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article imageOp-Ed: Law & Order UK - in fiction and in fact

By Alexander Baron     Jan 21, 2012 in Entertainment
London - The latest episode of this American TV series transplanted to Britain portrays detectives and lawyers in the zealous pursuit of the truth in order to rectify a miscarriage of justice. The truth is often very different.
For those who can receive it, the current episode of Law & Order UK can be found here. After the usual introductory spiel, the programme starts with a politically correct mugging, which shows a white crackhead snatching a bag from a woman in Ealing, West London - where a certain murder specialist works - and being pursued by a black detective, or maybe he is just a concerned citizen.
Anyway, the chase doesn't last long, because justice is dispensed by a higher power and in quite brutal fashion. The robber is struck by a car, and the scene switches to his hospital bed. At this point, Bradley Walsh as one of the regular team walks in, having been asked for by name. Either the villain has been informed of the gravity of his injuries or he has already been visited by the Angel of Death, because he confesses to murdering a young woman, the victim in a case our hero worked on fourteen years ago. Then dies before he can elaborate on “me an' Ricky”.
The only problem is that this is an open and shut case. The victim's father was convicted of her murder; he had her blood all over him, and he had previously been heard by the neighbours shouting his head off at her. The jury convicted: case closed. Except that after three years, his conviction was quashed on a technicality, and strangely, no retrial was ordered. Situations like this give rise to the statutory innuendo from Plod that we did our job but the courts didn't do theirs, the Court of Appeal in this particular case.
“...we can't just ignore a murder confession” says the boss, who although a woman is referred to as Guv. What was that about political correctness?
More to the point, what was that again? “...we can't just ignore a murder confession”. That appears to be the consensus. Thus, the murder is reinvestigated, Ricky is brought to book, the detective shakes hands with the victim's father whom he had put behind bars fourteen years ago, and they all live happily ever after. Except the victim, who has been dead for fourteen years, her killers - one of whom is now dead and the other behind bars - the victim's mother who has just died of cancer, the victim's father who has lost three years of his life and had the finger of suspicion pointed at him ever since, and the detective himself, who is still a recovering alcoholic, but you get the drift. Is that the way this would play out in practice though? Is it true that “...we can't just ignore a murder confession” ? Alas, no.
The police will ignore any murder confession, indeed any confession at all when it suits them, while at other times they will give spurious credence to the most ludicrous of confessions, but let us not mention Michael Stone, Damien Daley and the case of the talking walls. When would the police ignore a confession, even a murder confession? How about if it implicated one of their own, like Mark Kennedy? How about if the murder concerned had already been solved, even if controversy hung over the conviction? Suppose a man who may perhaps be suffering from a terminal disease - or thought he was - asked for a detective by name, then confessed to a hit as happened here? What two questions would any detective worthy of his name ask? Think about it. Then ask why he wouldn't.
It is said that this series, or certain episodes of it, are based in part on true stories. If that is indeed the case, British legal buffs will certainly recognise similarities with this plot and the case of Siôn Jenkins. Although he ended up spending six years behind bars before finally walking to freedom, many good judges consider Jenkins to be as fortunate as Casey Anthony to be back on the streets. Jenkins was convicted of the February 1997 murder of his foster daughter. Unusually for a murder case, Jenkins was granted bail after an initial remand in custody, was convicted at his first trial, then after a failed appeal somehow found his way back to the Court of Appeal via the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and after two retrials, both of which resulted in hung juries, he walked free when the legal authorities decided four trials would have been too much. Jenkins is the only man in modern Britain to have faced three murder trials and walked free without a jury ever finding him not guilty.
Like the unfortunate father in Law & Order, Siôn Jenkins had the victim's blood all over him, but in spite of extensive investigations including a red herring about a mentally disturbed individual who had been seen in the area at the time, the only people who could definitely be shown to have been in the victim's presence at the material time were Jenkins and his two young daughters. Take away the girls, and who does that leave?
It was probably to be expected that Jenkins would write a book, which he co-authored with Prince of Dupes Bob Woffinden (who also wrote a book proclaiming the innocence of James Hanratty), and that he would make a claim for compensation, which was turned down. It remains to be seen if this other, mythical suspect will ever materialise, but it will take more than a death bed confession and a bit of digging to lift the cloud of suspicion in his case, unlike in the latest episode of Law & Order UK.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Murder, soap operas, Confessions, bradley walsh, Siôn Jenkins
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