Trial of “The Ambridge One” to begin next week

02.09.16 | |

Jeannie Mackie and the criminal team at Doughty Street Chambers have been closely following the build-up to the trial of Helen Archer/Titchener, "The Ambridge One",  who faces an allegation of the attempted murder of her husband, in a storyline whic has gripped listeners of BBC's radio drama The Archers.  Jeannie writes:    


Life is not always bleak.  After suffering much mocking over the years for listening to The Archers, with comments ranging from “Haven’t you anything better to do?” and “I thought you were intellectual”, to “Oh God you are so boringly middle class!” I am now avenged.  Mary Beard listens to The Archers. Mary Beard!  The cleverest woman on the planet!  In Wednesday’s post to A Don’s Life, her blog for The Times, she asks highly pertinent questions – well she would, wouldn’t she? – about the legal issues thrown up the by Helen Archer trial and custody battle.  Why can’t Helen see Henry?  Why can’t Rob see Jack?  Why is Pat Archer a prosecution witness?  One answer is that, despite the fervent devotion of its listeners (intellectuals all), The Archers is Not Real.  Boring old real life gets sacrificed for dramatic effect.  There are, apparently, lawyers advising on the series and telling it like it is – for example, a witness making a statement to police is routinely asked if they are prepared to go to court for the prosecution.  Signing a statement to that effect makes them a prosecution witness – Pat didn’t have to do it.  It is better copy for a desperate mum to be kept from her child – the advising lawyers may huff and puff and take refuge in strong drink, but the drama must prevail.  Costs, too, probably come into it: another cast member playing the role of Helen’s solicitor might bust the budget, so we have Helen’s barrister Anna Tregorran racing around the country interviewing witnesses which is seriously unprofessional, and as a result could lead to her being unable to represent Helen at trial as she could potentially become a witness in the case herself.


As for the custody issues, Henry living with Rob provides a lot of stomach churning Rob-bery as he poisons the child’s mind against his mother.  Good drama, bad parenting.  It is, however, unlikely that a family court judge would have ignored the question of potential witness intimidation in deciding where Henry was to live, and likely too that the court would want to see Helen with her child to assess her parenting skills and the bond between them for the eventual custody hearing.  In the specific circumstance of a child giving evidence in a serious trial “against” his mother and “for” his stepfather he would almost certainly be placed more neutrally, either away from the family altogether or, at a pinch, with his grandparents, and with supervised meetings taking place with both parents.  But as it is, next week will be a cliff hanger: What, in fact, will Henry say when questioned by Anna Tregorran?  Will he tell us what “Daddy” has been saying to him about Mummy?  Is he to be the star witness for Helen after all?


Mary Beard and I cannot wait…     



Previous notes on the criminal law aspects of the progress of the storyline can be found here and here.  

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