The killing of baby Cabby

Costa Levante News - - ON STAGE -

By Jack Troughton Highly­charged court­room drama Rough Jus­tice cen­tres on the mur­der of a nine­month­old badly dis­abled baby and ex­am­ines whether a par­ent can be jus­ti­fied in a mercy killing.

The cut and thrust of an ad­ver­sar­ial crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion came un­der the spot­light at Javea Play­ers’ Stu­dio Theatre and fol­lowed the trial of James High­wood, who would have taken over three min­utes to smother his strug­gling brain­dam­aged son – a child con­demned to liv­ing in a twi­light world

How­ever, was High­wood – a well­known tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity, pre­sen­ter of con­tro­ver­sial ‘Bri­tish Jus­tice?’, and writer – guilty of man­slaugh­ter or mur­der? It was for the jury and, later, the au­di­ence to de­cide. In law, did he in­tend to kill?

Nat­u­rally, be­ing a celebrity, there is a me­dia pack all of a frenzy at the gates of the build­ing and a pro­life demon­stra­tion bay­ing for blood.

Rough Jus­tice is an im­pec­ca­bly writ­ten piece and in the hands of di­rec­tor Lind­say John­son also a thor­oughly watch­able evening’s en­ter­tain­ment. Bravo in­deed for plumping for such a se­ri­ous and emo­tional piece and congratulations to the cast for step­ping up to the mark in a play that has at­tracted pro­fes­sional ac­tors of the cal­i­bre of Martin Shaw, Tom Conti and Diana Quick.

Jus­tice – who sym­bol­i­cally wields a sword and car­ries a set of scales atop the Old Bai­ley – can be dif­fi­cult. Prob­ing a mo­ment in re­cent his­tory is not in real time; ev­ery sec­ond is ex­am­ined and probed. It is in it­self a slow­burn­ing piece of theatre.

The pros­e­cu­tion seizes on a num­ber of small points, lapses if you will in the de­fen­dant’s ev­i­dence. Cen­tral is why does the child not been named – High­wood is forced to ad­mit the tiny boy is called ‘Cabby’; sadly, af­ter ‘cab­bage’ but seem­ingly an af­fec­tion­ate nick­name af­ter wife Jean made a slip

And there are con­fes­sions in High­wood’s cell that re­veal what prose­cut­ing coun­sel has guessed; the case is more com­pli­cated than it first ap­pears. Judge and jury Nigel Poole brought the de­fen­dant to life. Ar­ro­gant, bul­ly­ing, and not so much above the law as want­ing to re­write it – and re­defin­ing the role of judge, jury and bar­ris­ter for the Crown to boot.

He is also a loyal hus­band and lov­ing fa­ther – there are three other chil­dren ­ look­ing to pro­tect wife Jean. Nigel put his all into the part, han­dling the emo­tion it de­manded and even stag­ing a break­down in the dock with­out de­scend­ing into melo­drama.

There are dark mo­ments in the cou­ple’s lives and Deb­bie Saun­ders as Jean hides the largest. Ac­cused of be­ing a tro­phy wife in court, she is not called to give ev­i­dence but re­veals se­crets the jury will never hear; a clever and be­liev­able per­for­mance.

Gary John­son made a very be­liev­able judge. With High­wood de­ter­mined to han­dle his own de­fence against the re­peated ad­vice and pleas of his solic­i­tor (Ray Big­ger), he has to be un­der­stand­ing and for­giv­ing when rules of ev­i­dence are bro­ken but up­hold the sys­tem. As lord of all he sur­veys, Gary wore his wig with pride and up­held his and the jury’s roles; some­thing High­wood was de­ter­mined to scup­per.

Mar­garet Casely QC was the pros­e­cu­tor played by the tal­ented Caro­line Drewett­Mansell. Ar­mour plated against the taunts of the de­fen­dant, she strives for the truth and is the ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sional, com­plete with the trade­mark ac­tions of a top bar­ris­ter – af­ter all, it is a branch of the le­gal pro­fes­sion that is all about act­ing and drama. Com­plet­ing the cast were Jen­nifer Kel­low­Ward as the . pathol­o­gist; Rose­mary Brown as a renowned pae­di­a­tri­cian; Mike O’Neill as PC Rams­den; and Roger Brown as the court usher.

The ver­dict was an­nounced by Madam Fore­woman of the jury – be­fore the au­di­ence was polled at the end of the show.

A col­league fre­quently found on the press benches of Old Bai­ley – aka the Cen­tral Crim­i­nal Court – of­ten light­ened ten­sions when first spot­ting a de­fen­dant by qui­etly an­nounc­ing: “Guilty as charged M’lud”. Oh, and a con­fes­sion: it was also tra­di­tional for mem­bers of Her Majesty’s press to run a book on a ver­dict, set­tled when the le­gal case was run.

Pho­tos by Phil Mansell

Solic­i­tor Peter Ack­royd with Mrs High­wood

Pros­e­cu­tor, judge and de­fen­dant

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