Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Law & Order UK


I like watching Law & Order and lots of those other shows. OK, I need help but I've been a fan of policiers for a long time. Law & Order is good because it shows the entire process from crime to conviction(?). What really makes the program fly is the grittiness of New York City: even at its worst it has a sheen. And I'm a fan of Sam Waterson as the D.A.

So when the Brits decide to anglicize Law & Order I was worried. So much so that I didn't watch the first couple of episodes. Law & Order UK has done well with over 6 million viewers to start.

I've watched my first episode. They use the same music. It's a pity as it sounds good in NYC but London? London doesn't have that sheen I mentioned a while ago. It's very drab in comparison. And that mixture of estuary and mockney just doesn't sound authentic. Why not?


The basic problem lies is suspending disbelief that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the functional equivalent of the American District Attorneys' offices. For years we've been exposed to the DA playing hardball, negotiating pleas, and offering full immunity. Some of them face election. And in the case of Bush's US District Attorneys could be fired if not on board ideologically.

We know the only reason the CPS is there is because for years the police were so corrupt, you were never sure if the evidence was radioactive or not. So far the CPS hasn't inspired a lot of belief in redemption.

The episode I watched involved the murder of a 13 year old boy whose mother was in rehab in Holloway Women's Prison. She's shown smiling angelically while she paints watercolors before receiving the news of her son's demise. Don't grind your teeth too much.

Our little scally is murdered by Euston Station which is the neutral zone for the local gangs: "Well, you gotta travel, aincha?" So it ain't them. After some soul searching on the part of the detective sergeant, who was himself abused as a child--"I've been where that kid's been..." (choke now)--the kid's stepfather is eliminated and it's down to the kids friends.

The fingered scally displays all the characteristics of a budding psychopath. The killer had kicked the kid so much that all his internal organs were damaged(!). The prosecution even brings in a mobile phone video of the scally visciously kicking another kid at school.

As I watched I began to tweet my reactions to it. Here's how it goes (with extensions):
21.44: Law & Order UK is now more interesting at CPS stage as defence is bringing in Warrior Gene as defence against murder. He had to do it because it's in his genes!
21.45: This is the fascinating interface of science and law when law has to interpret science and render it legal (a la Luhmann). Never a happy moment.
21.51: (Ad break) Doctor witness is asked about research on Warrior Gene. (Swedish family all shared gene that made them arsonists and rapists--natch!) Defence counsel says, just because the sample size is small, doesn't mean the theory is wrong. Witness clearly dumbfounded. Witness could have countered with the interaction of method and theory, but....
21.53: They've got the kid's mother on the stand. She's pregnant again. Oh god help us. Now mother is disclaiming all responsibility cos 'is genes is responsible, "'E's a monster!" she shouts.
Are you going to get rid of your unborn child then? asks prosecution. "No, I'll bring 'im up proper," she replies. Camera reveal to stunned looks in courtroom and kid in dock sobbing.
21.55: Now the kid himself believes he's a monster. And he wants to go to prison: "I killed Danny. I'm a monster." Now, 1-2-3-who's a monster?
21.57: Kid changes plea to guilty. They're now trying to work up sympathy for the kid. Defence counsel admits to prosecutor (nascent love/lust angle here, I'm sure) that she never believed in the Warrior Gene--it was just to get a retrial--and she certainly didn't expect the kid to swallow it as well!
Yes, I was quite gripped for a while. I loved it when the director of the CPS complained about receiving a constant stream of texts from the Director of Public Prosecutions about the irresponsible, precedent-busting justification of the Warrior Gene. "That's why I'm putting my best prosecutor on the case..."

What does said prosecutor do? He demands that the defence drop this for "the good of the English legal system!" Way to go, counsel. Does the defence see the immediate utility of this appeal and drop it? Like hell: she goes in, "I'm going to get my client off!" And, of course, she didn't and cosmic order was restored. But I think she's going to get off with the prosecutor...
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3 comments:

IanCaithness said...

Brilliant analysis of Law and Order: UK, even if it wasn't the first episode ;) I am hoping to get a chance to watch the episode you described soon, even if you did tweet the plot to me.

I've been busy with my petition, thanks again for your signature. I've got the local media on board now. I'm hoping to get a few radio discussions going about it.

We'll see how it goes.

Best line of the line goes to...

But I think she's going to get off with the prosecutor...

John Flood said...

Head of Legal in Blawg Review #202 tips a nod to this blog post. Many thanks! Link at: http://headoflegal.blogspot.com/2009/03/blawg-review-202.html

Sonia said...

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