Case 5: R v Vennings & Vennings

Shortly after midnight, on July the 29th this year, the motor cruiser Sunbird VI entered the Thames and, passing through a customs check, she anchored further upriver.  The yellow quarantine flag was flown to indicate she had arrived from a foreign port and required formal customs clearance.  At first light, Sunbird VI was boarded by officers of HM Customs and Excise, headed by preventive officer John Wellby.  They found the vessel to be in the sole charge of Paul Brandon Vennings, a 20 year old economics student.  Vennings stated he had just motored across the channel from Cherbourg, and had nothing dutiable to declare.  The officers were not satisfied, and commenced a search of the vessel.  They examined the engine compartment, the fuel and water tanks, the bilges and lifejackets, until Officer Wellby, checking the cabin, noticed a newly fitted panel.  The panel was removed, and a total of two kilos of refined heroin, worth not less than £200,000 on the black market, was found hidden beneath the locker.  That evening, Paul Vennings was charged by the police with offences under the Dangerous Drugs act of 1965, and with attempting to smuggle two kilos of refined heroin.  At 10.45 next morning, William Asquith Vennings was charged with being an accessory to the crimes of his son.  Both father and son pleaded not guilty.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 15-Friday 17 November 1972

Written by: Roger Parkes (1933-2008)

Mr Parkes wrote for many TV shows which have since become labelled as “cult”: The PrisonerMan in a SuitcaseStrange ReportDoomwatchSurvivorsReturn of the Saint and Blake’s 7.  Before working on Crown Court he contributed a script to Thames’ magistrates court drama Six Days of Justice.  Other popular shows he worked on include Z CarsThe Onedin LineAngels and The Bill.

Directed by: Brian Mills (1933-2006)

Mr Mills’ greatest achievement is to have directed episodes of Crown Court‘s Granada stablemate Coronation Street in all of its first five decades, helming 527 episodes of the show between 1968 and 2000.  His innovatory techniques included not telling all the actors what had been planned for a scene so as to take them by surprise (an example in 1983 where Anne Kirkbride was unaware William Roache was going to grab her by the throat would probably be greatly frowned upon today, but she was very happy to have had her genuine tears of shock captured).  His other work (all for Granada) included episodes of SamThe Cuckoo WaltzBulman, Sherlock Holmes and the Coronation Street video special Viva Las Vegas!

Presiding: Richard Warner as the Hon. Mr Justice Waddington


At this stage in Crown Court‘s production, cases usually alternated Mr Warner with Edward Jewesbury’s Judge Bragge.  However, the chosen transmission order means this is the third week in a row we’ve seen Mr Justice Waddington on the bench.

The accused:

Peter Jeffrey (1929-1999) as William Vennings


One of British film and TV’s most indispensable (and most instantly recognisable) character players, Mr Jeffrey was always brilliant in everything.  And it really does feel like he was in everything.  In 1972 alone audiences had the chance to see him in The AdventurerThe Onedin Line (in an episode by Crown Court scribe Bruce Stewart in which he plays a slave-trading defrocked priest who meets an unpleasantly graphic fiery end), The Shadow of the TowerCrime of PassionDead of Night and the horror films Dr Phibes Rises Again and What Became of Jack and Jill? Regular readers will know of my fondness for pointing out actors who’ve been in Doctor Who, so I’ll note that Mr Jeffrey appeared twice – in 1967’s sadly lost The Macra Terror and 1978’s The Androids of Tara (by Crown Court writer David Fisher), in which he gives one of the show’s most joyous guest turns as the wicked Count Grendel.  He also made several return visits to the Crown Court, including a couple of appearances as a barrister.

Michael Ridgeway as Paul Vennings


Beginning as a child actor in the 60s, Mr Ridgway was in Crossroads and a couple of big films, The Pumpkin Eater and Goodbye Mr Chips.  This was his final screen appearance.

Appearing for the prosecution: Charles Keating as James Elliott QC


Appearing for Mr Vennings Sr: Michael Gover (1913-1987) as Peter Carson QC


Mr Gover is best known to cult TV fans for his role in Survivors as malcontent Arthur Russell, who discovers that being a millionaire tycoon doesn’t mean a great deal after the collapse of society.  His other roles (usually trading on his distinguished bearing) include Steed’s boss in a couple of early episodes of The Avengers, Sir Tommy Barnett in the BBC soap The Newcomers, the prison governor in A Clockwork Orange, a recurring chief superintendent in Z Cars, and a Kryptonian elder in Superman.

This is his only appearance as Peter Carson, and it’s a very brief one as the charges against Mr Vennings Sr are dropped before the end of part 1.  The character must have been forgotten about as Mr Gover returns to Crown Court five years later as a barrister called Laurence Bass.

Appearing for Mr Vennings Jr: Bernard Gallagher as Jonathan Fry QC


Assisted by: David Ashford as Charles Lotterby


The line-up of Elliott, Fry and Lotterby is the same as in last week’s case but they’ve swapped sides, with Elliott prosecuting and Fry defending for the first time (Lotterby regularly shuffles between the two positions).

Witnesses for the prosecution:

William Simons (1940- ) as John Wellby


Best known now for playing the role of PC Alf Ventress for the entire 17-year run of 60s-set police drama Heartbeat (yes, it was set in the 60s for 17 years – I think that qualifies it as science fiction), Simons started acting as a child in the 50s and acquired his distinctively acne-scarred countenance in his teens.  In 1972 viewers could already have seen him as Harry Bates, the common-law husband Rita Littlewood left for Len Fairclough in Coronation Street.  His turn to pop up in Doctor Who came with 1977’s The Sunmakers.  In 1973 he returned to Crown Court as barrister Martin O’Connor, becoming one of the show’s mainstays.

Witnesses for the defence:

Jean Harvey (1930-2013) as Mary Vennings


Ms Harvey made her name on TV as a regular on the BBC’s early 60s soap Compact. Subsequent roles included Terry-Thomas’s wife in sitcom The Old Campaigner and guest appearances in The Power GamePublic EyeSpecial BranchNew Scotland YardCATS Eyes and Keeping Up Appearances.  She was in two BBC adaptations of Jane Eyre 10 years apart (1973 and 1983, playing a different character in each).

Lynn Dalby (1947- ) as Jennifer Harley


Ms Dalby was a familiar face to TV viewers in 1972 thanks to her role as Adam Faith’s girlfriend in the hugely popular series Budgie.  At the time of R v Vennings and Vennings‘ broadcast she was also appearing in Emmerdale Farm, the show that occupied Crown Court’s 1.30pm timeslot on Mondays and Tuesdays, as Ruth Merrick. She also appeared in Special BranchThe Return of the Saint and the 1975 horror film Legend of the Werewolf.  She was married to a fellow Crown Court guest star, Ray Lonnen, and when their marriage broke up in the early 80s she moved to Australia, where she appeared in the soap Sons and Daughters.

David Casey as Hepel Gastard


Mr Casey’s appearance here was his first time on screen.  He went on to regular roles in the Liverpool-set 1975 sitcom The Wackers and the fifth series of the BBC’s Angels, and was in an episode of The Sweeney and that show’s second spin-off film.

The jury:


This week’s jury foreman is a genuinely familiar face: Peter Ellis (1936- ), best known for playing The Bill‘s Chief Superintendent Brownlow from 1984 to 2002, and most recently seen in blockbuster Netflix series The Crown.  But to me, as I’m sure to many others, he’ll always be Wicked Cousin Jerez from Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques.

The verdict (highlight to reveal): Paul Vennings is found guilty on both counts (sentenced to five years in prison).

Case notes:

  • This case departs from the normal Crown Court format in a number of ways: it begins with the case for the prosecution wrapping up, with the bulk of episodes 1 and 2 comprising the case for the defence.  Episode 2 ends with the court adjourning, and Jennifer Harley running in to announce that Paul Vennings has absconded.  Episode 3 then begins with a cleared court, where Jennifer and Paul’s parents are seated in the jury box to try and account to the judge for Paul’s decision to run away.  Eventually we fade from that to Jennifer in the process of giving evidence to the jury.  After the verdict it’s announced that Paul has turned himself in, and there’s a brief tag showing him being sentenced the following day.
  • SIGNS OF THE TIMES: The whole case is a comment on the wayward youth of the early 1970s.  Mrs Vennings insists that “Paul isn’t like a lot of the youngsters of today, with their wretched demos, and their pop this, that and the other, and their permissiveness”.  James Elliott refers to “the Asian drug tour”, and suggests that alcoholic Mrs Vennings has “exposed [Paul] to her own brand of permissiveness”.  Mr Vennings agrees with Elliott that he deplores “the general drift of morality in the young”.  Elliott insists that Paul has cut his hair to appear more respectable to the jury.  One of the drugs we learn Paul has been taking is “bennies” (benzedrine).
  • We hear of the town of Fulchester again – that’s where the Vennings live.  Paul attended a private school called Felhams which is either in Fulchester or near enough for him to attend as a day pupil.  His girlfriend Jennifer Harley lives in a town called Renton.

Summing up: As implied above, this is easily the most complex Crown Court case to date, featuring lying witnesses, lots of people being recalled to give further evidence, and a defendant who changes his plea (then quickly changes it back again).  But even though international drug smuggling seems a potentially more exciting subject than some of those that have been heard in recent weeks, all these comings and goings prove more irksome than thrilling (though there’s certainly plenty of gasping, oohing and ahhing in the court throughout the proceedings).  Michael Ridgeway’s totally stiff performance as Paul Vennings doesn’t help (it would be very uncharitable to say it’s no surprise he didn’t act on screen again but, well…).  R v Vennings and Vennings is most interesting when it’s prising out the guilty secrets behind the respectable facade of the Vennings family – it’s just a shame this gets lost a bit behind the restless format of the case.

In the charts:

Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Clair” is still at number 1, but it’s soon to be toppled thanks to the British love of innuendo, which has already seen Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” rapidly ascend to this week’s number 2.  You can see the full chart here.

Case 4: Euthanasia

This was the scene at Fulchester register office the day in 1961 when Moira Musgrove married Lawrence Webb.  She was 23, he was 28.  In 1970, Moira Webb became ill.  Cancer was diagnosed.  Doctors from this hospital advised an operation.  But it was to prove only partially successful.  The cancer returned, and with it pain.  Constant pain.  Her doctor prescribed morphine.  A second operation was ruled out.  So in this flat, at the age of 35, Moira Webb was bedridden, nursed by her husband, waiting for death.  It came more swiftly than expected.  This doctor was called to the Webbs’ flat.  He found Moira dead on the 20th of July 1972.  He noticed that the new bottle of morphine tablets was empty.  The bottle is now exhibit A in the trial of Lawrence Webb on the charge of murder.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 8 – Friday 10 November 1972

Written by: David Fisher (1929- )

Mr Fisher would eventually write more episodes of Crown Court than anyone else, but (this being the way of things) is probably most famous for writing four Doctor Who stories for Tom Baker’s last three series.  The first (and best – in fact it’s my favourite Who story of all), 1978’s The Stones of Blood, takes an unexpectedly Crown Court turn in its second half, with the Doctor donning a barrister’s wig and defending himself against deadly alien justice machines! Mr Fisher also wrote The Androids of Tara (1978), The Creature from the Pit (1979) and The Leisure Hive (1980), as well as providing the original idea that the show’s script editor, Douglas Adams, would rework into City of Death (1979), one of Doctor Who‘s all-time greats.  He also wrote for Dixon of Dock GreenMogulHammer House of Horror and many other shows.  In later years, he collaborated with fellow Crown Court writer (and former Doctor Who script editor) Anthony Read on non-fiction books about World War Two.

Directed by: Bryan Izzard (1936-2006)

Mr Izzard’s long career as an ITV producer and director saw him work on many popular shows including The Fenn Street GangNew Scotland YardNot on Your NellieWithin These Walls, and, er, Take a Letter, Mr Jones.  He directed 17 episodes of On the Buses, as well as the show’s third and final movie spin-off, Holiday on the Buses (1973) – his only shot at the big screen.

Presiding: Richard Warner as the Hon Mr Justice Waddington


The accused: Mark Eden (1928- ) as Lawrence Webb


Best known as 1980s Coronation Street villain Alan Bradley (another man with the killing of his partner on his mind), Mr Eden has been a familiar face on British TV since the 1950s (his first screen appearance was in Quatermass and the Pit in 1958).  He played Marco Polo in seven episodes of Doctor Who in 1964 (and had a cameo in the  2013 drama An Adventure in Space and Time, celebrating 50 years of the programme).  He was a regular in the BBC’s popular 60s soap The Newcomers, and guest starred in cult favourites like The AvengersMan in a Suitcase and The Prisoner.  He also got the odd leading role in movies at the bargain basement end of British cinema, like 1968’s Curse of the Crimson Altar.  At the time of this Crown Court case he would have been fresh in viewers’ minds from his appearances as Inspector Parker in the BBC’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Appearing for the prosecution: Bernard Gallagher as Jonathan Fry QC


Appearing for the defence: Charles Keating as James Elliott QC


Assisted by: David Ashford as Charles Lotterby


Witnesses for the prosecution:

Llewellyn Rees (1901-1994) as Dr David Davies


A seasoned trouper who continued working into his 90s (with Inspector MorseA Fish Called Wanda and Jeeves and Wooster among his latter credits), Mr Rees was a natch whenever a distinguished elderly gentleman was required.  He played the Lord President of the Time Lords in the 1976 Doctor Who story The Deadly Assassin, but wasn’t around for long before being offed by the tautologous title character.

Kenneth Gilbert (1931-2015) as Detective Inspector Charles Perry


Inspector Perry was just one of many policemen on Mr Gilbert’s long CV.  He also played quite a few doctors, and combined the two with a recurring role in New Scotland Yard as a police surgeon.  He’s probably best remembered now for appearing in the 1976 Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom.

Alan Foss (1918-1989) as Professor Edmund Lambert


Mr Foss had a regular role as PC Toombs in Roy Clarke’s 1976 sitcom The Growing Pains of PC Penrose (the precursor of the better-remembered Rosie).  Other than that, his screen career consisted of memorably-performed small roles like this one, in shows including Sergeant CorkCrossroadsAdam Adamant Lives!Elizabeth R and Z Cars.

Eve Pearce (1929- ) as Helen Musgrove


I love it when I look up now-elderly Crown Court cast members and find out they’re still notching up interesting credits.  In the last decade, as well as the standard appearances in Doctors and Holby City, Ms Pearce has appeared in Getting On and Torchwood, and played the title character in The Woman in Black 2.  In fact, since her first TV credit in 1954 she just hasn’t stopped.

Denise Buckley (1945- ) as Betty Ashford


Ms Buckley did the rounds of the filmed adventure series in the 60s, appearing in The PrisonerMan in a SuitcaseThe SaintThe AvengersDepartment S and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in rapid succession.  She had some high-profile roles in the 70s, including a regular one in the BBC’s Tycoon.  She retired from acting in the early 80s, which is a great shame.

Witnesses for the defence:

Marjie Lawrence (1932-2010) as Rose Berryman


 Ms Lawrence supposedly spoke the first words on ITV, in the 1955 Associated-Rediffusion soap Round at the Redways (she tapped a television set and said “There’s something wrong with this”).  She constantly worked on screen from then on (including in another soap, Weaver’s Green, in 1966),  playing glamorous blondes of varying degrees of tartiness.  She was married to TV DIY expert Howard Greene, and their children include Sarah Greene.

The jury:


I covet that brown and orange jumper.  Bryan Izzard is clearly more interested in the jury members than any previous Crown Court director, and gives us some fantastic close-ups of these everyday people as they cogitate on the case before them.


The woman in the front row in the floral blouse looks remarkably like Mark Eden’s Coronation Street co-star Lynne Perrie (indeed this Crown Court‘s even included as a credit on her IMDb page), but on closer inspection, it’s probably not her.


The jury foreman this week is Geoff Tomlinson (below), a bit part actor whose credits include All Creatures Great and SmallHowards’ Way and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.


The verdict (highlight to reveal): Not guilty of murder; guilty of manslaughter.

Case notes:

  • We get our first mention of the town of Fulchester in the opening narration to this case.
  • This was the fourth Crown Court case to be aired, but the seventh (not including the unaired pilot) to be made.
  • There’s some very 1970s content to this case.  The reason Lawrence Webb gave Dr Davies for switching from his usual GP was that he didn’t want a “coloured” man looking after his wife – though Webb claims he thought Dr Davies would understand this better than the real reason, that Mrs Webb didn’t like the wart on her Goan (“Therefore light-skinned”, as Jonathan Fry notes) GP’s nose.  Also, Mr Webb admits that “I’m not averse to a bit on the side, the same as any man”, which is about as “70s masculinity” as you can get.
  • Judge Bragge, the other regular Crown Court judge at this stage, is namechecked: Professor Lambert has to dash off to another case which he’s hearing.
  • SWEARWATCH: Lawrence Webb interrupts his frosty sister-in-law Helen Musgrove’s evidence with “It’s a bloody lie! You’re not going to take any notice of that bitch, are you?” Later he also says that his late wife could sometimes be “a bit of a bitch”.
  • The black and white stills at the beginning of episodes two and three include some shots of James Elliott and Jonathan Fry without their wigs (a rare sight!)


  • The Webbs’ neighbour Rose Berryman’s husband can be seen in the public gallery, played by an uncredited actor.


  • In the more intense passages of Jonathan Fry’s interrogation of Lawrence Webb, director Bryan Izzard uses a split-screen technique to show Mark Eden and Bernard Gallagher at the same time.


  • There’s a sketch artist (resplendent in purple velvet) in the press gallery, and we’re privy to his rather dodgy likenesses of Lawrence Webb and Rose Berryman.vlcsnap-2017-04-16-12h42m02s190.png

Summing up:

Charles Keating and Bernard Gallagher are both on especially excellent form here, and the guest cast are all terrific, particularly Mark Eden, who makes Lawrence Webb a sympathetic, but not terribly likeable, figure.  David Fisher’s script is gripping and hugely entertaining, and breaks new ground for afternoon drama with its no-holds-barred description of the Webbs’ marriage – what we’re now familiar with as an “open relationship”, but which would have been considerably more shocking in 1972 (especially Webb’s confession that he had sex in one bedroom while his wife was suffering in the next).

In the charts:

Gilbert O’Sullivan’s now in the top spot with “Clair”, pushing Lieutenant Pigeon down to number 2.  Here’s this week’s number 4, Alice Cooper with “Elected” (spookily enough, as I type this in the futuristic year 2017, a general election has just been called three years early).  You can see the full chart for the week here.

Case 3: R v Bryant

On July the 6th of this year, four masked men snatched £30,000 which was being transferred to the Frampton branch of the British United Bank.  Wearing balaclava helmets and wielding pickaxe handles, they threw ammonia in the eyes of the bank staff, and got away with the money, none of which has been recovered.  After intensive inquiries, only one man has been arrested, and today, 35 year old Harry George Bryant stands trial, charged in connection with the raid, with robbery with violence, and with assaulting the police.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 1-Thursday 3 November 1972

Written by: Tony Hoare (1938-2008)

The first Crown Court writer to have actually been involved in the kind of crime his script focuses on, Mr Hoare had been a getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers, for which he was sent to prison.  When the great Alan Plater gave a lecture there, Mr Hoare showed him a novel he’d written, and Plater encouraged him to write radio scripts drawing on his first hand experience of crime.  This eventually led to a successful career writing for New Scotland YardWithin These WallsHazellThe SweeneyThe Gentle Touch, Minder (for which he wrote 20 episodes), London’s Burning, and various other shows.

Directed by: Alan Bromly (1915-1995)

By this stage in his career, Mr Bromly had a very extensive list of TV credits as both producer and director, notably on the BBC’s thriller serials of the 60s and sci-fi anthology Out of the Unknown.  Future assignments as director included Coronation Street and two Doctor Who stories – 1973’s The Time Warrior and 1979’s Nightmare of Eden.  On the latter, he clashed with star Tom Baker and other members of the crew to the extent that he eventually stormed off, leaving producer Graham Williams to direct the rest of the serial.

Presiding: Richard Warner as the Hon. Mr Justice Waddington


Mr Justice Waddington was last seen in case 1: Lieberman v Savage.

The accused: Mark McManus (1935-1994) as Harry Bryant


Mr McManus’s Glaswegian accent is so well known from the role of detective Jim Taggart, which he played from 1983 to his death (the series, perhaps bafflingly to new viewers, continued on for many years afterwards, still bearing his character’s name), that the Cockney(ish) accent he adopts to play Harry Bryant sounds utterly wrong.  On the first day of Regina v Bryant, telly viewers would also be able to see him attempting an Australian accent in an episode of Thames’ World War 2 RAF drama Pathfinders (and might also have seen him pop up a couple of weeks earlier in the first episode of another WW2 series, BBC 1’s Colditz – he was Scottish in that).  He would go on to pre-Taggart fame starring in The BrothersSam and Strangers.

Appearing for the prosecution: Bernard Brown (1933- ) as Andrew Logan QC


Mr Brown would have been familiar to viewers as one of the stars of the BBC’s The Regiment (the title’s pretty self-explanatory), which was in between its two series when Regina v Bryant was broadcast.  His other TV roles include a recurring character in May to December and the voice of Anthony Eden in Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on Your Collar.  His debut appearance as Andrew Logan is distinguished by his managing to fluff his very first line.

Assisted by: John Alkin as Barry Deeley


Barry Deeley was last seen last week in R v Lord.  In fact, he’s been in every episode of Crown Court so far.

Appearing for the defence: Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate


Helen Tate was last seen in Lieberman v Savage.  She only appears briefly in episode 1 of R v Bryant as Harry Bryant swiftly decides to dismiss her and conduct his own defence.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Paul Alexander as Alfred Mason


Mr Alexander’s first TV role was as one of the menacing toy soldiers in the 1968 Doctor Who story The Mind Robber.  His other assignments include appearances in Upstairs DownstairsZ CarsCasualtyA Touch of FrostHeartbeat and The Bill.  In recent years he has appeared in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and directed a low budget film about St Francis of Assisi.

John Malcolm (1936-2008) as Mr Rohan


Mr Malcolm regularly popped up on TV in smallish roles throughout the 60s and 70s, and in 1978 landed the regular role of Oberleutnant Kluge in Enemy at the Door, LWT’s drama about the occupation of Jersey in World War 2.  This ensured him regular employment as Nazis in various international productions for the rest of his career.

Glynn Edwards (1931- ) as Inspector Collins


Like many of the most familiar screen faces of the 60s and 70s (including his former wife Yootha Joyce), Mr Edwards’ career had been launched by Joan Littlewood’s theatre workshop.  In the 80s he became known to millions as Dave the barman in Minder, but before that was already one of British film and TV’s most omnipresent faces, doing “gruff” better than just about anybody else.  Inspector Collins is just one in a long, long line of policeman he played throughout his career.

James Berwick (1929-2000) as Sergeant Harold Fisher


Irish actor James Berwick’s real name was James Kenny, and he used that name when working in the US for the early part of his career.  He changed it to James Berwick on coming to work in the UK in the early 60s as there was already an actor working in Britain called James Kenney.  Whose real name (entirely coincidentally, it would seem) was Kenneth Berwick.  So that’s all quite confusing.  His most prestigious screen role was a major supporting part in the 1966 Henry Fonda/Joanne Woodward film A Big Hand for the Little Lady.  He was a familiar character actor on British TV until 1995, when he bowed out with an appearance in Father Ted.  His wife was glamorous ice skater and (for a short while in the 40s and 50s) Hollywood star Belita.

John Graham as Inspector Wooley


As well as actor appearing in everything from Dr Finlay’s Casebook to Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit to General Hospital to Wombling Free (actually he didn’t appear in that, he voiced a Womble – which is more than any of us can say), Mr Graham was a prolific playwright, mainly of the kind of gentle farces popular with amateur dramatics companies.  He wrote a few scripts for British TV (including a one-off comedy for Yorkshire TV called Margie and Me starring the formidable combination of Arthur Mullard and Betty Marsden), and many more for radio, but his greatest popularity as a writer is in Germany, where his plays are constantly running and several have been made into films.

Witnesses for the defence:

Diane Keen (1946- ) as Pauline Bryant


A few years after this appearance in the witness box, Ms Keen would become a much-loved star of sitcom (The Cuckoo WaltzFoxy Lady, Rings on Their FingersThe Shillingbury TalesYou Must Be the Husband), bonkers kids’ show (The Feathered Serpent), drama (The SandbaggersInspector Wexford), and coffee advert.  Younger readers may remember her from the hundreds of episodes of the BBC’s afternoon drama Doctors (a show I hope someone one day writes a blog like this about) she appeared in from 2003 to 2012.

The jury:




I think my favourite this week is the man biting his nails (throughout the whole trial he’s either doing this or burying his head in his hands).  You may have your own.  This week’s foreman (the man on the left in the top pic who looks like he’s been stamped on by a horse) is Harry Shiels, a music hall comedian who specialised in pantomime dames.  The only other credit for him on IMDb is as the queen in a panto based on “Old King Cole” shown on the BBC in 1956 – however there’s a publicity photo of him on the Alamy website that suggests he played a barman in Crossroads in 1964.

The verdict (highlight to reveal):  Guilty.

Case notes:

  • This was the third Crown Court case to be broadcast, but the sixth to be made (not including the untransmitted pilot).
  • Richard Colson makes his first appearance as Clerk of the Court.


  • Fulchester still hasn’t been established as the location of this Crown Court.  The events in this case took place in a town called Frampton.
  • SWEARWATCH: Bank security guard Mr Rohan calls Bryant a bastard.
  • A fine example of casual 1970s homophobia occurs when Inspector Collins says he accompanied Bryant into his bedroom and an unidentified voice from the back of the court pipes up “Ooh, where else, dearie?” Mr Justice Waddington’s threat to have the culprit charged with contempt of court provides a slightly odd end to act one of part two.
  • At one point, Andrew Logan makes a pointed reference to Britain’s then-current economic woes.

Summing upRegina v Bryant illustrates the problem a jury consisting of members of the public provides writers with (sorry, I’m going to discuss the verdict here, so look away if you don’t want to know).  It’s clear that Tony Hoare’s story is meant to be an indictment of police corruption and victimisation, (still quite new and risky territory for TV in 1972), and our sympathies are nudged toward the defendant more than would become the norm.  However, a group of ordinary viewers’ decision that the defendant made it all up tends to suggest that a lot of the show’s audience wouldn’t have been very receptive to that.  Perhaps later in the decade, when the TV schedule was littered with bent coppers, their decision might have been a bit different.  Despite the dodgy accent Mark McManus is brilliant, and the choice to have him defend himself gives these episodes an enjoyably different feel.

In the charts: Lieutenant Pigeon’s reign at the top of the hit parade continues.  Here’s Gilbert O’Sullivan with “Clair”, a love song to a three year old girl that probably sounded very different to the listeners who propelled it to number 2 in the charts (it’ll be number 1 next week) than it does to 21st century ears scarred by certain things we’ve since learned about the 1970s.

Case 2: R v Lord


On the morning of May the 16th, Miss Lord, a 45 year old ex-teacher at John Fordhouse Comprehensive School, went to Calderley police station and demanded to see Detective Superintendent Brotherton.  The duty constable, William Forbush, told her that the superintendent wasn’t there.  Miss Lord said she didn’t believe him.  She then became abusive and eventually Constable Forbush had to escort her from the station.  When they got outside, Miss Lord seized a coal chisel from a pavement work site and struck Constable Forbush on the back of the head.  He collapsed unconscious, and for some days his condition was critical.  In all, Constable Forbush was in hospital for a month.  Today, Miss Lord appears in court, charged with assaulting a policeman in the course of his duty, and with causing grievous bodily harm.  Mr Barry Deeley appears for the defence and Mr Charles Lotterby for the prosecution in the case of Regina versus Lord.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 25-Friday 27 October 1972

Written by: Bruce Stewart (1925-2005)

Mr Stewart’s achievements, other than writing some of the most entertaining episodes of Crown Court, include writing most of the episodes of much-loved 1970 children’s sci-fi show Timeslip, and contributing scripts to shows including Sergeant CorkOut of the Unknown and The Onedin Line.

Directed by: Peter Plummer

This is Mr Plummer’s second Crown Court.  He directed last week’s case as well.

Presiding: Edward Jewesbury (1917-2001) as Judge Bragge


Mr Jewesbury’s TV appearances began in the 1930s and ended with an episode of Midsomer Murders in 2001.  His credits in between included roles in The AvengersThe Saint, the Mary Whitehouse-baiting 60s comedy Swizzlewick (in the regular role of the vicar), Ace of WandsRumpole of the BaileyTales of the UnexpectedYes Minister, Blackadder II and lots more.  He played a lot of judges in his career, the last one being in an episode of Comin’ Atcha!, the turn-of-the-millennium kids’ sitcom starring shortlived pop sensation Cleopatra.  As that judge seems not to have been named, I’ve decided it was in fact Judge Bragge, and that Comin’ Atcha! takes place in the same universe as Crown Court.  And you can’t stop me.

The accused: Freda Dowie (1928- ) as Helen Lord


Best known to arty film types for starring in Terence Davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives, Ms Dowie has a telly CV anyone would envy: Upstairs DownstairsI, ClaudiusOranges Are Not the Only FruitOur Friends in the North, and lashings of costume dramas (her face looks like she’s suffered in a way people only ever did in the past).  I most envy her for playing a nun in The Omen, though.

Appearing for the prosecution: David Ashford as Charles Lotterby


Mr Ashford returns from the Crown Court pilot (though his character’s name in that was Derek Jones).

Appearing for the defence: John Alkin as Barry Deeley


Mr Alkin played Barry Deeley in both last week’s Crown Court and the untransmitted pilot.  The show’s narrator, Peter Wheeler, gets a bit confused at the start of part two and calls his character Harry Deeley.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Ian Marter (1944-1986) as Constable William Forbush


Mr Marter is forever associated with Doctor Who due to playing lovable buffoon Harry Sullivan, one of Tom Baker’s original assistants, and then writing lots of novels based on episodes of the show (mostly ones he wasn’t even in).  He returns to Crown Court a bit later on as a barrister, which I’m very happy about as he’s lovely.

Christopher Benjamin (1934- ) as Detective Superintendent J J Brotherton


Like Ian Marter, Mr Benjamin is strongly associated with Doctor Who, having guest starred during the tenures of Jon Pertwee (1970’s Inferno), David Tennant (2008’s The Unicorn and the Wasp) and, most significantly, as florid Victorian impresario Henry Gordon Jago in the classic 1977 Tom Baker adventure The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a role he’s since reprised in a series of audio plays now on its 13th box set.  He’s also been in pretty much every British TV show ever worth watching, and has the distinction of playing te same character in Danger Man and The Prisoner, which may or may not clinch the argument that the latter is a sequel to the former.  Also like Mr Marter, he later returns to Crown Court as a barrister.

Geraldine Newman (1934- ) as Eunice Bentley


Ms Newman is best known as one half of the adorable Howard and Hilda in Ever Decreasing Circles (the other half, Stanley Lebor, also guested in Crown Court), a role that could hardly be more different from the frosty headmistress she plays here.  Earlier in 1972 she’d been a clerk of the court in Thames’ magistrates court drama Six Days of Justice.  She was married to David Garth, one of the stars of General Hospital, the soap that went out directly after Crown Court on Thursdays and Fridays in its early years.

Witnesses for the defence:

Keith Campbell (1911-1988) as Dr  Ralph Transome


Like Geraldine Newman, Mr Campbell had also played a clerk of the court in a drama series earlier in 1972 (there was a rash of them at the start of the 70s), ATV’s Crimes of Passion, which was set in France and dealt exclusively with, well, crimes of passion.  Yes, it does sound a bit niche, but it ran for four series.  In the course of his career he also played assorted judges and other official types.  My favourite of his credits is “Tory heckler” in 1978 drama A Horseman Riding By.

Brian Lawson as Roger Irwin


Mr Lawson would perhaps point to his time with the Royal Shakespeare Company as a highlight of his acting career.  Personally I would plump for his playing a moneylender in Coronation Street in 1983.  I haven’t seen those episodes, but the character was called Syd Kippax.  How can you top that? Of course, Mr Lawson’s greatest achievements are his sideburns and eyebrows, which are equally of a remarkable lustre.

The jury:


There are two clearly formidable women on this week’s jury: the broad lady with the white bouffant, and the lady in the pink polo neck, whose wrong side you definitely wouldn’t want to get on.  But the undoubted star this week is the gent next to her, who I’d like to hope got a new toupee especially for his appearance on national television: here’s a better look at the sheer glory of it.


The foreman this week (he’s the chap bottom row, far left in the pic below) is Joe Holmes, a veteran bit parter whose career ranged from All Creatures Great and Small to Juliet Bravo to Hinge and Bracket to Threads.


Case notes:

  • Fulchester still hasn’t been invented yet.  The events in this case took place in somewhere called Calderley.
  • The two barristers talk to each other a fair bit, and there’s a clear personal rivalry between them.  Things like this will eventually disappear from the show.

The verdict (highlight to reveal): Not guilty

Summing up:

Last week’s case successfully showed off Crown Court as an afternoon novelty.  This week’s shows that it can be a truly gripping drama series.  Bruce Stewart perfectly paces the three episodes: episode 1 intrigues the viewer with hints of a mysterious letter that ended Miss Lord’s career, episode 2 reveals some disturbing information about her past, and in episode 3 she takes the stand and gives her version of events, with Freda Dowie giving an almost unbearably moving performance.  The rest of the cast do excellent work as well, especially Geraldine Newman’s portrait of middle-class condescension.

Elsewhere on telly this week:

LWT’s hugely popular Edwardian drama Upstairs Downstairs returned for a second series on Saturday 21 October, with John Alderton joining the cast as sly chauffeur Thomas.  This was something of a golden age for Alderton fans, as he was also currently starring in BBC 1 sitcom My Wife Next Door (with Hannah Gordon, later to join Upstairs Downstairs after Alderton’s left).

In the charts this week:

Lieutenant Pigeon are still at number 1 with “Mouldy Old Dough”.  Here’s this week’s number 2 to play us out.  It’s 10CC with “Donna”.  You can see the full chart for the week here.

Case 1: Lieberman v Savage

One of the big headline stories of last year was the romance between millionaire property tycoon Emannuel Lieberman and the wealthy and beautiful Mrs Delia Savage.  It was a gossip columnist’s delight, conducted against a backdrop of yachts, luxury hotels and penthouse apartments.  56 year old Mr Lieberman carried on his courtship with fabulous gifts of jewellery to add to Mrs Savage’s already remarkable collection.  She, a former actress, was installed in a flat worth a quarter of a million pounds in a tower block built by Mr Lieberman’s company overlooking London’s Green Park, near the Ritz hotel.  The marriage was due to take place in a few months time.  Then, one morning, Mr Lieberman returned unexpectedly from a business trip to San Francisco and went straight to the penthouse.  What he saw there not only made him break off the engagement, but has its sequel today in the Crown Court, as judge and counsel take their places for the case of Lieberman v Savage.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 18 – Friday 20 October 1972

Written by: Peter Wildeblood (1923-1999)

It was his own experience of the law that put Mr Wildeblood on the map: in 1954, when he was working for the Daily Mail, he was arrested on charges of buggery along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers.  The trial was a national sensation, and unlike the others Mr Wildeblood admitted his homosexuality in court, making him essentially the first person in public life to be what’s now called openly gay.  He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  The scandal, and Wildeblood’s bestselling account of it, Against the Law, began a national conversation about a previously taboo subject, leading to the Wolfenden report of 1957 and, a decade later, to decriminalisation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the scandal didn’t end Mr Wildeblood’s career – he continued as a writer, with his novel West End People being adapted into  a successful musical, The Crooked Mile – and moved into television.  His earliest credits were at Granada for two antecedents of Crown CourtThe Verdict is Yours and On Trial, making him a natural to write for the later show.  A lot of his other work involved writing and producing various anthology series, and he also wrote episodes of Mr RoseUpstairs DownstairsNew Scotland YardFather Brown and Within These Walls.  His obituary from the Guardian, here, gives lots more fascinating information about him.

The BBC has adapted Against the Law for a film to be broadcast in 2017, starring Daniel Mays as Wildeblood.  It’s unlikely to be followed by any more dramas about Crown Court writers, but I can dream.

Directed by: Peter Plummer

Another alumnus of The Verdict is Yours, Mr Plummer worked on lots of other Granada shows, including Coronation StreetThe Man in Room 17 and the 1972 TV staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Probably his most notable credit is the 1969 adaptation of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, haunting and baffling in equal measure.  He also directed 40 episodes of mostly forgotten 80s children’s series Tickle on the Tum.

Presiding: Richard Warner (1911-1989) as the Hon. Judge Waddington


Mr Warner popped up in many a British film and TV show between the 40s and the 80s, often representing the law, the government or the medical profession.  His resonant voice was often put to good use, for instance as the narrator of Yorkshire TV’s Tom Grattans War and the voice of the titular bird in the BBC’s 1976 adaptation of The Phoenix and the Carpet.

The role of Judge Waddington had been played by Ernest Hare in the Crown Court pilot.

The plaintiff: Wolfe Morris (1925-1996) as Emmanuel Lieberman


A man of many races, Mr Morris’s career is well encapsulated by him playing a Jewish character here, and returning to Crown Court in about 18 months time as a Pakistani.  In the rest of his career he ran the gamut of nationalities and ethnicities (including Arab, Japanese and Russian in The Avengers alone, and Tibetan in the 1955 Nigel Kneale TV play The Creature, the 1957 Hammer film version of it called The Abominable Snowman, and the 1967 Doctor Who story The Abominable Snowmen, that drew strongly on the above – he also played what must be one of the very few rabbis to appear in Emmerdale Farm).  He also got to play two major figures in British history for the BBC, Thomas Cromwell in the acclaimed The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Robert Walpole in the significantly less acclaimed Churchill’s People.  Mr Morris’s own place of birth was the same as mine, the entirely un-exotic city of Portsmouth.  His brother, the even more prolific Aubrey Morris, also, inevitably turned up in Crown Court.

The defendant: Barbara Shelley (1932- ) as Delia Savage


Famous as the leading lady of Hammer horror in the 1960s, starring in The Camp on Blood Island (alongside Wolfe Morris), The Shadow of the CatThe GorgonThe Secret of Blood IslandDracula – Prince of DarknessRasputin – The Mad Monk and Quatermass and the Pit for the studio, Ms Shelley also built up a comprehensive CV of cult TV appearances, guest starring in (among many other shows) Danger ManThe SaintThe Man from UNCLEThe AvengersMan in a SuitcaseBlakes 7 and Doctor Who (in 1984’s Planet of Fire, also starring John Alkin.  Her outfits for this appearance in the Crown Court are all spectacular, so I present them all for your enjoyment (I’m going to a drag party in a couple of months and my look will be inspired by Ms Shelley’s herein.  I’d even nick Delia Savage as my drag name if some queen or other hadn’t already spoken for the surname).



Appearing for the prosecution: Bernard Gallagher (1929-2016) as Jonathan Fry QC


Apart from his appearances in Crown Court (which continued, on and off, until 1984, the year the show ended), Mr Gallagher is probably best remembered as one of the original cast of Casualty.  He worked steadily on British TV for nearly 50 years, from Armchair Theatre to Downton Abbey.  His last role was in the sitcom Together the year before his death.

The role of Jonathan Fry had been played by David Neal in the Crown Court pilot.

Assisted by: Dorothy Vernon (?-2014) as Helen Tate


Ms Vernon is so engaging as Helen Tate (though she takes some time to bed in – she’s a bit stiff here, and her delivery of the line “Oh come, Mrs Ferguson, presumably you CLEAN IN THERE?” is hilariously over-aggressive) that it’s a surprise to find her screen career away from Crown Court wasn’t very extensive.  She played Peggy Longthorn in Emmerdale Farm in the 80s, but other than that it was mainly scattered small roles, such as the Speaker of the House of Commons in The Final Cut, the last part of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards trilogy.

Appearing for the defence: Charles Keating as James Elliott QC


Mr Keating returns from the Crown Court pilot.

Assisted by: John Alkin as Barry Deeley


Mr Alkin also returns from the pilot.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

David Webb (1931-2012) as Sidney Abbott


A memorable face if not name, Mr Webb had small roles in dozens of TV shows between the 50s and the 90s.  I’m determined to chronicle every appearance of a Crown Court player in Doctor Who, so I’ll note that he was in one episode of the 1971 story Colony in Space.  While I’m at it, he was also in the Blakes 7 episode Star One.  The remarkably in depth biography of him at IMDb reveals that he also founded an organisation called the National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts (NCROPA).  Perhaps it should be taken with a pinch of salt though: it claims “He was a prominent character in the early days of Coronation Street. Worried about the dangers of typecasting, he soon moved on”.  In fact, he appeared in four episodes in 1970 as an ex-con out for revenge on Betty Turpin’s policeman husband.

Witnesses for the defence:

Jean Faulds (1913-2000) as Florence Ferguson


“All-purpose elderly Scottish lady” is the easiest way to sum up Ms Faulds’ acting career.  Inevitably enough she made multiple appearances in Dr Finlay’s Casebook and was a regular on Take the High Road.  She also played Granny in the BBC’s early 80s Scottish teen drama Maggie.

Trevor Adams (1946-2000) as Mark Lieberman


Behind the ludicrous 70s sunglasses he wears throughout, Mr Adams is still instantly recognisable as Tony Webster from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Alan, who feels the full blast of Basil’s fury at the permissive society in Fawlty Towers‘ The Wedding Party.  Strangely enough, Perrin was his last screen role.  “He left the acting profession in 1982, before moving to Norwich” notes Wikipedia, somewhat ominously.

Here’s another outfit worn by Mr Adams during the case, including a genuine bippedy-boppedy hat (his character is a “pop impresario”, by the way).


The jury:


Yes, feast your eyes upon the very first tranche of viewers from the Granada region drafted in to serve Crown Court jury service.  My particular favourites are the woman in the white hat, who seems to be keeping a little bit of  Carnaby Street circa 1966 alive up north, the lady behind her channeling late-period Joan Crawford, and the woman at the end who looks like Margaret Thatcher playing Elizabeth I (or possibly the other way round).  You may have your own.

While the 11 non-speaking jury members are drawn from the public, the foreman gets lines, and so for union reasons has to be played by a professional actor.  In this case it’s John Jardine (the man on the right of the lady in the hat), a busy bit part player who has a second stint as jury foreman in a couple of years time then graduates to a Clerk of the Court.  He he is about to receive a massage with “extras” from Steve Pemberton in The League of Gentlemen in 2002.


A feature of Crown Court I’m especially amused by is that the actors (or at least the ones not in gowns and wigs) change their costumes for each episode to give the impression the case is taking place over a number of days, but the jury don’t.  What a giveaway.

The verdict (highlight to reveal): The jury finds for the defendant, so she gets to stay in the penthouse.  Lucky cow.

Case notes:

  • It’s acknowledged in the script that this kind of case wouldn’t normally be heard before a jury at all, which makes the choice of it as the first to be broadcast a bit puzzling.
  • The clerk of the court in this case is played by Malcolm Hebden (1939-), familiar to millions nowadays as Coronation Street busybody Norris Cole.


  • Manny Lieberman and his empty tower block are clearly inspired by Harry Hyams, the property developer who built Centre Point in London and caused a national outcry by leaving it empty for years until he could the maximum amount for letting it.  As far as I’m aware, though, Mr Hyams did not have a glamorous fiancée installed on the top floor.
  • It hasn’t yet been established that this particular Crown Court is in the fictional town of Fulchester, hence it hearing a case revolving around a property in central London.
  • The dock at the back of the Crown Court set, where the prisoner will sit in criminal cases, has not yet been built.  Instead, the back row of the set is a public gallery stuffed with elaborately dressed extras who ooh and aah at the more salacious elements of this case.  This is all a bit odd, and the strangest moment for modern viewers comes when they collectively “Oooooh” as Manny Lieberman tells the clerk of the court he’s Jewish and dons a skullcap to take the oath.


  • The version of Peter Reno’s “Distant Hills” played over the end credits sounds a bit slower than the one that will eventually become familiar.
  • One of the bands Mark Lieberman represents is the Kitchen Sink – a name clearly just intended as an example of the kind of wacky things pop bands call themselves that leads to befuddlement of judge and counsel.  There was an American garage band called the Kitchen Cinq, though.  They were signed to Lee Hazlewood’s record label, but had disbanded in 1968.
  • Jonathan Fry uses the phrase “piss off”, supposedly quoting Delia Savage.  It’s a bit of a surprise to hear this in a programme that went out at 1.30pm in 1972, but as we’ll see, Crown Court managed to get away with quite a lot of risky things that might have raised eyebrows (at the very least) in a later slot.
  • There’s a marvellous goof at the start of part three, with a camera operator, camera and monitor clearly visible behind the witness box.



Apart from observing the differences to how Crown Court will eventually look and feel, the main fun to be had from Lieberman v Savage is in the performances of Morris and Shelley.  Both are very big, but in different ways.  Shelley, quite naturally, decides that the only way to play a glamorous ex-actress formerly married to an Italian count is to camp it up outrageously, and does so very entertainingly.  Morris, on the other hand, decides to play Manny Lieberman as emotionally as he can manage, seemingly doing his best to humanise a character who could be seen to represent what Edward Heath called the “unacceptable face of capitalism, and makes some rather odd choices, such as a strange hand movement when his character’s especially overcome.


Even when he’s not in the witness box, Morris makes sure to do very intense acting faces whenever the camera’s on him.


Elsewhere on telly this week:

Going out at 1.30pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Crown Court was one of the shows that kicked off ITV’s bold move into afternoon television.  In the words of the TV Times, “The housewife, the child, the shiftworker, the pensioner, the sick or disabled, all those at home during the day can now find more than 20 extra hours of television programmes every week” (there’s a full copy of the issue of TV Times greeting afternoon TV here) Other long-lasting shows premiering this week were Rainbow and Emmerdale Farm, while Mr and Mrs, previously local to the Anglia region, went national.

Some other TV developments this week are pithily summed up in the below, from Thursday’s edition of the Times.


In the charts:

To play us out, here’s this week’s number 1 single, Lieutenant Pigeon’s deathless “Mouldy Old Dough”.  You can see the full chart here.

Case 0: Doctor’s Neglect?

On April 17th, 1970, at 11.40 in the morning, Arthur John Simpson was involved in a car accident.  Suffering various abrasions but conscious and able to walk, he was taken by ambulance from the scene of the crash to the accident department of Rudkin General Hospital.  There he was examined by a member of the accident department staff, a Dr Warner.  X-rays were taken of the left elbow, knee, two-inch flesh wound to the left side of the skull.  Mr Simpson was taken by a Nurse Dowling to a nearby restroom and told to lie down.  Half an hour later Mr Simpson was found in a state of collapse, on the street that runs in front of the main entrance to the hospital.  He was rushed into an operating theatre, and an operation was performed on a hairline fracture of the skull.  The operation was not a success, and at 12.23 on the afternoon of April 17th, Arthur John Simpson died.

Originally transmittedDoctor’s Neglect? was a pilot made in 1972 that was never transmitted in Crown Court‘s original run, but has since been broadcast in satellite repeats and released on DVD.

Written by: Paul Wheeler (1934-)

Mr Wheeler worked for MI6 when he began writing for TV in the 60s, and took up writing full time  when he realised it would make him more money.  His previous credits included episodes of popular ITV crime series Special Branch and Fraud Squad, and he’d go on to write for many more hit shows, including PoldarkVan der ValkTenkoMinderThe ProfessionalsBergeracDempsey and Makepeace and CATS Eyes. His film work includes the splendidly trashy 1978 horror film The Legacy.  Perhaps the most surprising item on his CV is 2003’s The Medallion, starring the mind-boggling combination of Jackie Chan and Lee Evans.

Directed by Richard Everitt (1933-2004)

Mr Everitt must have seemed a natural choice for Crown Court, having worked on The Verdict Is Yours, the Crown Court forerunner which ran from 1958 to 1963.  Very much a Granada man, he was a director and executive producer of Coronation Street in the 60s, and produced many popular shows for the company, including The Man in Room 17, The DustbinmenThe XYY Man and its follow-ups Strangers and Bulman.  He finally left Granada in 1991 to produce Lovejoy for the BBC.

Presiding: Ernest Hare (1900-1981) as Mr Justice Waddington


A stage veteran who’d been in mostly small screen roles since the 30s, Mr Hare was only in Crown Court this once.  The role of Mr Justice Waddington was taken over by Richard Warner in the series proper.

The plaintiff: Petra Davies (1930-2016) as Anna Simpson



Ms Davies regularly popped up in British films and TV shows from the 50s to the 80s, and had a regular role in ATV’s General Hospital, which originally followed Crown Court on Thursday and Friday afternoons.  She was married to actor Jack May, who surprisingly never appeared in Crown Court, though he had been a barrister in The Verdict Is Yours.

The defendant: Rudkin General Hospital Management Board, represented by George Waring (1925-2010) as Mr Frost.


These proceedings must have seemed very familiar to Mr Waring, who regularly played the clerk of the court in Thames’ primetime courtroom drama Six Days of Justice, which began six months before Crown Court.  He was a busy TV actor who guested in shows including Doctor Who (1967’s The Ice Warriors), Doomwatch, and Z Cars and notched up two further roles in Crown Court.  Probably his most significant role was as Arnold Swain, who bigamously married Coronation Street‘s Emily Bishop in 1980.  He was the brother of actor Derek Waring.

Prosecuting counsel: David Neal (1932-2000) as Jonathan Fry QC


Owner of a remarkably compelling face and voice, Mr Neal was an elder of Krypton in Superman (1978), the captain of Ming the Merciless’s air force in Flash Gordon (1980), and popped up in Blake’s 7 (1981’s Games) and Doctor Who (memorably being pushed down a lift shaft in 1984’s The Caves of Androzani.  He had lead roles in the Southern TV children’s dramas The Flockton Flyer (1977) and Noah’s Castle (1980).  This is his only appearance in Crown Court – the role of Jonathan Fry was taken over by Bernard Gallagher in the series.

Assisted by: David Ashford (1941- ) as Derek Jones


Mr Ashford would become Crown Court‘s most prolific barrister, but after the pilot his character’s name was changed to the slightly less prosaic Charles Lotterby.  His other TV roles have mostly been small ones (eg a vicar in Howards’ Way, an auctioneer in Keeping Up Appearances, one of the all-powerful Gods of Ragnarok in the 1988 Doctor Who story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – that sort of thing).  According to his IMDb page, he was also a secondary school drama teacher in the 90s.

Defence counsel: Charles Keating (1941-2014) as James Elliott


Mr Keating began his acting career in the US, where he’d moved as a teenager.  After returning to the UK for a successful career including a stint at the RSC and roles in high profile series Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978) and Brideshead Revisited (1981), he moved back there.  He joined the cast of daytime soap Another World in 1983, and won an Emmy in 1995 for his work on the show.  Thanks to his transatlantic career there is at least one person who’s been in both Crown Court and Sex and the City.

Assisted by: John Alkin (1947- ) as Barry Deeley


Aside from his work on Crown Court, Mr Alkin is probably best known for playing DS Tom Daniels in various episodes of The Sweeney and its two spin-off films. In the 80s he married Kenny Everett’s ex-wife, and left acting to set up a spiritual healing centre with her.  Ubiquitous mention of role in Doctor Who: he popped up in the last episode of Planet of Fire (1984) to take the Doctor’s companion Turlough back to his home planet.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Basil Dignam (1905-1979) as Dr Sissons


Instantly recognisable as the face of officialdom in masses of films and TV shows throughout the 60s and 70s, it’s no surprise that Mr Dignam was Crown Court‘s first expert witness, and it’s even less of a surprise that he later returned to the show as a judge.  His brother, the equally prolific Mark Dignam, later played a barrister in Crown Court.  Basil’s wife, acclaimed actress Mona Washbourne, was sadly never in Crown Court, though she did play a magistrate in Thames’ Six Days of Justice.

Rex Arundel as Mr Masterton


This isn’t exactly Mr Arundel’s big moment, as the scene changes after he takes the stand (see Case notes), and we never get to hear his evidence.  Probably the proudest achievement on his CV was playing the mayor of Weatherfield in Coronation Street.  Other than that his screen career consisted of bit parts in various Granada shows.  He also wrote an episode of Nearest and Dearest, the Granada sitcom for which the Crown Court set was originally built.

Witnesses for the defence:

Jeremy Bulloch (1945- ) as Dr Warner


Mr Bulloch’s had a full career which has included appearing in Summer Holiday (1963) as a member of Cliff Richard’s gang, roles in two Doctor Who stories (1965’s The Space Museum and 1973’s The Time Warrior), the lead role in a typically atrocious British sex comedy called Can You Keep It Up for a Week? (1975) and making up one half of the groundbreaking gay couple in Maureen Lipman sitcom Agony.  Despite all that, the role for which he has gained international fame is one where his face is covered and his voice dubbed: bounty hunter Boba Fett in the Star Wars films.

Jacqueline Stanbury as Nurse Dowling


Ms Stanbury had a regular role as WPC Hawkins in the 1974 series of Dixon of Dock Green, and the same year got to be in a Crown Court which was actually shown on the telly (The Flight of the Lapwing).  She played a lot of small roles in other shows, including an uncredited walk-on in the 1973 Doctor Who story The Time Warrior (which also starred Jeremy Bulloch).

Case notes:

  • Crown Court‘s pilot episode is different from the series in some noticeable ways, the most obvious being that there’s no jury.  What seems even more wrong to the seasoned Crown Court viewer are the scenes that take place in the corridor outside the courtroom, including Dr Warner and Nurse Dowling emoting about their relationship and Barry Deeley chatting with Dr Warner as a friend, and the friendly scenes with the barristers in their chambers.  Nothing like this will be allowed in the series.  Other differences include:
  • The paint job on the court set, which will soon be a lot less turquoise.
  • David Neal (as Jonathan Fry) reading the opening narration to each episode – this role will be assigned to “Court Reporter” Peter Wheeler.
  • The defence team on screen right and the prosecution team on screen left – they’ll usually be the other way round in future
  • Joseph Berry, the familiar Crown Court usher, is here, but credited as Clerk of the Court, while Derek Hockridge, in future one of the regular Clerks of the Court, has a non-speaking role as a solicitor sat next to Barry Deeley.


  • Throughout the trial, Mr Frost acts as a sort of audience surrogate, tapping his barristers on the shoulder to have them explain some of the more complex legal points.  In future these will be communicated by having the judge explain them to the jury.
  • The theme music is an unidentified piece, rather than the familiar Janacek in the opening titles and Peter Reno’s “Distant Hills” over the end credits.
  • There’s an odd bit with Derek Jones taking over questioning for the prosecution when Jonathan Fry’s called out to another case, and proving embarrassingly inexperienced.  If this was attempted to be part of an ongoing storyline it was quickly dropped.
  • Even though there’s no jury made up of members of the public, there are still some interesting background characters to observe.  What the man on the top left is up to here I have no idea.


Notable dialogue:

Mrs Simpson: Our life together was one of uninterrupted contentment, if that does not sound too sentimental.

Justice Waddington: How refreshing to hear such sentiments in these days!

(Barry Deeley is deeply unimpressed by the above exchange).


Barry Deeley: Three years in the courts have taught me a few things, and one of them is a resentful woman doesn’t even know when she’s lying.

Dr Warner: What’s he like, the judge?

James Elliot: Justice Waddington? Well, he plays golf badly, plays bridge rather well, he’s an old-fashioned gent when it comes to the ladies, he hates dogs but he adores children.  He’s also a very fair man.  Just how fair we’re soon to discover.


Charles Keating: The witness, excellent record though he has as a doctor, has made no claims to onmisty…omniscience.

The verdict (SPOILER – highlight to find out): The defendant is found liable.


It seems a bit pointless to criticise a programme that was never intended for public consumption, but Doctor’s Neglect? is a less than thrilling case to test the format with (happily far more interesting stuff is in store), and the lack of jury makes it all seem a bit sterile.  The two sides are also noticeably unbalanced, with the hospital staff being far more sympathetically depicted than the plaintiff thanks to all the scenes outside the courtroom revolving around them.  Still, terrific performances, particularly from Neal (who it’s a great shame never returned to Fulchester), Keating and Waring, and sheer curiosity value, help keep things interesting.