The Criminal Justice TV series is a BBC drama, which first aired in 2008. The first season stars Ben Whishaw, as Ben Coulter. The series was written by Peter Moffat, who is also responsible for Silk and The Village. The BBC drama is currently available on Hulu for free, if anyone is interested. Anyway, the series explores the criminal justice system of Britain.
After Ben Coulter helps his soccer team win a big game, he takes his dad’s taxi and heads out into the night to live it up. When he pulls over to make a phone call, a young woman, Melanie Lloyd (Ruth Negga), jumps into the backseat of the taxi and demands to be driven to the coast. The somewhat naive young Ben goes for it and the pair enjoy a fun filled night. They end up getting drunk and doing ecstasy, before they head back to Melanie’s apartment. While there, Melanie begins showing off her wild side and coaxes Ben into stabbing her in the hand.
After a little making out, they head up to Melanie’s bedroom and have intercourse. Ben wakes up downstairs and cannot remember anything. When he returns to the bedroom, he discovers that Melanie has been stabbed in the chest. He rushes out and attempts to flee in his father’s taxi, but returns to try and clean up the crime scene. Once the crime scene has been partially cleaned, Ben flees again, but wrecks the taxi and is arrested. Unfortunately, he is taken right back to the crime scene, with the potential murder weapon and a bloody cloth in his jacket.
Eventually, he is taken to the local jail, where the police discover the evidence hidden in Ben’s jacket. At that point, Ben is arrested for the murder, by Harry Box (Bill Paterson). Ben ends up with the eccentric solicitor, Ralph Stone (Con O’Neill), who tells him to answer “no comment” to all questions. Although Ben wants to tell the truth, he follows his solicitor’s orders. Ben’s father, Barry (David Westhead), and mother, Mary (Juliet Aubrey), learn the news and visit their son. Eventually, Ben is officially charged with the crime and is sent to prison.
At the prison, Ben becomes cell mates with Hooch (Pete Postlethwaite), who takes Ben under his wing. Of course, this continue to worsen for Ben, as he is told by his senior defense barrister, Alison Slaughter (Lindsay Duncan), to plead guilty. He is torn, when his junior defense barrister, Frances Kapoor (Vineeta Rishi), tells him not to plead guilty, if he didn’t do it. Ben follows Frances’s word and pleads not guilty. From there, Ben is thrown into a full scale trial, while being harassed in prison.
To prevent spoilers, I’ll stop there, but the show is anything, but predictable. So, how is it? Well, the show is a little slow, during the first episode, but it gets increasingly better throughout. The acting is superb, with Ben Whishaw and Pete Postlethwaite leading the way. Con O’Neill offers a little bit of humor to a depressing show. Finally, Vineeta Rishi performs admirably and offers a few uplifting moments.
The series won several awards including two British Academy Television Awards and it is easy to see why. It portrays the criminal justice system in a very eye-opening light, which is definitely true in America and likely in the UK, as well. The ending is somewhat open ended, but ultimately depressing. Overall, the show is well worth watching. An 8 out of 10 is deserved. Be sure to check it out on Hulu, while it is still free to all!