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Bench, The (BBC-1 2001-2002, Mark Lewis Jones, Lesley Vickerage)



The Bench is a drama series that channels 1970’s series Six Days of Justice as it takes us behind the scenes and into the dock of a magistrates court.

All walks of life pass through the doors. Doctors, teenage car thieves, people who are ashamed to have been arrested and inveterate drug dealers – all rub shoulders in the waiting area. Some will be sent to prison, others given a small fine, but their lives and problems will go on. The Bench allows us to see the personal stories behind the crimes.

The drama is set in the fictional south Wales town of Penbridge, a small community where magistrates never know whether an old friend or neighbour willCheryl Cates, Ranjit Singh and Des Davies appear before them in the dock. Worse, defendants can and do form a personal grudge if they dont get the leniency they hoped for. Its a big responsibility for the magistrates, who are all volunteers taking time out from their everyday lives to mete out local justice.

The chair of the magistrates is Peter Mansell, a dignified but sometimes autocratic man who thinks he runs the place. Kath, the clerk to the justices, knows better. Shes the qualified solicitor who advises the magistrates on legal matters – they couldnt get by without her.

Charismatic defence solicitor, Des Davies, is an old hand at getting his clients out of the most difficult scrapes. But when determined young prosecutor Cheryl Cates joins the court, his job suddenly gets a lot tougher. He mocks her zealousness, but is secretly impressed by his new professional rival.

Although the drama never leaves the courts, each week we learn a little more about our regular characters – their friendships, rivalries and relationships. And though theyre all dedicated to their work, the cases are sometimes the least of their problems.

production details
UK / BBC-1 Wales / 20×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 17 October 2001 – 13 June 2002

Creators: Matthew Robinson, Catherine Tregenna / Producer: Karen Lewis.

Mark Lewis Jones as Des Davies
Lesley Vickerage as Katharine Tyrell
Philip McGough as Peter Mansell
Eiry Thomas as Cheryl Cates