Criminal Justice (TV series)

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Criminal Justice
Written byPeter Moffat
StarringBen Whishaw (2008)
Maxine Peake (2009)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes10
Executive producer(s)Hilary Salmon
Producer(s)Pier Wilkie (2008)
Steve Lightfoot (2009)
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)BBC Productions
Original networkBBC One
Picture format1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release30 June 2008 (2008-06-30) –
9 October 2009 (2009-10-09)
Related showsThe Night Of (2016)
Criminal Justice (Indian series) (2019)
External links

Criminal Justice is a British television drama series produced by the BBC and first shown in 2008. Written by Peter Moffat, each five-episode series follows the journey of an individual through the justice system and was first broadcast over five successive nights on BBC One.

The first series, first shown in 2008, starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a young man who is accused of murder after a drunken and drug-filled night out, though is unable to remember committing the crime. It was directed by Otto Bathurst and Luke Watson. In 2009, the second series featured Maxine Peake as troubled housewife Juliet Miller whose husband was stabbed in their bed. Yann Demange and Marc Jobst directed the second series.

The first series won two British Academy Television Awards for Best Drama Serial and Best Writer, three Royal Television Society Awards and an International Emmy. The first season has been re-made into a HBO miniseries The Night Of, starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed.

Series one[edit]

The first series was composed of five episodes, which were broadcast nightly from 30 June to 4 July 2008 on BBC One. The first series starred Ben Whishaw as Ben Coulter, a young man who is accused of murder after a drunken and drug-filled night out, though is unable to remember committing the crime. As well as Whishaw, the show starred Pete Postlethwaite, Con O'Neill, Lindsay Duncan, David Westhead, Ruth Negga and Bill Paterson.


Ben Coulter takes his parents' black cab out for the night. At a traffic light, a young woman gets into the cab. Despite telling her he does not take fares, she insists on going to the seaside. While there, she offers Ben ecstasy, which he accepts. The pair go back to her house, and after sleeping together, Ben awakes downstairs, seeing a knife on the table at which he was sleeping. He goes upstairs to find the girl dead, with a stab wound to the chest. Police stop Ben after he crashes the taxi in shock. They later find he matches a description given by a neighbour, who saw Ben break into the girl's house to wipe his DNA off the house. They also find a knife in Ben's pocket. He is arrested on suspicion of murder. He is later charged and refused bail.

Ben spends his first day in prison. He seeks protection after being beaten up by Milroy, a feared jailbird. In return for being protected, Ben must smuggle an item past the prison guard. He also re-employs his former lawyer. This episode sees the first appearance of Vineeta Rishi as Frances Kapoor, who becomes his new barrister.

He shares his cell mostly with Hooch, who has the status of "Listener" in the prison. His advice and support to Ben are marred by his own limitations and ties. Finally he makes the sacrifice to open the path to Ben's release and his own absolution.

Ben's expensive new barrister persuades him to plead self-defence despite his misgivings, he then takes to the witness box before returning to prison and getting into a brawl. Ben's barrister, Frances Kapoor, appears to be the only person who believes Ben's pleas of innocence and so tries to free him. However, Ben's solicitor persuades him to appeal on the grounds of inappropriate relationship with his (female) barrister, therefore perhaps ruining Frances' career as a barrister. Ben is freed when CCTV evidence is eventually released, of a man who committed another murder in the area on the same night, chasing the girl Ben is accused of killing. He also got help from Hooch who demanded the name of the real murderer from another prisoner. Ben wants to withdraw the chamber's inquiry against Frances, but his solicitor says it is too late, as the ball was already rolling, and Ben should get on with his life.

Cast and crew[edit]

Character Description Actor
Ben Coulter Young man, accused of murder after a night out Ben Whishaw
Barry Coulter Ben's father David Westhead
Mary Coulter Ben's mother Juliet Aubrey
Hooch Ben's cell mate Pete Postlethwaite
Freddie Graham Prison gang leader David Harewood
Milroy Prison inmate Ian Peck
Melanie Lloyd The murder victim Ruth Negga
Frances Kapoor Ben's junior defence barrister Vineeta Rishi
Ralph Stone Ben's solicitor Con O'Neill
Harry Box Police Detective Superintendent Bill Paterson
Alison Slaughter Ben's senior defence barrister Lindsay Duncan

The series was written by Peter Moffat, and produced by Pier Wilkie. Otto Bathurst directed the first three episodes, with Luke Watson directing the final two.


Date Episode Viewers (millions)[1]
30 June 2008 1 5.62
1 July 2008 2 4.67
2 July 2008 3 5.35
3 July 2008 4 5.06
4 July 2008 5 5.10


The first series was generally praised by critics, The Sunday Telegraph calling it "nerve-shreddingly exciting".[2] However, the series received complaints from lawyers and solicitors over the way they were portrayed over the five episodes[citation needed] – the character of Stone (played by Con O'Neill) being particularly controversial for his attitude, saying that, in the criminal justice system, "the truth can go to hell".

Series two[edit]

A second series of the drama was commissioned by the BBC and was broadcast from 5–9 October 2009 as part of the BBC's autumn drama line-up.[3] It returned with another five episodes, starring Maxine Peake as Juliet Miller. The series follows Juliet as she struggles to lead a normal life and, after stabbing her abusive husband, following her trail through the criminal justice system. Matthew Macfadyen plays Joe, a barrister at the height of his professional powers. He is married to Juliet who is fragile and isolated at home. They have one daughter, 13-year-old Ella, played by Alice Sykes. Other cast members include Sophie Okonedo, Denis Lawson, Steven MacKintosh, Eddie Marsan, Zoe Telford and Kate Hardie.


Juliet prepares for her husband, Joe's, return from work. He arrives with flowers and greets wife and daughter but both seem jumpy. Unsettling clues as to what might be going on are revealed and that night, Juliet stabs Joe. She calls the emergency services but leaves the house and her daughter finds Joe seriously injured and removes the knife, before being instructed not to. The police and paramedics take Joe to hospital and Ella is taken to the police station. Juliet eventually arrives at the hospital where Joe is in intensive care and arrested. While in custody, she behaves abnormally, leading her solicitor to question her mental state but admits stabbing Joe in a second interview, without her solicitor.

Juliet's solicitor asks that Juliet be released on bail but this is refused due to fears of her absconding or attempting contact with Ella and/or Joe. Ella goes into emergency care but soon moves in with her best friend's family, suffering nightmares about the way she found Joe. She visits Juliet in prison but the visit only makes matters worse, thanks to Juliet's lack of remorse. Her solicitor tries to get Juliet to talk about her and Joe's marriage but get nowhere so her legal team try prompting her. They question if she was raped but that is revealed not to be the case and that she is pregnant. Only after Juliet gives birth to her second daughter amid fears of separation does she open up about her marriage.

Joe's condition, meanwhile, worsens and he dies in hospital. Juliet is charged with murder but pleads not guilty, due to provocation. She is found not guilty after revealing the domestic abuse she suffered at Joe's hands but does, however, plead guilty to manslaughter.

Cast and crew[edit]

Character Description Actor
Juliet Miller Fragile and isolated wife Maxine Peake
Joe Miller Successful barrister Matthew Macfadyen
Ella Miller Daughter to Joe and Juliet Alice Sykes
Jackie Woolf Juliet's solicitor Sophie Okonedo
Anna Klein Criminal barrister, defending Juliet Zoe Telford
Bill Faber Detective Chief Inspector, leading the police investigation Denis Lawson
Chris Sexton Detective Inspector, assisting Faber with the investigation Steven MacKintosh
Flo Sexton Detective Sergeant, married to Sexton Kate Hardie
Norma Social worker Nadine Marshall
Joao Prison Inmate Imdad Miah
Saul Clerk, former assistant to Joe Miller and Ella's godfather Eddie Marsan

Peter Moffat wrote the series, with Steve Lightfoot producing. Yann Demange directed the first three episodes, with Marc Jobst directing the final two.[4]


Date Episode Viewers (millions)[1]
5 October 2009 1 4.94
6 October 2009 2 5.24
7 October 2009 3 4.84
8 October 2009 4 4.77
9 October 2009 5 5.06


The second series also garnered a positive reception from critics. John Preston of The Telegraph praised the first episode for successfully ratcheting up the tension with "Hitchcockian precision", and how writer Peter Moffat allowed "the weight of the character's dilemmas to drive the narrative forward". He also acclaimed Maxine Peake's performance as a "marvel".[5]

In The Independent Brian Viner hailed the serial as a "well written" and "superbly acted" drama, and noted Moffat's script as "particularly clever" in how it "manipulated [audience] sympathies".[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Series One

  • British Academy Television Awards 2008
    • Won Best Drama Serial
    • Won Best Writer – Peter Moffat[7]
    • Nominated Best Actor – Ben Whishaw[8]
    • Nominated Best Director (Fiction/Entertainment) – Otto Bathurst
    • Nominated Best Editing (Fiction/Entertainment) – Sarah Brewerton[9]
  • International Emmy Awards 2009
    • Won Best Performance by an Actor – Ben Whishaw[10]
  • Royal Television Society Awards 2008
    • Won Best Actor (Male) – Ben Whishaw
    • Won Best Music (Original Score) – John Lunn
    • Won Best Tape & Film Editing (Drama) – Sarah Brewerton
    • Nominated Best Drama Serial
    • Nominated Best Writer – Peter Moffat[11]
    • Nominated Best Sound (Drama) – Billy Quinn[12]

Series Two

DVD releases[edit]

The first series of Criminal Justice is available on DVD. Series Two was released on 28 December 2009.[14] Both titles are distributed by Acorn Media UK.

US adaptation[edit]

An eight-episode miniseries produced by HBO debuted on 10 July 2016. In the adaptation, John Turturro portrays New York City lawyer John Stone, and the Pakistani-American murder suspect is played by Riz Ahmed.[15]

Indian adaptation[edit]

Indian series based on Criminal Justice is scheduled for release on Hotstar Specials on 5 April 2019. It is directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Furia starring Jackie Shroff, Pankaj Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Anupriya Goenka and Mita Vashist in lead roles. Background Score given by Sameer Phaterpekar.[16] The official trailer of the series was launched by Hotstar Specials on 28 March 2019. The description accompanying the trailer reads, “A one night stand turns into a nightmare for Aditya when he wakes up with blood on his hands."[17]


  1. ^ a b "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  2. ^ Davis, Serena (28 June 2008). "Criminal Justice". The Sunday Telegraph.
  3. ^ "BBC – Error 404 : Not Found". Archived from the original on 12 July 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  4. ^ "BBC One – Criminal Justice, Series 2, Episode 4". BBC. 14 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Emma – Criminal Justice – When Boris Met Dave: TV review John Preston reviews BBC One's new Jane Austen adaptation Emma, the new series of Criminal Justice starring Maxine Peake, plus More4's real life-inspired drama When Boris Met Dave". The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  6. ^ Viner, Brian (6 October 2009). "Last Night's Television – In Treatment, Sky Arts 1; Criminal Justice, BBC1". The Independent. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Awards Database – The BAFTA site".
  8. ^ "Awards Database – The BAFTA site".
  9. ^ "Awards Database – The BAFTA site".
  10. ^ "News – News – Item Detail – International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  11. ^ [1] Archived 21 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ [2] Archived 25 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Television Awards Winners in 2010 – TV Awards – Television – The BAFTA site". Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  14. ^ "Buy Criminal Justice: Series 2 (2 Discs) online at and read reviews. Free delivery to UK and Europe!".
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (21 April 2014). "John Turturro To Replace Robert De Niro As James Gandolfini's Successor in HBO Mini 'Criminal Justice'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  16. ^ Hollywood Reporter Team (4 March 2019). "Hotstar to remake The Night Of". Mumbai: The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  17. ^ Jain, Arushi (30 March 2019). "Criminal Justice trailer: Vikrant Massey and Pankaj Tripathi present a chilling crime thriller". Indian Express. Retrieved 31 March 2019.

External links[edit]