Why You Must Watch Criminal Justice

Summer TV. Usually, it’s nothing more than an assortment of sport, Big Brother, tacky documentaries from the school of ‘my baby weighs more than a baby elephant’ and endless repeats. However, I’m pleased to say that the BBC is breaking the mould with its five-part thriller Criminal Justice. To be screened daily over five nights starting from Monday June 30, this compelling drama offers a thought-provoking insight into the criminal justice system.

Actor Ben Whishaw plays happy-go-lucky youngster Ben Coulter who’s just yer average bloke, if a little sensitive. After ‘borrowing’ his dad’s black taxi cab, his life is changed forever following a wild encounter with a woman he picks up. Some drink, drugs and sex later, he wakes up to find her stabbed to death. Panicked, Ben flees. However, fate conspires against him and a traffic accident results in capture. Charged with murder, he can’t remember what happened the night before and Ben’s world descends into a labyrinth of foreign places: a police station, a prison, a courtroom. Naive and petrified, he has to learn to survive alongside disturbed cellmates, dodgy screws and hardcore career criminals of the likes of Hooch (Pete Postlethwaite) and Freddie Graham (David Harewood).

Fans of American shows Law & Order and Murder One will be familiar with the dramatic premise employed here as Criminal Justice follows Ben’s story from the crime through to the police investigation, court case and verdict. It’s not perfect – the pace is uneven at times (especially at the beginning and in the middle) but the brilliant cast make up for that. With every instalment, the tension racks up to almost unbearable levels and Ben’s memory blank proves a highly effective suspense-driver. Did he really do it? Is he truly guilty? Are we sympathising with a man capable of murder? By the time the verdict is in, you’ll have no nails left.

Criminal Justice is written by former barrister Peter Moffat who also gave us the brilliant Cambridge Spies and Kavanagh QC. A rollercoaster ride through the Criminal Justice system, it’s well worth investing your time and emotions over its five-day run. Why? Yes, it’s well written and acted – that goes without saying. But crucially, the unsettling lesson to learn is that in the Criminal Justice system, the truth is optional. Moreover, it can be a luxurious liability. What really counts is playing the game, and the system, in order to get the best result possible. Suspects do it to win their freedom; barristers do it to win their case and police officers do it to meet their targets. After watching this intriguing drama, you may no longer be surprised at why, for example, figures for rape convictions remain disgracefully low.

Today I am mostly lovin’ – House. Yes it is occasionally silly and yes it does stretch credulity at times, but I can’t get enough of it (and Hugh Laurie).

Today I am mostly hatin’ – Has anyone told Toyota that there’s a credit crunch on? Where are they getting the money to advertise that bloomin’ advert using The Feeling’s Join With Us every five minutes? ‘Ring, ring, beep, beep’? I’ll give you ‘wring, wring’ in a minute Toyota. Grrrrr!

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12 Responses to Why You Must Watch Criminal Justice

  1. Bex says:

    I totally agree with you – I watched the whole criminal justice series, and found it totally fabulous, addictive watching, total suspense, by the time it finished i could not wait for the next days episode…However the end of the series needed more closure… lots of questions left unanswered that i expected to be answered… …. But Ben Wishaw…. WITWOO!! lol….
    Yes, IMO, It was great.

  2. David says:

    In the main, I agree with Bex. In the last episode everything was rushed – minimised, even; and so unworthy of the previous episodes.  There could have been so much more made of Ben\’s emotional \’conversion\’ to a prison inmate… his relationship with his barrister (one quick kiss in a moment of desperation? Big deal!) and what happened to her… who really killed the girl… the corrupt policeman… etc, etc. It seemed to me like they had run out of budget and had to get the story told in the 5 episodes. I was raving about the programme to my friends for the first four hours, but after the last episode it was utterly forgettable. Sad, really.Oh, and I can see why the girlies liked Ben, but I found his character very irritating! (Maybe that shows he\’s a good actor!)

  3. loo says:

    i had looked forward to this series only to be very dissapointed. i watched it all week and kept thinking that it would get more interesting with each night…..but it didnt as for the last one, i kept looking at the clock wondering how it was going to end in such a short space of time.the story was quite lame when i thought about it and really could of fitted into a two hour speacial which would of made it more compelling to watch.

  4. Matthew says:

    This was the best thing to come out the BBC in many, many years.
    When TV like like this can be produced why do we seem only to have endless talent (less) shows, and Eastenders on the Beeb.
    Cimminal Justice gripped me each night. I found it thought provoking, brilliantly acted and somewhat unsettling, leaving me to question how I, only a couple of years older than Ben, might be in that situation.
    I see the Box set is out later in year, think I might be investing . . .
    Matt – Chipping Norton

  5. alison says:

    One of the best programmes I\’ve seen on tele for ages.Yes,it was unsettling in places but the idea came from somewhere! Please show more like this soon. Alison-Dover

  6. Margaret says:

    Just about the best programme on TV for AGES. I hope there will be a follow-up with all the loose ends tied up

  7. josh says:

    great series and no there should\’nt nor would\’nt be a follow up. makes you think twice about getting drunk and having random sex (:

  8. lynn says:

    A memorable series,for a change. Brilliantly led by Ben Winshaw,whose understated acting ability….was incredibly believable.It\’s depressive element,only added to its realism and I\’ve never flinched,indeed I think I almost prayed,for Ben when he was injected with heroin….sooo realistic. Let\’s face it,a lot worse would happen in a lot of series but without the brilliant depth brought about by a brilliant  script,format and acting……this would have been a lot less potent.The BBC got this one right!Lynn Hunter

  9. jade says:

     wow it was a excellant series, very true to the englsih legal system. The suspense if Ben was the killer got bigger and bigger. 
    great show!!

  10. Adrian says:

    A brilliantly acted,scripted and directed series, unfortunately badly let down by a weak denouement.There were too many questions left unanswered and surely the script writer could have come up with a bigger surprise in the form of the murderer?.However I can smell BAFTA awards in the air.

  11. kate says:

    Loved this series, Caught up on iPlayer, fabulous from beginning to end. Been a long time since I told my myself I couldnt miss an episode! Bring more like this!!!!!!

  12. janice says:

    wot a famtastic series. shame it had to cum to an end. come on bbc give us some more like this. excellent viewin.

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