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Rumpole of the Bailey (1978-83, 87-92)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Rumpole and the Honourable Member, originally transmitted on ITV, 17 April 1978 Written by John Mortimer, directed by Graham Evans

In 1974, Rumpole agrees to defend Mr Aspen, an MP accused of raping Bridget, one of his staff. Aspen claims that the sex was consensual. Rumpole's son Nick visits his parents and brings his American fiancée, Erica. She asks to come and see Rumpole working in court. Erskine-Brown tells Rumpole that their senior clerk, Albert, has been stealing; he can prove it as he has been marking the pound notes in the petty cash. He found a pound note in Pommeroy's Wine Bar which was marked and which Albert used to buy drinks there. Rumpole lies, saying he that he spent the money there after borrowing five pounds from the petty cash.

In court, Rumpole cross-examines Bridget. He makes her admit that she was already having sex while under age and had recently had an abortion. To secure the operation her psychiatrist had certified her as being mentally unstable. She had attempted to commit suicide shortly before meeting Aspen and was in fact then still under psychiatric care. Rumpole suggests that she is unbalanced and trying to take revenge because, after having sex with her, Aspen refused to leave his family for her. What is more, she defaced an image of Aspen before the alleged attack, which, he says, proves she was already in a hostile frame of mind. She breaks down.

Erica is furious at Rumpole's attack on Bridget's character in court. Rumpole insists that this is quite proper since his client is innocent and is being hounded by an unbalanced woman. Erica refuses to accept this and storms out. The other members of chambers tell Rumpole that one of his pay cheques has been endorsed by Albert without permission.

Aspen is unhappy that Rumpole's cross-examination upset Bridget. He feels that he let her and his wife down by not living up to their expectations of him. In the witness box, he suddenly claims not to remember the details of the night in question and not to know if he thought she was consenting or not. He is found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Nick tells Rumpole that he and Erica will be moving to America, as she now can't imagine living in the UK. At a Chambers meeting, Rumpole defends Albert, but to no avail. Henry becomes the senior clerk and Albert is dismissed. At home, Hilda blames Rumpole for driving Erica and Nick away.