take some extreme steps. Most of all the only evidence is the eye-witness account of the victim and his father, who both insist that the dark-dressed, fast-running man with a stocking over his head must be their cousin. The defence uses a trick straight out of Perry Mason to challenge this (it’s hard to believe they would be allowed to get away with this in a British court) but it makes the point well, and once you start to doubt that then the case is lost and a not guilty verdict inevitable, which is a bit of a shame as there was more drama to be milked out of this.
Freak-out – Regina v Marlow
A well-known photographer is found dead in her studio. The only other person present is a model catatonic from an overdose of LSD. Was it murder, mis-adventure or dinomished capacity?
Despite the occasional balancing comment about ‘good trips’ and positive effects, this is largely a public service announceement about the evils of LSD. It’s the account of the giant black slugs you’ll remember combined with the particularly horrible cause of death (supported by some remarkably graphic crime scene photographs) that will linger in the memory. John Bennett manages to make palatable the extended expert tesitmony about drugs which shows a lack of knowledge about drug use and a good deal of scaremongering of the time. The judge is remarkably intolerant and actively hostile toward the rest of the prosecution witnesses, which can’t be just because of an anti-drugs stance since he’s quite sensitive toward the accused herself. Despite some good clues on both sides (the prosecution has a role of film deliberately exposed and binned; the defence elicits a key concession from the expert witness about something he’s overlooked) the problem is that there is never a sufficient motive for murder established by the Crown. It means that if it was murder then it must have been drugs-motivated and therefore diminished capacity. The jury has a higher number of verdicts available to them than usual (murder, manslaughter, diminished capacity or outright didn’t-do-it) and not guilty is always the front runner although whether it’s because they think she did it but can’t prove it is another matter.
Intent To Kill – Regina v Duffy
Albert Duffy is accused of shooting a night watchman during a raid on a warehouse.
Maybe the law has been changed considerably since this aired, but what really strikes about this story is the way that counsel can cheerfully introduce details of defendants’ and witnesses’ past criminal records, as well as throwing in the findings of trials of others taking part in the warehouse raid. I doubt you’d get away with that today, and this shows why because it really is quite prejudicial. Even the details of Duffy being on the run for 5 months is likely to get the jury to find him guilty. Added to this the defence makes a big mistake with their final witness, the accused’s wife, who is clearly hostile and hates him deeply. While she’s called for a particular (valid) reason in the defence case, her other comments are likely to be damning and turn the jury against Duffy especially as it’s the last testimony they hear. Against that there are three witnesses who say Duffy had the gun – admittedly two are co-conspirators and the other the badly wounded guard who is too honest for his own good. But Duffy’s explanations are hard to swallow and not supported by anyone else, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the verdict is a solid ‘guilty’ on all counts. Actually it’s baffling why he’s even trying a not guilty plea on the robbery charges since he admits them albeit under coercion; but by insisting innocence there when he’s clearly not, it sinks his chances on the larger firearms charge. To be honest I’ve seen less convincing cases get acquittals, but you never can tell with a jury. especially with previous convictions lobbed in…
The Mugging of Arthur Simmons
Are two youths guilty of mugging a retired man, or is it a case of the police arresting the two defendants for being black?
The smallest of crimes – a street mugging for £2 in which no one is hurt and the only weapon is an old ladies’ umbrella – links to the biggest of themes, racial equality. This being the 70s the episode can use more overt themes and language than today’s television even though it was a daytime show, and some of it is very strong and explicit to our ears although the N word is mercifully omitted. Right from the moment you hear that the two witnesses were marched direct to a black youth centre where everyone is lined up against the wall in an ad hoc identity parade without the slightest of evidence, you know you’re in the realm of blatant racial stereotyping; the prosecution’s only evidence is a Black Power article for a student newspaper written by one of the suspected months before the crime. Even so, the episode doesn’t pile on to the white witnesses – Arthur Simmons is played by the ever-sympathetic Cyril Shaps and the policeman is given an opportunity to tell the court how hard it is being a copper today – and some of the complaints from the defence sound inflated. The appearance of some black jurors – barely seen in the past – means a not guilty verdict is assured, and rightly so.
Love Thy Neighbour – Regina v Thornton and Thornton
A squabble between two neighbouring families escalates to the point where one is shot, and two brothers prosecuted for attempted murder.
Despite this being a case of attempted murder with a fireaarm, this story simply oozes ‘routine’. It’s a classic case of ‘he said/they said” in terms of which set of witnesses you believe, with the few provable facts of the case tending to favour the prosecution but whose witnesses aren’t all that stellar especially Willie (a young and hirsute Warren Clarke!) who is rather dim and for some reason gets on the wrong side of a tetchy judge who threatens him with contempt for simply answering a question accurately! Maggie is little better, initially failing to show up and when she does sporting a massive a bruise to her face which is never explained. Against this the primary defendant is softly spoken and well presented (the always impressive Tony Doyle) but who for all his reverence also conveys an oiliness of someone whose answers are just a little too pat. The defence barrister gets extraordinary leeway in spinning tales without the slightest evidence to support them, and also gets to throw around criminal and employment records in a way that surely wouldn’t be allowed today. As a result he almost achieves a ‘not proven’ verdict except that the jury sees right through it and doesn’t want to let him get away with it.
The Death of Dracula – Regina v Mattson
A stage magician dies after a dangerous illusion goes fatally wrong. But did his assistant (who was also his wife?) knowingly sabotage the performance?
Despite the title, there’s no tales of the supernatural here although the ‘dreadful films’ of the 40s are referenced in testimony (how jolly dare they!) It’s a very enjoyable story, which starts with back stage tales of the dressing room of a popular cabaret act including affairs and hanky panky, and some casual domestic abuse which is all the more shocking for modern day viewers by the fact that it’s totally unremarked upon in the 70s. A strong script combines with great performances from a well-cast line-up of guest artists to liven things up and give it a sense of an in-depth backstory of relationships down the years. But really we’re all waiting to see how the fatal trick was (supposed to be) done and it doesn’t let us down. This could be a rather dry and dull bit of exposition but instead it’s a tour de force thanks to the casting of Anthony Sharp – the 70s’ quintessential ‘military officer’ in many of the decade’s drama and sitcoms – as the Brigadier who provides the expert testimony. The accused is certainly a bright woman (although her temper is the one thing that nearly lands her in trouble) but the idea that she or indeed anyone could reverse engineer the trick in order to kill is simply not sustainable, and the prosectution is on a clear hiding to nothing long before the jury deliver the inevitable verdict.
After the death of a wealthy industrialist, a young man turns up claiming to be his son and wanting a share of the inheritance. But is he guilty of crimimal deception?
We’re on dangerous racial prejudice grounds here with the ‘young pretender’ resulting from an early marriage to an African woman in Zaire. For once, language isn’t the problem here as the plaintiffs are far too upper crust for such crudities (apparently ‘black’ is offensive but ‘coloured’ is acceptable address, rather different from today) but their disdain for the defendant and their British imperialist sense of entitlement simply oozes through. They’re allowed to declaim all sorts of unproven allegations from the witness box but the minute the defence barrister makes any criticism of them he’s stopped by the judge. But maybe that’s all for the good as it shows clearly the type of people they are compared to the police, softly spoken defendant who’s played by Play School’s ever-lovable Derek Griffith whom we can’t imagine being evil – although perhaps that’s exactly how a convincing con man should be played? The defence’s attempts to prove innocence continually fall just short, but the killer prosecution evidence of a forged birth certificate should never have been admitted as it was in the hands of the plaintiffs for a month before suddely the forgery was discovered by the legitimate son played by a young and barely recognisable Nigel Havers. Chain of evidence today woudl rule it out in no uncertain terms, but then of course DNA testing would also be a rapid answer. The cast also includes legendary Sherlock pairing Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley, making this a really brilliant episode on all levels.
Beware of the Dog – Regina v Page
Two teenagers are seriously wounded after trespassing on a local building site, at the hands of private security guards and their guard dog. Is it assault, or reasonable action?
The material about whether the rise of private security companies being some sort of ‘paramilitary force’ superceding the legitimate authority of the police is quintessentially 70s and feels very quaint to today’s eyes, and of less interest than the circumstances of the assault itself and the subtle details involved – the exact commands given to the dog and whether the assault took place on the site or on public roads outside. With three defendants and a variety of charges it’s a complex case for a jury, and it’s genuinely commendable and frankly rather surprising that they come up with what I completely agree was the correct combination of guilty/innocent verdicts. The teenage victims don’t help themselves by pretty much lying about their reasons for being there which don’t hold water and are easily seen through, undermining their testimony abojut the attack itself. But the defence barrister is also a problem, laying into the victim and even the judge much too sharply to get the sympathy of the jury on his side. Ultimately the corporate responsiblity is dispended with through a direct verdict and the guard who took no active part are quickly dispensed with, but it’s the man who fractured the skull of a 16 year old that is harder to overlook. The show has to hustle to get all the material in with a lot of cross fades and quick cuts to new witnesses on the stand, and there’s some interesting direction going on as well. It’s great to see Frank Middlemass as the judge (a role he was surely born to play!), Peter Bowles at his suave best as the corporate defendant who nearly drops himself in it with a silly exaggeration, and Jack Galloway as a young PC.
Theft by Necessity – Regina v Burton
Is an elderly pensioner justified in stealing food to survive?
A highly unusual – possibly unique – single half hour story rather than the usual three-parter, directed by feature film director Gordon Flemyng. It’s basically a showcase for actor Roland Culver, an admitted shoplifter defending himself and doing so with a top knowledge of the law and a charm in how he presents himself in court and calmly dismantles the prosecutions case step-by-step. It’s startling to learn that there really was a viable defence of ‘necessity’ (hard to believe that this was true in the Victorian era; and surely it’s a loop-hole that governments since the 70s have now closed?) Highlights include the description of the shoplifted goods – dates, an orange, rice, mince and curry power – being described as “a veritable Christmas feast’ and costing just 64p, while the prosecutor regards £6p/w rent as being exaggerated and it put in his place by the judge! There’s some great material for William Mervyn as Mr Justice Campbell and a lovely performance from a local PC. Plus a scene-stealing non-speaking role for the accused’s landlady in the public gallery who is eating in every scene we see her – small wonder that ‘sharing kitchen storage didn’t work’ for the poor starving Colonel Burton!
The Gilded Cage – Regina v Scard
A woman claims to have been held against her will and raped by her husband.
One of those cases where the verdict leaves you fuming, a gobsmaking example of public attitudes to women in the 70s. True, the plaintiff (Angela Scoular playing Serena Cutforth) is deeply unsympathetic and seems to have played her estranged husband for a fool in getting money out of him for herself and her family’s ailing banking business. Even if that’s the case it doesn’t excuse him taking his revenge by keeping her locked up and forcing her to have sex, before hitting her and throwing her out. Every piece of independent evdience and testimony supports her story of the nights in question but the jury somehow come to a ‘not guilty verdict’ on all counts which is positively criminal. The most enlightened person in the two-part story is William Mervyn as Mr Justice Campbell who gets into a startlign stand-up row with the defence barrister (Mark Dignam), flatly rejecting the precedence in law that a woman is obligated to do what her husband tells her to at all time even if it means being locked up and having to submit to rape. Despite the way the defence reveals its basic stance, the jury still prefer to believe the man (Derek Newark) – especially a down to earth working man rather than the hoity-toity Serena – and throw out the evidence. It’s genuinely disgraceful and gets your blood boiling – which is the mark of a good drama, after all. At least things have changed now … Hopefully.
Credibility Gap – Stevens v Porton Construction
A cnstruction company is prosecuted for not following proper safety procedures during the building of a bridge in Scotland.
A bit of a weird set-up – why is a court in Fulchester hearing a case about corporate responsibility in a bridge building project in Scotland involving people who live in London? – and potentially rather dry and uninteresting as a case of health and safety (yes, even in the 1970s!) But actually this exceeds its potential and becomes quite gripping thanks to some sharp writing (by Dr Who Yeti creator Mervyn Haisman) and interesting believable characters. The central issue of the management claims that the workforce decided off its own bat and the merest hint of inclement weather to rush back on to the project after a full 12 hour shift despite the supervisor telling them not just doesn’t hold water (even today, let alone the politically charged times of the 1970s) ut the case seems to be cruising to a throwaway ‘not proven’ acquittal after painting a picture of an affair (with no proof whatsoever) between the plaintiff’s wife and the hot headed union leader (a young Tony Selby, all smirks and winks to his mates). But after the patronising, oily testimony of the construction company owner it’s the testimony of the supervisor (a remarkably restrained ans subtle performance rom a pre-It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum Windsor Davies) that blows the whole thing open and leaves you genuinely on the edge of your seat waiting to see if counsel can strike the killer blow and snatch victory from a case that had been circling the drain. All this and the delightful Frank Middlemass making his presence felt in the judge’s chair. A really good case.
The Long-Haired Leftie – Regina v Dowd
An agitator at a strike against a newspaper company is prosecuted for violence and intimidation on the picket line.
To be honest I was rather dreading this one because of the outdated 70s take on trade unions and strike action. IN fact the first half is rather wonderful as it centres on bickering between the defence counsel and the judge about what it allowed in as evidence with the judge determined that this isn’t to be a ‘political trial’. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it turns into once the defendant (a hirsute David Calder!) takes the stand and does his best to offend any of the Mail/Telegraph reader on the jury which it turns out to be the overwhelming majority if the verdict is anything to go by. It’s rather unavoidable – the defence’s line that the prosecution witnesses are there as part of a frame up just don’t ring true, and not even Dowd looks like he’s serious about it even as he says them. Instead we just get 20 minutes of polemic, mostly with the left wing view being given, and it gets rather tiresome. There’s little in the way of evidence so once that early bickering over procedure is dispensed with it does end up becoming the sort of painful ‘issue’ story that I’d feared at the outset. Shame, as it had promise and definite unexpected high moments.
There Was a Little Girl – Regina v Grey
A young wife apparently set fire to the family home with her children inside, and her defence is mental disturbance due to domestic abuse.
The subject here is one that we would recognise today as domestic abuse of a woman who has been dominated by cold, stern male authority figures (first father, then husband) to the point that it has stunted her intellectual and emotional development. That’s a tough, poorly understood topic today and so it’s not surprising that the representation here from nearly 50 years ago is somewhat shaky (but it demonstrates how for ‘cosy lunchtime viewing’, Crown Court really was pushing the limits in terms of hard hitting contemporary topics). To be honest this feels like the script is trying to be a socially earnest Play for Today on the topic rather than a court room drama and the legal side simply doesn’t make sense: the defence barrister attacks her client so hard that it feels like she’s making the prsecution’s case for them (and the prosecutor reduces the defendant to tears on the stand, never a good tactic). Breaking her down in a hard psychological interrogation doesn’t seem like a good strategy and nor would it normally be allowed in court. Instead, the question of whether she started the fire seems almost irrelevant (the defence QC simply accepts it) and the accused’s inability to recall the events means that she should be considered unfit to stand trial because she can’t participate in her own defence. That all of this is brushed aside is irritating, and while it’s hard to find fault with the verdict considering the defendant’s ack of cooperation you can’t help but think this would all be handled very differently today. Progress then, maybe.
A View to Matrimony – Regina v McNeill
A man is prosecuted after it’s found he has three independently wealthy wives (and nore in Somalia) and he is accused of going for their moment.
Thsi tale of a supposedly charismatic con man just about stays the right side of comedy but is certainly a little silly (one reaction shot shows a member of the jury laughing opening at the absurdity of it all). On the face of it it’s an open and shut case with three women (two still dreamy about MacNeill, the other rather more hostile) all having married him but it’s made more interesting and complex by the international element – MacNeill lives in Somalia and purports to be a Muslim which rather complicates the situation although the idea that he can effect a legal divorce by simply declaring such in the local mosque without witnesses or paperwork or letting anyone back in the UK know seems absurd. Still, the script takes this as possible. It’s clear that MacNeill’s faith is as best a business ruse if not an outright lie and in fact the overall sense is that he’s lying his head off. However the ‘obtaining money through deception’ isn’t helped by the friendly testimony of the prosecution witnesses (aka the wives). Ultimately Russell Hunter (from Callan and clearly a big guest star for the show given the amount of time, interventions and cutaway shots we get of him even before his testimony in E3) is simply too likeable and the jury fall for it despite his obvious guilt – but then, that’s exactly what would happen with such a polished con man. There’s a sly final scene where, after acknowledging his wives, he then goes off to speak to an attractive court official who’s caught his eye…
A Score Settled – Regina v Bates
A footballer’s career is prematurely ended after an in-game indicent and a member of the opposing team is accused of GBH for deliberately inflicting the injury.
It’s getting slightly irritating that there is so little in the way of proof presented (either way) in these cases so that they simply come down to he said/she said debates and a 50-50 balance – which of course makes it impossible to come to a verdict ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ making acquittal inevitable – unless the jury don’t like your face as in the trade union story! Here the victim can’t even state for certain who kicked him, while assertions from the referee apparently aren’t enough against the accused’s version despite the latter admitting that he lied in part of his own testimony which is rather frustrating. But against that, this is a great case enlivened considerably by the pin-sharp portrayals of the players, manager, and owners all of whom come across as vividly authentic for their time. Only the journalist at the end seems superfluous as it tries to drag the case into hooliganism which has nothing to do with it. The best part is Justice Craig being a huge football fan and interrupting the barristers to provide a running commentary/analysis: he doesn’t get on well with the prosecution and rebukes their witness for proffering opinions but then lets the defence witnesses say what they like, so he’s rather biased and that might account for the eventual verdict.
Patch’s Patch – Regina v Patch
A local builder is accused of fraud in setting up a housing association asking for £1000 in exchange for a cheap new home.
Fraud trials are complex and not very accessible so it’s to the show’s credit that it tries its best to give a snese of the financial detail involved with lots of figures being bandied about. The main focus is on the accused, Edward Patch, who gets extra screen time by representing himself. He’s actually very sharp when conducting his case, which makes his ‘mistakes’, health ‘scares’ and frequent hunble apologies feel just a little manufactured and undermines his “I’m not clever enough to do this, it was the accountant who has done a bunk” defence. He probably doesn’t win favours by attacking the senior officer from the Fraud Squad or his quite misogynistic cross-examination of his former secretary and it might be this that leads to the jury’s verdict. Personally I was surprised by it – if there was ever a case with reasonable doubt I would have thought it was this one, but apparently not so. An interesting case despite the dry source material mainly thanks to the defendant.
To Catch a Thief – Regina v Halsey
The police have discovered a valuable painting in the boot of a car, which had been stolen a few days before from the Brabazon Art Gallery. The owner of the car, Ronald Halsey, is now on trial for the theft of the painting.
Some very odd touches here, and not just trendy director Voytek’s self-conscious auteur touches. For one thing there’s no use of the main title music over the opening scenes, just straight into dialogue (although still the music to play out at the very end), plus the advocates’ closing speeches are missing and we just cut straight to the judge’s summing up. It’s a strong case with more proof than most although it’s circumstantial, but it feels like more than enough to get a guilty verdict with too many coincidences and unexplained things than can be allowed to go unanswered. It seems like the jury is swayed by the gallery owner’s (a magnificent Sheila Gish) unlikeable aspect, smirking her way through the case making it look like she’s behind a set-up when it’s the defendant’s story that is systematically taken apart. The defence make it about whether she’s setting up an insurance fraud for which there is scant evidence. There’s also a terrific comedy turn from Sam Kelly and Oscar Quitak as a suave art expert, but overshadowing them all is Richard Wilson’s first appearance as a barrister: he’ll become a regular and it set him up as a star. And entertaining, well written episode with some odd but fun asides (the tramps; Wilson having to translate Cockney slang for the judge;’ and Wilson sucking up to the gallery owner to the point where his opposite number rises to object and then just gives up!) marred only by the “what were they thinking?’ verdict from the jury.
Just Good Friends – Regina v Beaumont
Guy Paget and Sir Richard Jeffcoate first met at Oxford in the 1920s and remained close friends thereafter. Sir Richard is appalled when he is told by Nigel Beaumont that he intends to write a book offering a different interpretation of this friendship and Beaumont is subsequently accused of blackmail.
A sombre, serious case which can be a little too realistic for its own good as entertainment. But what a cast! Tony Anholt plays the defendant, Dulcie Gray as one of the alleged blackmail victime (they’ll be reunited in Howards Way 20 years later) and Patrick Newell as a sleazy publisher. Anholt plays his part with a likeable earnestness which probably is what carries the day against the haughty establishment figures, even though two different people step up with almost identical stories about his attempt to blackmail them over unsavoury parts of their past. Neither incident would raise much of an eyebrow today, and the episode fortunately steps around being too censorious about a possibly homosexual senior MP (not that those allegations are relevant to the case of blackmail anyway). There’s just not enough evidence to convict and sufficient discrepancies on both sides to make it a not guilty verdict especially as all the evidence Beaumont was planning to publish was from national newspapers and the public domain anyway, although it’s always hard to tell how a jury will go in such situations. There’s a nice touch where the judge rebukes the defence barrister for trying to elicit an opinion from a police officer, and she points out that he (the judge) just did exactly that five minutes ago, for which the judge simply smiles, accepts the point, apologises and admits that neither were right to have done so.
Who Was Kate Greer? – Regina v Archer
Winifred Archer is on trial for perjury and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. It is alleged that she falsely gave evidence that Celia Alcott stole a valuable vase from the Archersí home.
A strange case in many ways, from the fact that it’s a private prosecution (by a student union), that it’s the follow-up to a previous (unseen) case since overturned, and the unresolved nature of the verdict. To be honest the student and main accuser in this case is such a strident and unpleasant person while the accused is the very epitome of a respectable middle aged, middle class lady that it’s hard to understand why a 1970s jury would have had any trouble deciding the case especially given that the only evidence against her is a half-blind antiques seller whose ID can’t be taken with any reliability. Most of all it’s hard to see why she would have sold the stolen vase so openly immediately after the theft when she would have been clearly recognised; far earlier to think it was a move by the students, using a disguise knowing the antiquarian is short sighted, and a pseudonym that practically screams a student prank. One of the main accusers comes up with all sorts of new accusations not used before in her first trial, now that the other party in the case (the accused’s husband) is dead and can’t contradict her. Her story doesn’t make a great deal of sense and it’s perplexing why the case should result in a hung jury and a retrial – that we never see or hear about. Irksome.
A Right to Life – Abbs v Richards
Dr. Paul Richards, well known and controversial expert on mental deficiency, is the defendant in the case of Abbs against Richards and the Bossdale hospital management committee.
It’s astonishing that this should have been aired as part of early afternoon ‘light entertainment’ fare because it’s really harrowing and raises some very tough questions. On the one hand, the explicit eugenics stance of the defendant (played by the usually meek and mild Edward Hardwick, one of a number of quality guest stars again including Petter Jefferies and Preston Lockwood) is truly abhorrent and the use of ‘defectives’ and ‘sub-normal’ would categorically not be allowed on TV these days, nor would the defendant’s un-opposed opening opinion pieces from prior TV appearances at the start of each episode). But the clever script *by Dr Who stalwart David Fisher) is careful not to make him a monster, and the way he supports the plaintiff in court and earns a rebuke for telling his own barrister to stop cross examining her shows that he does care. Even so, the fact that he bullied her into an abortion against her will and without proper approvals is shocking, and the fact that the jury decides in his favour is even worse and hopefully emblematic of a time that is now long past. It’s a stunning piece of work, virtually flawless as drama, with a terrific performance from Lesley Dunlap as the plaintiff and Madeline Stone as her mother, which there’s also time for the odd bit of levity such as her knowing the oath because it’s on TV and another where the mother says she ‘never watches BBC2’ to the appalled double take from the judge.
The Inner Circle – Heywood v Blower
Martin Heywood is suing Anthony Blower – a journalist on the Sunday Nation – and the proprietors of the paper for libel because of articles he wrote about a cult called the Open Box.
After the preceding story which is still if not more harrowing decades later, this is a bit of a light relief and very much of its day, playing in the middle class preoccupation of the late 60s/early 70s about fringe cults coming across from the US. Although based on a real cult of the day it’s too broadly drawn and lacking details to be seen other than a frivolous affair, and the allegedly libellous article likewise lacking the sort of substance to be worth a suit over (so it’s likely that Open Box has brought it just for publicity and a bit of money) – most of the ‘facts’ of the article aren’t even disputed by the Cult and it’s just a matter of the overall spin/interpretation. The defendants field a likeable journalist and a mild mannered psychologist who go down well with the jury, while the plaintiffs seem to go almost out of their way to be as unlikeable as possible: the oily, smug Martin has that ‘punch in the face’ feel to him, and the Cult’s founder Megan is so haughty and contemptuous that she even despises her own barrister. There’s no way the jury will side with them, even before the judge points out than in a civil case the verdict relies on ‘balance of probability’ rather than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. As a result even though there’s a lack of actual evidence supporting the original article and it’s a case of he said/she said, the outcome is never in doubt. But the journey has certainly been worth worth and price of admission and very entertaining. The most curious part is the testimony of Mrs Peacock whcih is mostly about her experience with other, orthodox Christian groups: it’s not clear whether the plaintiffs are intentionally making this point or whether it’s the writer’s own editorialising, but it suggests the question “if your’e against the Open Box cult then how can you forgive Christianity as well?” – but it’s likely too subtle and goes over the heads of the jury in the room.
The Black Poplar – Regina v Tressman
Pauline Tressman is charged with causing grievous bodily harm to a workman with a shotgun. Her defence counsel claims that she was in a disturbed mental state and not responsible for her actions.
One of those cases that you can’t imagine it ever making to court in real life, in part because the charges of attempted murder are blatantly overblown but also because the defendant is clearly not fit to stand trial and needs mental care not a jail sentence as her actions at the time at least are clearly deranged. She gets all the sympathy in the case, even if her QC is ducking and diving trying to construct a defence from scraps and bits and pieces while the prosecution is far more coherent but at the same time puts people off by being entirely unsympathetic. Richard Wilson has a spikey/flirty exchange with a glamorous defence witness (Jan Holden) but the star of the show must be John Ringham as a ballistics expert witness who gets up everyone’s nose from the prosecution QC who calls him to the judge who shoots him some very nasty looks. Wilson’s subtle attempts to get the final one-up last word are a delight, and the final verdict will surprise no one (fortunately).
The Open Invitation – Regina v Sellars
Maureen Sellars has been charged with the kidnapping of a three-month-old baby, Karen Bascombe.
The defendant isn’t as outright sympathetic this time and able to defend herself unlike ‘The Black Poplar’ where a question of mental capacity was clear. IN fact the main prosecution witness is more relatable (and the defence does badly to go after as aggressively as it does). Overall it’s certainly cleae that Maureen was at best foolish to simply take the baby with her but the question of whether she had ‘an open invitation’ to do so (what, walk off with a baby at any time without notice? I think not…) by the family clouds the issue to the point where an acquittal is the only way to go. There’s certainly clearly no malicious intent and so the best reading is that of confused lines of communications that should never have elevated to a charge of ‘kidnapping’. Interestingly the guest cast is mainly female, but the WPC (whose testimony replaces the usual court reporter introduction) is a little too practiced and focused to be entirely believable – it looks like she’s omitted certain exculpatory statements – and the former parole officer appearing for the defence the least likeable of the bunch and likely to do more harm than good to Maureen’s case, whereas the cold and impassive psychologist (the brilliant Peter Miles, Nyder from Dr Who!) is at least even handed. There’s some nice interplay between the judge and the barristers, and some unusually good reaction work from the guest cast to make this an absorbing drama even if the case itself isn’t one of the most interesting.
Beggar on Horseback – Regina v Erringburn
Was an overcoat stolen from the directorsí cloakroom by Graham Erringburn, employed there as Personnel Manger? Erringburn has pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried by jury in Crown Court.
The case of a coat stolen from the directors’ cloakroom at a local company is surely far too trivial for a full Crown Court jury trial. Instead we have an episode and a half about an industrial dispute and political shenanigans at the company which really should never be allowed to be introduced as irrelevant. The judge is marvellously tetchy about it and does his best but fails to get a grip, but at least he provides a running commentary and recap of what’s going on for the audience who might be losing their grip if not the will to live throughout this tub-thumping about trade unionism. The judge has given up by the time the prosecution seeks to do trial by class system by branding the defendant as an out of date toff. It seems to work though as they get a prosecution when the actual evidence isn’t that great and a defence of ‘absent mindedness’ seemed that it should be enough to suffice. the geography of the defendant’s closest seems to be the pivotal matter here and persuades the jury to return a slightly tenuous guilty verdict. Interesting to see Donal Hewlett here – in modern dress and a quite trendy haircut, I only recognised the ‘Some Like It Hot” star through his distinctive voice!
The Night for Country Dancing – Regina v Airey
Barbara Airey is charged with making a false statement with intent to defraud the Inland Revenue. Mrs. Airey claims in her defence that it is her three generous lovers, who contributed over £10,000, that have enabled her to live a life of such luxury!
Carry On Crown Court! As near to a sitcom as the series has yet gone, this is very silly indeed (but Richard Wilson proves that he’s a fine comedy actor as he will prove in his most famous role). David Fisher (ex-Dr Who) did a very similar story earlier in the run but this time the philanderer with the devoted partners is a woman, played as a wide-eyed vacuous simpleton who seems unaware of the consequences of her words or actions as he cheerfully breaks courtroom protocol at every chance. Conjuring brand new witnesses halfway through the trial would also be very out of order let alone the defendant getting in touch with them personally to ask them to testify and what to say! The various boyfriends are also largely comedic (although one is rather stern and dour). Ultimately the verdict is a slight surprise as there’s not a great deal of evidence presented on the original charge of falsifying tax returns (which sounds very dry but it quickly dropped for the far more racy material) but there’s plenty to charge her with on more serious grounds from criminal fraud, obtaining money under false pretences, possible blackmail and witness tampering to name but a few. So she’s certainly guilty of something, but one suspects that the jury make their decision here on grounds of moral disapproval despite being expressly told by the judge that this is not acceptable.
Mrs. Moresby’s Scrapbook – Regina v Moresby
Geoffrey Hainton claims that Mrs. Grace Moresby accused him of indecently assaulting her daughter Tracy. He says she demanded money for her silence and so Mrs. Moresby is on trial for blackmail.
Sexual assault on a ten-year-old schoolgirl? An extraordinary subject for a daytime lunch ‘light’ drama and all the more so as the girl isn’t believed because the perpetrator is an actor/showbiz personality giving the story a chilling prescience to a famous case forty years hence. Obviously the molestation is quite bloodless and low key (not least because it has to be presented in court by a juvenile actress) and the show gets around it by being about the mother’s blackmail rather than the original alleged offence, although inevitably much of the testimony relies on precisely that aspect and the final verdict probably as much about what happened in the cinema as it is about the mother’s actions where there’s only he says/she says evidence (although a prosecution witness, an old friend of Hainton, says he turned up at the house for the first time ever, unannounced and unseen, and heard just one line – ‘I want you to give me ten pounds’ – before slinking away again. Hilariously fortuitous if true…) The episode is notable for a scene outside the courtroom (the first since the pilot) and for the defendant abruptly collapsing after the verdict. The end credits telling what happened next is worth the wait.
My Old Man’s A Dustman – Regina v Cousins and Cousins and Mayes
Martha and Albert Cousins and Michael Mayes are accused of dumping 2,000 gallons of highly poisonous acids, metals and chemicals at Seddon quarry – an unauthorised dumping site.
This feels like it started life as a dull public service broadcast about the perils of chemical waste and to explain a real new law that had just been introduced the previous year, and what a drudge that would have been to watch. Instead it’s transformed by a brilliant piece of writing and playing by the entire cast into one of the most sparkling cases yet. It’s such a vivid range of characters played by some of the best character actors of the day, from all three defendants and all the witnesses especially the doorman at the quarry who is the quintessential comedy Irishman played by none other than the real life nephew of James Joyce (a tip of the hat to Ivan Kirby’s brilliant Fulchester Crown Court blog for this tidbit)! The story peels away the covers on a really unsavoury piece of commercial practice where nods and winks serve to hide illegal acts by people who have real relatable reasons for the huge environmental damage they do. Even the judge gets more to do than usual as he’s forced to call and examine his own witness when the prosecution and defence duck the issue; and the latter’s bickering and manoeuvring is a consistent delight enlivening the whole affair still further. Quite brilliant, from the least likely of original source material.
The Judgement of Solomon – Regina v Kamuny and Kamuny
Mr. and Mrs. Kamuny are charged with attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to William Hathaway, the foster father of their daughter.
Crown Court runs smack bang into the thorny issue of racism and race relations, and rather remarkably for the time it was made doen’t make an embarrassing hash of things. There’s some awkward talk of ‘ju ju’ and rituals to curse people but in general it’s reasonably even handed and understanding of all perspectives. Perhaps this is in part to the large black cast which include a number of people who had been active in black activism and human rights in the UK at the time, such as Louis Mahoney who was well known to Doctor Who viewers of the 70s and who even made an appearance in 2007 opposite David Tennant. The defence barrister Haverstock Brown is a charismatic performance from Thomas Baptiste and it’s a shame we don’t see him more in the series – the way he throws back typical white prejudices such as “I can’t tell them apart” is quite wonderful. Surprisingly his defence works and the jury – despite not containing a single person of colour in evidence – finds for his clients even though the husband has an unfortunate hot headed nature and his wife too in thrall of both him and the ancestral pagan ghosts which you wouldn’t expect to go down well with a white 70s middle class jury. She also virtually admits to one of the offences, so the across the board not guilty finding is a bit of a surprise – perhaps no one wanted to come out of this looking like a racist? In which case it’s just as well and a happy ending given some of the more bigoted verdicts we’ve seen in Crown Court thus far.