Law and order, an appreciation
Last week saw the end of Law and Order, not the glossy NBC one on at the moment but the G F Newman four-parter I first watched on a black and white portable in 1979. If you’re unlucky enough to have missed it, it was the seediest of tales about a small-time villain framed for robbery by a bent cop.
It told the story through the eyes of the villain, the copper, the lawyer and, eventually, the prisoner “banged up” for a stretch because “he was well overdue”.
It was full of “nonces” and “slags” saying things like “leave it out,” and “do me a favour” and the worst swearing was the occasional “bladdy hell.”
But what made it so special was that it just rang true. Not the institutionalised corruption (heaven forbid) but the sheer vagaries of a justice system itself well overdue for a clean-up.
I spent days on end in courts in those days and absolutely recognised the judge who wouldn’t hear a word said against the police, the brief who met DCs in pubs to “do a bit of business”, the hapless families who packed the public galleries, the juries who got it all wrong and the prisoners who emerged with tales unbecoming of a modern penal institution.
Newman's tale was both entertainment and nostalgia for the days when the first seeds of a healthy cynicism were sown. Whether fact ever really mirrored fiction, I didn't know. But that didn't matter quite as much as the moment the elderly court reporter I'd spent years siting next to felt compelled to write to the local paper to voice his frustration at having to sit through "allegation after baseless allegation of police curruption made by criminal elements".