Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Law & Order UK “Duty of Care” Recap & Review
Law & Order UK “Duty of Care” is based on the original Law & Order episode, “Endurance” from season 11. “Duty of Care” tugs at the emotional aspect of the case, involving a mother who becomes overly stressed and distraught with the care her son, who is seriously disabled. She also gets a smarmy, cocky barrister to represent her, and his incompetence becomes evident over the course of the trail. Steel and Phillips use his incompetence to work out an outcome for Megan Parnell that takes her ultimate actions into account, but also the strain that care giving for her son has caused on her AND an incompetent barrister.
As I have a nephew who is has serious disabilities, I have seen firsthand the stress this can put on a family if they try to care for the child on their own. The strain was so hard on my younger brother – a single parent - that he died 9 years ago at the age of 38 from cancer because his body just was not strong enough to fight the disease AND care for his son. The only positive outcome was that my nephew was placed in a residential home that was able to provide a staff of people for 24 hour support for my nephew – who is now 22 years old. It literally can take a village to care for a person with serious disabilities. My brother never shunned his responsibility nor considered any option for his son but life, but I can surely see how a parent, especially a lone care giver, can only want another way out for their child and for themselves. Truly, the episode “Duty of Care” pulled on the emotions, and maybe more so in my case because the situation is very relevant to my family. James Steel was right, though, to emphasize that mercy killing is still illegal – and is still killing, especially in the case where the one to die can’t make the choice.
Here is the recap:
A woman, Megan Parnell (Beatie Edney), runs out for help as her flat burns, her son still inside. He dies in the fire, and DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) and DS Matt Devlin are called to the scene as the fire appears to be suspicious in origin. There is evidence of an accelerant – paint thinner was found.
The detectives speak to Parnell about her son Ian, who had learning difficulties, and he had trouble with his breathing.
Back at MIU, the detectives tell DI Natalie Chandler what they know about the case so far. They focus on the man who owned the shop downstairs, Samjit Chatterjee (Avin Shah) who is under investigation for unpaid VAT and selling alcohol without a license and declared bankruptcy once before.
They speak with Sanjit about catastrophes at his previous businesses. He denies doing anything for insurance – he’s not insured because it was too costly. Devlin gets a phone call that says Parnell had made complaints that her son had been harassed because of his special needs. They speak with the mother of the boys who were harassing Ian, and they next thing we know, the two boys, Aaron and Lee are down at MIU being questioned.
Devlin questions Aaron and Brooks questions Lee. Aaron attempts to insult Devlin and Lee seems quiet. They get nothing. Later, they focus on Parnell’s ex, who has unpaid child maintenance and has a temper and he matches the description of someone that was spotted at the flat earlier that day.
At the home of Craig Parnell, the detectives question him about when he last saw his son and the maintenance payments. He said Ian belonged in a home but Megan wanted to keep him with her. He says Ian is full-on retarded. He says he was there on Monday afternoon but wanted to talk to Megan face to face but she was not there. He said he went out to dinner that night with his girlfriend.
Back at MIU, Brooks tell Chandler Craig’s girlfriend confirmed his alibi. She also said Ian had a thing about playing with matches. Chandler tells them to rule out the boy.
At Chamberlain House, Brooks finds a padlock and key and wonder if Ian knew it was up there. The paint thinner that was usually kept in one spot was not there.
At Laburnim Hill Special School, Brooks and Devlin found out that the condition Ian had, he continued to deteriorate and needed constant monitoring. He could not have unlocked a door or climbed up on a ledge, in fact, when he left there he could not get a spoon to his mouth. The woman working there said when it sunk in with Megan what was going to happen with Ian, she thought it would kill her.
Outside, the detectives now wonder if Megan set the fire. They get back to MIU and reexamine the evidence from the fire. Ian’s bed did not look slept in, and the door to Ian’s room was shut. Megan said she could not get into the room because the door handle was hot, but if the door was already open she would not have had to touch the handle. Brooks gets a call that said the lab finished testing items from the scene and Megan Parnell’s sweatshirt has paint thinner on it.
They bring Megan to MIU and she is in the interrogation room. They tell her they don’t think she ever went to be that night because her bed was still made and her bedroom door was shut tight which is what slowed the fire down. They accuse her of setting the fire. She denies it but they continue to press about her desperate situation with Ian. Devlin says she started the fire and left Ian to die.
In Central Criminal Courts, there is a hearing about bail for Megan. Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) reminds the judge that Megan is accused of murder. In the courthouse lobby, Megan’s barrister Dominic Peck (Oliver Dimsdale) talks to Phillips and seems to be flirting with her.
With Director George Castle (Bill Paterson), James Steel (Ben Daniels) and Phillips review the case and how Megan will be presented by the defense. Castle thinks they should establish her state of mind before the fire. As Megan went to the emergency department a few days before the fire, Steel says they should talk to the doctor that saw them and get a professional opinion.
At Royal Hampton Hospital, Dr. Elaine Schreiber (Jane Wheldon) says there was no abuse of Ian involved, his injuries resulting from Ian’s condition. His mother had been injured trying to hold him down when he had a seizure. The last time the doctor spoke to Megan she suggested Megan get Ian residential care, and Megan said if it came to that he’d be better off dead.
At Crown v Parnell plea and case management hearing and the issue of the doctor’s statement being privileged is argued. But Ian was the patient, so the judge says there is no privilege for Megan in this case. Peck also applied to exclude the sweatshirt Megan was wearing, but the judge seems annoyed with Peck’s motions and tells him the sweatshirt stays in. Steel and Phillips seem amused at Peck’s apparent ineptness.
Outside the courtroom, Megan stops Phillips and asks her when they should go back in. Phillips tells her and Megan seems confused, saying she was told she would see her little girl that day. Peck comes up to both of them and tells Megan, with a smarmy smile on his face, not to fraternize with the enemy.
Back in court, Mr. Harris, an expert witness testifies, and Peck seems to offer a logical explanation for why the bed was not made, saying that she could have been reading a book or magazine while laying on the bed. But Harris says none were found near the bed.
At trial day 3, Dr. Schreiber testifies about her advice to Megan about putting Ian in a home and that Megan said Ian would be better off dead. Peck cross examines her and brings out that Megan asked about alternative treatments to improve Ian’s life.
Back at George Castle’s office, they are worried that the jury will sympathize with Megan. Steel wonders if they can force Peck to do the right thing and tell them they will accept a plea to manslaughter and hope he has the sense to agree.
At a pub, Steel and Phillips discuss the offer with Peck. He’s very flip about the whole thing. He says all Megan wants is to be with her daughter and he promised her he would do his damndest to make it happen. Philips says he should not have promised, and he says it is always good to give the ladies hope.
In the CPS conference room, Peck, who is there with Megan, refuses the offer and wants to proceed with the not guilty plea. Steel reminds Megan if she is found guilty she will get 25 years and that is a real possibility. When Megan starts to question things, Peck whisks her out of the room.
At the Strand, Phillips tells Castle and Steel that Peck has entered a new plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and he will get an expert who will say Megan was legally insane when she set the fire. If it works, Megan could be institutionalized and lose her daughter as well.
Later, Steel confronts Peck in the robbing room. Peck again is flip about the situation, saying it is all about emotion and not the truth.
Afterwards, Phillips and Steel wonder if Megan is just going along with Peck’s games and Steel cautions they not look at Megan as the innocent victim.
In the consulting rooms of Dr. Roddy Armitage (George Anton), Armitage confirms to Megan that by pleading insanity, she did not know what she was doing was wrong when she started the fire. Steel and Phillips watch the video as Megan says she didn’t know what she was doing. She speaks about Ian and his problems and how he continued to get worse. He stopped talking and using the toilet and would not let him hold her.
Afterwards, Armitage tells Steel and Phillips that Megan was not insane then and is not insane now but she does have mental health problems. She could not get enough sleep because of his care. But he emphasizes she was not insane. Steel wonders who she found that said she was.
Back a Crown v Parnell, Peck questions Dr. Elizabeth Arlberg (Julia Montogomery Brown) who says Megan had risen to the clinical level of ACSS – Acute Caretaker Stress Syndrome. It can cause irrational behaviors and cognitive malfunction. Megan may not have been able to tell right and wrong. Under cross examination, Arlberg says her doctorate is in psychoanalytic studies and she did not go to medical school, and she is not a qualified psychiatrist and is not affiliated with a clinic, she just lectures and has as US radio program. Steel continues to press her on ACSS and she admits the diagnosis is new and she identified it herself. It is not recognized by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Steel sarcastically makes a comment that it is out on the cutting edge. Steel paints her has having no real expertise. Megan begins to looks concerned.
At CPS, Peck worriedly tells Steel and Phillips that Megan has confessed – she admits to starting the fire and feels responsible for Ian’s death but he didn’t actually die in the fire. Phillips asks Megan to explain. Megan explains Ian was having a seizure and she had a syringe with his injection but she could not do it. She just wanted it to stop, so she held him and waited until the convulsions ended, she knew he was gone. Peck says this changes everything, but Steel ask if he expects them to abandon all charges. Steel says he’s heard enough, and while Peck continues to want to discuss it, Steel walks out of the room and says they can see themselves out.
Afterwards, Steel tells Phillips that smoke inhalation was the cause of death, and this means Megan is lying – or more likely Peck told her what to say. Phillips wonders why Peck would try this. Steel comments why bother about truth when you can go with emotion.
Phillips checks with the medical examiner, Heather (Hazel Ellerby), who confirms it was CO asphyxiation and that one has to be breathing to get smoke in her lungs. She adds that a violent seizure can cause coma and would allow some smoke into the lungs but the person would appear dead.
Phillips gives Steel this information and she wonders if Megan did mention this to Peck and Peck panicked and changed the plea to insanity. Steel thinks if Megan thought Ian was dead, there was no intention to kill. Phillips said she should have never been charged with murder.
Back at Crown v Parnell, Megan is testifying. Steel cross examines her and comments about her lies. She says she would not leave Ian to die, he was already dead. Steel says it is simply not true, and he refers to the post mortem report with the cause of death smoke inhalation. She says they have it wrong, Ian stopped breathing. She said she thought it was a mistake, and Steel continues to pres her that Ian was alive when she started the fire. Megan becomes very upset and insists she would never have done that.
Later, Castle is annoyed with Peck that he put Megan up there without explaining the post mortem results. Steel thinks that the judge will want to discharge the jury and start again – with the charge of manslaughter because she started the fire and withheld the injection that would have prevented the coma. Mercy killing is still killing and still illegal. When Phillips comments about Megan having to go through this all again, Castle says they have to as Megan could appeal as she can claim she was wrongly advised. Steel says this means her barrister would be accused of negligence and with decent representation she could be out within 6 months. This would take her defense out of Peck’s hands.
In the chambers if Judge Mary Hall (Diana Quick), Peck doesn’t understand that they want to just carry on. Steel says they would accept a plea of manslaughter and it would spare Megan the trauma of a second trial and whatever sentence she chooses could take into account the circumstances of Ian’s death. Judge Hall says she is prepared to continue as long as they all understand each other, and Peck agrees and asks what they do now.
Back in court, the Judge imposes a custodial sentence but takes into account the fact she believed her son was dead when she started the fire, she gives her 3 years in prison with a recommendation for full psychological assessment. Megan looks back on her daughter before she is taken away. Peck takes a deep breath and Steel and Phillips look on with serious faces.
The episode closes with a page which notes that Dominic Peck no longer practices criminal law and has moved to private practice, and that Megan was released after 5 months in prison following a psychiatric evaluation – we are also reminded the episode is fictional as we fade to black.
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