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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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Garrow's Law – introduction

(L-R) Andrew Buchan as William Garrow, Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah Hill and Alun Armstrong as John Southouse in Garrow's Law

Pioneering 18th-century barrister William Garrow revisits the Old Bailey to champion the rights of prisoners against the power of the State, as BBC One's acclaimed drama Garrow's Law returns for a second series.

A year has passed since viewers last saw him and, in this time, Garrow's reputation for pioneering advocacy has intensified – but so too has his opposition to the legal and political establishment.

A stellar cast returns for the second series of RTS (Royal Television Society) award-winning Garrow's Law, lead by Andrew Buchan (Cranford, Party Animals), Alun Armstrong (New tricks, Little Dorrit), Lyndsey Marshal (Being Human, Rome), Aidan McArdle (Beautiful People, Jane Eyre) and Rupert Graves (Single Father, God On Trial).

Themes of slavery, homosexuality, mistreatment of disabled naval veterans and women as property are explored in this new series. And Garrow finds himself in the dock at Westminster Hall as the series comes to a thrilling climax.

Garrow's Law co-creator Tony Marchant (The Knight's Tale, Mark Of Cain, Crime & Punishment) explains the inspirations and motivations for the highly-anticipated second series:

"Winning the RTS for the first series was obviously a great fillip for the show but it also meant that we couldn't simply stand on our laurels for the second series. If anything, this time round we had to make the show bolder and richer.

"Garrow finds the enemies he has made in the first series determined to undermine and ruin him. They cannot damage his reputation as a barrister so they try to bring down Garrow the man – to bankrupt and disgrace him because of his personal life.

"The issues we've explored in the second series are quite weighty – slavery, through a massacre prosecuted as an insurance fraud; the grave implications of being gay in the 18th century; the mistreatment of injured and disabled sailors in war campaigns; and, through Lady Sarah, the characterisation of women as property.

"However, all this doesn't mean we are simply being worthy – the stories are compelling, moving and sometimes funny.

"In terms of contemporary relevance, cases explored this series include sailors who had been 'ill fed, ill clad and ill used'. Substitute sailors for soldiers and you have a situation facing too many of those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Sodomy was a hanging offence and the issue of being 'out' or 'outed', if not quite as fraught as then, still presents a huge challenge for many gay people today.

"There's an immediacy about the Old Bailey online records, with transcripts of the actual trials which makes it both a fantastic oral and written history of those who went through the Criminal justice system, a riveting insight into the lives of ordinary people who were caught up in it and, of course, a revelation about the way that law was conducted then.

"The older you get the more interested in the past you become and in this case it's been a real eye opener to see history recorded from the 'bottom up', from the mouths of those that history books normally ignore.

"Garrow is an impetuous and impassioned campaigner for justice within the law but realises that cannot happen without challenging the status quo in society. His anger and fervour sometimes makes him his own worst enemy but his loyalty to his mentor Southouse and his love for Lady Sarah make him vulnerable and prey to those enemies who are determined to remove him from the Old Bailey.

"The relationship between Garrow and Lady Sarah has become more full blooded. Ironically, this is because of the conspiracies and machinations of others, including Sir Arthur Hill, Lady Sarah's husband – they are thrown together more closely because of his insane jealously.

"The emotional turmoil Garrow is going through begins to affect the conduct of his cases and sometimes, the distractions in his personal life threaten his ability to save defendants at the old Bailey. The stakes are higher for both him and Lady Sarah, the dice more loaded against them – emotionally, personally and legally.

"Sir Arthur pursues two suits or two punishments against Sarah and Garrow. Against Sarah, he institutes 'separation by bed and board' – a vengeful action that will leave her virtually penniless, unable to remarry and, worst of all, having to relinquish her rights to her son.

"Against Garrow, Hill seeks damages for the act of 'criminal conversation'– a term meaning sexual intercourse with another man's wife. The amount of damages claimed against Garrow will be enough to ruin him.

"To write well for any of the characters, whether they are antagonists like Hill or protagonists like Garrow, you have to empathise absolutely with the situation they are in and simply inhabit their skin – Hill's paranoid jealousy or Garrow's intemperate pursuit of justice.

"What I like about Garrow is that he is ruthlessly outspoken in court, outrageously so sometimes, equally undiplomatic outside of court, has a gauche vulnerability when it comes to matters of the heart and acts like a wayward son to his mentor, Southouse."

A Twenty Twenty/Shed Media Scotland production through BBC Scotland, the four-part factual drama is inspired by the life of pioneering barrister William Garrow (Andrew Buchan). Garrow's Law is set against a backdrop of corruption and social injustice, based on real legal cases from the late 18th century.

In an age where the defence counsel acted in the minority of cases, William Garrow championed the underdog and pioneered the rigorous cross-examination of prosecution witnesses that paved the way for our modern legal system today.

Dominic Barlow, executive producer, Twenty Twenty/Shed Media Scotland, says: "This series will not only see Garrow fighting legal and political injustice in the Old Bailey but also injustice in his personal life that could end his career at the Bar."

Mark Bell, Commissioning Editor, Arts, adds: "Tony Marchant and the team at Twenty Twenty did a great job in bringing William Garrow from the shadows of British legal history to a broad audience on BBC One. Round Two of his trials and tribulations will see him continue to fight for love and justice through more shocking and amazing cases of the time."

Garrow's Law series two is produced by Nick Pitt (Robin Hood, Silent Witness) and directed by Ashley Pearce (Poirot, The Commander).

The executive producers are Dominic Barlow and Tim Carter for Twenty Twenty/Shed Media Scotland, Gaynor Holmes for BBC Scotland Drama and Mark Bell, Commissioning Editor, BBC Arts & Knowledge.

Garrow's Law continues in the footsteps of distinctive programming made recently through BBC Scotland including Single Father (BBC One), Lip Service (BBC Three), The Deep (BBC One), One Night In Emergency (BBC One Scotland), River City (BBC One Scotland), Waterloo Road (BBC One) and Wallander (BBC One). As well as forthcoming new series for 2011 including Aurelio Zen (BBC One), Field of Blood (BBC One Scotland), Case Histories (BBC One) and Young James (BBC One).


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