Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Garrow's Law, Revisited

I previously blogged about a terrific BBC television series, Garrow's Law, which is available in DVD format from AcornGarrow's Law presents a somewhat fictionalized version of the life and times of William Garrow, the crusading barrister who helped to create the adversary trial system in England.  I just saw season 3 of the series, which is to be its last.  The first episode of series 3 focuses on a man who attempted to assassinate King George III.  Is the defendant insane?  If so, how does that affect his legal responsibility for his acknowledged acts?  How should the state inflict punishment in such a situation?  In another episode, Garrow essentially put the British colonial empire on trial; he exposed its human-rights abuses in a manner that profoundly embarrassed some of the most powerful members of the English establishment. 

The backdrop to Garrow's court-room triumphs is his troubled domestic life, which is shared with Lady Sarah Hill, the estranged wife of a vengeful aristocratic and would-be politician who refuses to allow Lady Sarah to have custody of their child, even though he believes the child is actually Garrow's.  It seems that there are no lengths to which Sir Arthur Hill will not go to make Lady Sarah suffer.  At one point, he says something along the lines of  "My only pleasure lies in inflicting pain on her."  The law at the time gave fathers absolute rights over their children, and Lady Sarah is seen over and over again trying to win custody of baby Samuel, all to no avail.  Eventually, I ran out of patience with Lady Sarah and her suffering and more or less stopped paying attention to her.  The trial scenes, however, remained fascinating throughout series 3 and made for compelling television.  Garrow's Law is highly recommended!  I'm going to miss it.

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