Campaign to free 'the Ambridge One'

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The Independent Online
A PRISON sentence that may have escaped your attention in the run-up to Christmas - it was handed down by an insignificant judge in an obscure part of the country to a rather dippy woman who harboured an armed robber (albeit her brother) - has stirred strong feelings within the agricultural community, writes Charles Oulton.

One group of countryfolk has now written to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, demanding she be pardoned.

The case concerns one Susan Carter, 30, who has now served two weeks of a six- month sentence described by a penal reformer as the harshest and most unjustifiable decision he had encountered in nearly 25 years of listening.

When the judge chose to make Carter an example of the new toughness Michael Howard expects of the judiciary, he expected a cause celebre - she is known to millions of people who listen to their radios every evening, and on Sunday mornings - but the depth of public outrage has surprised even Mr Howard himself. The Home Secretary is currently taking sanctuary in America, where his advisers have so far been unable to brief him on the latest development.

When he returns to Britain, he will be handed a letter from a group of people describing themselves as 'Archers' fans.

The letter, postmarked Lydd, near Ashford in Kent, admits that Carter, of Ambridge, who has two children, is a fictitious character, but argues that the case could set a precedent. 'It's a serious point that the legal system can put a woman in prison without taking into account the fact she is a mother with a previously clean record. This could happen in a real court of law and it's worrying.

'We hope Michael Howard will step in and we are also considering asking the Queen for a royal pardon.'