The Archers: is it legal?
I realise that I have false memory syndrome when it comes to The Archers. I could have sworn that I heard Grace Archer die after that awful fire. But as I was under one year old at the time, I have to accept that -- while I might have heard it -- I couldn't possibly have remembered it, really. In truth I am one of that substantial proprtion of the adult population of the UK (one in eleven of us apparently claim to listen) who tunes in periodically, and especially for the high points of the story. There was Ruth's illness, Siobhan and Brian's affair, Nigel's fatal fall and now, of course, the abused and pregnant Helen Archer stabbing her husband, the awful Rob Titchener (she's currently awaiting trial on a charge of attempted murder in a custodial Mother and Baby Unit, while looking after the new baby, which she calls Jack, but awful Rob.. just so you know how awful he is (sorry those of this name) .. has dubbed Gideon). It's them above, in case you wondered what they looked like.
The point about The Archers, as every spasmodic listener will tell you, is that you can go from highlight to highlight, leaving a gap of 18 months or so, and you'll still pick up the plot (in the penumbra, the Grundy's will have become a bit more puzzlingly dysfunctional, and you wont quite know who is doing their GCSEs, but the main lines will still be clear enough). But the Helen and Rob thing has kept more of us gripped for longer. A few have no doubt shared some of Allison Pearson's ironic irritaton at it all, while going on listening all the same ("Come on Helen, get a grip... !"). Many more have been putting money into the Helen Titchener (neé Archer) Fund for the real life victims of Rob-style abuse. Bcause behind the cosy fiction, there are real crimes and tragedies.
In fact I have been wondering about quite how life-like, in legal terms, the story is.
As every listener knows, all the farming details on The Archers have been vetted (they blazon the name of the agricultural story editor at the end of each episode). But what of the legal story editor? Every lawyer I have come across, including those interviewed on the radio, has been a little bit unwilling to commit to the precise details of what is going on here. And I have a couple of unanswered queries, in particular.
First, Helen's five year old son was a witness to the stabbing, and will be a witness for he prosecution in the up-coming trial. The Archers storyline has him prevented from seeing his Mum in custody for months and months, in case she tries to influence him. Is that authentic? Surely he could see his Mum under supervision, so that she did not influence him. In any case, Rob is busy influencing the little boy all the time. Why isn't someone stopping that?
And could Helen's Mum really walk inadvertently into giving the police a statement which then precluded her too, now as a prosecution witness, from seeing her daughter? Would she not have been warned of the legal consequences?
And, for what it's worth, I don't actually see why the awful Rob should be entirely prevented from seeing his son (in the Mother and Baby Unit). I mean no one disputes that Jack (also known as "Gideon") IS his son. Couldn't he do a supervised visit too, without having to bump into Helen?
Someone reading this might be able to clarify. But if The Archers have got the legal story as right as the agricultural story, then we ought to be taking a careful look at the law, as well as generously donating to the Helen Titchener (neé Archer) Fund.