For months now millions of listeners across the nation have been gripped by BBC Radio 4’s long-running radio soap, the Archers. The storyline attracting much attention and debate by listeners and lawyers alike is that of Rob Titchener and Helen Archer.
For almost two years Helen has been suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband, Rob, with whom she has a two month old baby, Jack. Helen also has a son, Henry, who was born with the aid of a sperm donor, but for whom Rob has parental responsibility.
Rob’s emotional abuse and level of coercive control mean that even Helen’s family and closest friends, from whom Rob had distanced Helen, were oblivious as to the level of abuse Helen was subjected to.
Events culminated in April 2016 when, during an argument after Rob discovered Helen’s plans to leave him, Helen stabbed Rob. Helen was charged with attempted murder and wounding with intent but was found not guilty on both counts in early September 2016.
Following the verdict in the criminal case, a Family Judge made various rulings regarding contact arrangements for the children, holding that Rob should not have contact with Henry and should have limited and supervised contact with his son, Jack.
Although the characters and storyline is fictitious, the issues explored are, for many, very real. While most separating couples do not find themselves in such a volatile situation family lawyers and the courts grapple on a daily basis with the themes raised by the storyline, such as the impact of domestic abuse, the approach of the family court in dealing with a child’s relationship with an abusive parent and how future arrangements are dealt with.
Barristers at 42 Bedford Row chambers in London have produced a detailed and informative exploration some of these issues. The document can be found here
If you wish to seek advice in relation to any of the family or children issues set out above, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Department who would be pleased to assist.
Photo courtesy of BBC website.