Case 6: The Eleventh Commandment

Just after midday on the 8th of May, one of the accused, Linda Mitchell, walked out of the dress department of Humbard’s, the well-known department store, telling the assistant that the dresses she’d been trying on were not suitable.  The other accused, 31 year old housewife Rosemary Clayton, had been in the same department proclaiming her purse had been stolen from her handbag.  But at the very moment Mitchell left, Clayton found her purse had been in her coat pocket all the time, and, apologising profusely, she left too.  The assistant who served Mitchell then found only three dresses were returned by Mitchell, whereas the disc system indicated that she had taken four into the fitting room.  It is also alleged that as the two approached a Mini car in Humbard’s car park, a store detective followed them.  By the time the detective reached them Clayton was in the driving seat and Mitchell threw her raincoat into the passenger seat and slammed the door, and then Clayton drove off.  Believing the missing dress to be concealed under the raincoat, the detective took the number of the car and asked Mitchell to return to the manager’s office.  The store manager telephoned the registration number to the police, but the dress was not in the car when Clayton arrived home, and she denied that it ever had been.  Clayton and Mitchell are charged with conspiracy to steal, and the theft of a dress worth £32.00, the property of Humbard’s Stores Ltd.  Electing to be tried by jury, the case is about to be heard in the Crown Court.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 22-Friday 24 November 1972

Written by: Roy Russell (1918-2015)

From the 60s up until the 80s Mr Russell wrote for a wealth of successful TV shows, including The SaintNo Hiding PlaceMogulDixon of Dock GreenSexton BlakeThe Onedin LineA Family at War and Tales of the Unexpected.  His episode of Doomwatch, which had the enticing title The Killer Dolphins, is sadly lost.  He also  did a lot of children’s TV, including the serials Fly into DangerMidnight is a Place and The Witches and the Grinnygog and episodes of Shadows and Jackanory Playhouse.  His final credit was a 1989 episode of Tugs.  The Eleventh Commandment was his only contribution to Crown Court.

Directed by: Carol Wilks

Probably the greatest achievement in Ms Wilks’ career was directing the BAFTA winning Granada children’s drama Soldier and Me in 1974.  Aside from that she worked regularly for both BBC and ITV in both drama and documentary, directing episodes of Coronation StreetWorld in ActionThe XYY Man and its spin-off StrangersJuliet BravoGrange HillHow We Used to Live and The Bill.  She later moved into producing, with stints on The BillHeartbeat and its spin-off The Royal.

Presiding: Edward Jewesbury as Judge Bragge

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Judge Bragge was last seen in Case 2: R v Lord

The accused:

Daphne Rogers as Rosemary Clayton

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Curiously, this appears to have been Ms Rogers’ only ever screen appearance.  The only other information I’ve been able to find about her is that she was once in a production of John Dryden’s All for Love at the Old Vic.  If you know anything else about her it would be wonderful if you could share!

And yes, that is Coronation Street legend Liz Dawn behind her.  Ms Dawn is a regular non-speaking presence in Crown Court up until 1976, when she graduates to the role of a witness.

Patricia Fuller as Linda Mitchell

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Ms Fuller’s best known role, both then and now, was as Elsie Tanner’s niece Sandra Butler, a regular role on Coronation Street for a few months in 1969 and 1970 (her brother Bernard, was played by a young Gorden Kaye – yes, Suede fans, Gorden Kaye played Bernard Butler in Coronation Street).  If IMDb is to be believed, this Crown Court case was her last screen work until 1991, when she turned up in Spanish-set police drama El CID as “Fighting Customer”.  And was never heard from again.

Appearing for the prosecution: Terrence Hardiman (1937- ) as Stephen Harvesty

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A silkily sinister presence on British TV for over 50 years now, Mr Hardiman is probably best known now for terrifying a generation of children in his role as the BBC’s Demon Headmaster in the 90s.  You will certainly have seen him in many other programmes (surprisingly, though, he didn’t turn up in Doctor Who until 2010’s The Beast Below).  He became one of the most prolific and long-running Crown Court barristers, so it’s pleasing that when Channel 4 tried to revive the format with The Courtroom in 2004 he was on the roster of judges.  He’s married to the actress Rowena Cooper, later to join Crown Court as barrister Anne Dickson.  Marvellously, the couple would battle it out in the courtroom twice.

Appearing for Mrs Clayton: Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate

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Helen Tate was last seen in Case 3: R v Bryant

Appearing for Miss Mitchell: John Alkin as Barry Deeley

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Barry Deeley was also last seen in Case 3: R v Bryant

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Lesley North as Judy Owens

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Ms North’s screen career began auspiciously with a role in Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles des Rochefort.  After this it was mostly small roles in British film and TV, including Carry On Matron, Puppet on a ChainThrillerDawson’s WeeklyShoestring and, inevitably, Casualty and The Bill.  She had a starring role in best-forgotten 1975 film musical Three for All, and, according to her agent’s website, has written over 100 episodes of drama for the BBC World Service (as well as sketches for 70s kids’ series Get It Together).

Rhoda Lewis (1933- ) as Marian Holland

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Like several other British character actresses of similar vintage, Ms Lewis was last seen playing a New York society matron in the Meryl Streep vehicle Florence Foster Jenkins.  Other recentish work includes HustleCasualty and Doctors.  Her Doctor Who appearance was in 1980’s State of Decay.  Other roles of note in her long and prolific career include bookie Dave Smith’s wife in Coronation Street in 1969 and the role of Mrs Brogan in three of the BBC’s 80s Miss Marple adaptations.

Pippa Rowe (1938-2005) as WPC Burslam

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Ms Rowe is best known for playing Nurse (later Sister) Doreen Holland in ATV’s General Hospital for seven years from 1973 to 1980.  She was also in episodes of Softly SoftlyA Family at War and Dixon of Dock Green.

Roy Marsden (1941- ) as Peter Maclennon

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In 1972, Mr Marsden’s was a familiar face from guest roles in dozens of TV shows, and it’d stay that way until 1978, when he finally graduated to the lead role in acclaimed crime drama The Sandbaggers.  This led to him being top-billed in Airline, a BBC adaptation of Goodbye Mr Chips and the role with which he’s most identified, P D James’ Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, which he played over a course of 15 years.  Like Terrence Hardiman he was surprisingly late to pop in Doctor Who, finally appearing in 2007’s Smith and Jones.  He was last seen on screen in the BBC’s much-maligned Agatha Christie adaptation Partners in Crime.

Coral Fairweather (1907-1994) as Joan Lumley-Brown

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Ms Fairweather’s other TV appearances included roles in No Hiding PlaceOur Man at St Mark‘sThe Power Game and Armchair Theatre.

Also: Peter Whitaker as Ron Clayton

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Rosemary Clayton’s husband sits in the court throughout, though he doesn’t get any dialogue.  Actor Peter Whitaker is credited, though, which wasn’t a given in his TV career.  His other work includes six Doctor Who stories (as Inspector Gascoigne in 1967’s The Faceless Ones, then as an extra in The Seeds of Death (1968), Genesis of the Daleks (1975), The Pirate Planet (1978), Four to Doomsday (1982) and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988)), Adam Adamant Lives!The Forsyte SagaDad’s ArmyBudgieDoomwatchColditzUpstairs DownstairsThe Duchess of Duke StreetBlake’s 7 (uncredited as a scientist in 1978’s Project Avalon), Rumpole of the Bailey and London’s Burning.

The jury:

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An embarrassment of riches in the jury box this week: the lady in the rainbow shirt, the woman in pink who looks spookily like Absolutely Fabulous‘s Harriet Thorpe and the clones in red are all worthy of note.  The theatrical looking gentleman next to rainbow lady is this week’s foreman, actor George Woolley.  IMDb has unhelpfully amalgamated his work with at least one other George Woolley (a current American TV producer), but it seems likely our George is the one who played a pathologist in A Family at War earlier in 1972.  Whether he’s also the George Woolley who had a regular role in the BBC’s football soap United! is hard to confirm as none of that show’s episodes still exist.

George gets to make the most of his moment in the spotlight here, as he’s required to absent-mindedly give the wrong verdict, then quickly correct himself in order to create suspense (I assume – it’s possible he does actually forget it!)

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The verdict (highlight to reveal): Guilty – sorry, I mean not guilty.

Case notes:

  • There’s no mention of Fulchester this week: the events in this case all took place somewhere called Broad Green.
  • Unusually, parts 1 and 3 end with some dialogue between the defendants and their counsel which the jury are not privy to.  Part 1 concludes with Rosemary Clayton terrified of having to testify the following day, with her husband then  stroking and patting her hand in close-up for the entire duration of the end credits, which goes on for so long and is so repetitive it becomes quite creepy, then passes into being hilarious.

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Part 3 has a totally format-breaking conclusion *SPOILER WARNING* as, having just been found not guilty, Mrs Clayton blurts out to her husband that she’s sorry and will never do it again (she’s overheard by a patently unamused Deeley and Tate).

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  • SIGNS OF THE TIMES: It’s clear that Linda Mitchell is meant to be a hippyish type – Stephen Harvesty refers to her unconventional dress sense (is it?) and suggests she spends her time thinking “how to beat the establishment”.  When he brings up her sex life she exclaims “Am I a thief because I’m not a virgin?” to mild consternation in the courtroom.

Summing-up:

A very basic case that’s really too thin to stretch over three episodes, with few twists and turns to open it out (the suggestion that there might be a sexual relationship between Linda Mitchell and Ron Clayton, which could have made the case a bit more interesting, is shut down as soon as it’s raised and never mentioned again.  Episode 3 is especially hard-going: once Coral Fairweather’s affable turn as a charity shop volunteer is out of the way it’s three long speeches to the jury and Edward Jewesbury delivering his lines so agonisingly slowly he must surely have been aware of the need to pad out the running time.  There are fun performances along the way, above all Terrence Hardiman’s tremendously assured debut, but we’re left with the feeling that everyone’s being so scrupulous about reproducing a case as it would be heard in court that the entertainment angle’s been a bit neglected.

In the charts:

Chuck Berry’s Ding-a-Ling has proved irresistible to the double entendre-loving British public, and is now number 1 across the land.  Here’s this week’s number 2:

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