The excellent on going domestic violence storyline in the radio 4  radio drama "The Archers" continues.

After months of suffering subtle and unsubtle domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Rob Titchener, his wife Helen snaps and stabs him. Her little boy Henry (Rob's stepson) witnesses the aftermath. Helen gets arrested and is on remand. Rob survives and came out of hospital a week ago. Henry was being looked after by his maternal grandparents Pat and Tony. They were tricked by Rob's mother Ursula who failed to return Henry after a contact visit so that Henry is now with her and his step father Rob. The local family court allowed Henry to stay with Rob on an interim basis.

Social media has been a platform for angry viewers expressing their displeasure with the lack of legal accuracy and the direction of travel of the storyline.

As a family lawyer I have some sympathy with such listeners. I am forever shouting at the TV when a drama mentions a custody order for a child (which was changed in October 1991 to a Residence Order).

I do however have sympathy with The Archers with this storyline. The coercive control perpetrated by Rob against Helen over many months has been played out brilliantly and in a nuanced way. I do think that this must have given hope to many such victims in real life that this is an issue that people suffer and which should be recognised and outlawed.

The forthcoming criminal trial will be an ideal platform for domestic violence issues to be once more considered. 

Whilst I think that some of the criticisms of the interim family hearing for Henry are justified (i.e. the apparent lack of social services intervention and the issues of Henry being a child witness living with the alleged victim Rob) it does throw up the issue of parental responsibility and the role of step parents and the need or otherwise for step parents to have parental responsibility.

Rob Titchener is certainly not a role model for step parents deserving parental responsibility but with families becoming a lot more diverse in their structure i.e. married/unmarried/same sex etc there is a place for a discussion about the need or otherwise for step parents to obtain parental responsibility. 

Please keep up the good work Archers - it may not be 100% legally accurate but you have brought to the fore real issues that need serious debate.