Is That Your Final Answer?: “Coughing major” conviction to be appealed

April 28, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

17 years after being found guilty of cheating their way to the £1m prize on TV quiz show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, ex-army major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana are seeking to appeal their conviction. ITV’s three-part drama, Quiz, tells a dramatised version of their story.

What does this mean?

In March 2003, in what came to be known as the “coughing major” trial, the couple were convicted of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception. They were both given an 18-month suspended prison sentence. The prosecution alleged that they formulated a plan with co-conspirator Tecwen Whittock, in which Whittock would cough to signal the correct answer to Mr Ingram. This month, the ITV drama put the spotlight back on the case. The couple still maintain their innocence. They are currently working on the submission of new legal arguments to the Court of Appeal, with the hope of overturning the verdict.

What's the big picture effect?

The drama’s relatively favourable depiction of the Ingrams has improved public perception of them and led many viewers to question their conviction. Rhona Friedman, the Ingrams’ solicitor, believes that this will have no impact on the likelihood of a successful appeal, as “the Court of Appeal is not going to be swayed”.

The couple’s lawyers have two important legal arguments to put to the court. The first is new evidence enabled by advances in audio analysing technology. There were 192 coughs during the show recording, 19 of which were deemed significant by the prosecution. The advanced audio analysis available today makes it possible to identify who the coughs came from. This will help to determine whether Whittock really was coughing to indicate the correct answer to Mr Ingram. The second is the possibility that the integrity of the prosecution’s audio evidence (a tape recording of coughs heard during the show) may have been compromised, as it was edited by Celador, the quiz show’s producers.

The impact of Coronavirus on the courts (read our report on that here) means that the Ingrams may have to wait a long time for their case to be heard. Let’s hope that by the time a hearing can take place, no one is coughing.

Report written by Isobel Deane

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