Law & Order (British TV series)

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Law & Order
Created byG. F. Newman
Directed byLes Blair
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes4 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Tony Garnett
CinematographyJohn Else
Editor(s)Don Fairservice
Running time80 minutes
Production company(s)BBC Worldwide
Original networkBBC Two
Picture format4:3 (576i)
Audio formatMono
Original release6 April (1978-04-06) –
27 April 1978 (1978-04-27)

Law & Order (often referred to as Law and Order) is a British television crime drama series, comprising four connected plays written by G. F. Newman and directed by Les Blair, that first transmitted on 6 April 1978 on BBC Two. Each of the four stories within the series were told from a different perspective, including that of the Detective, the Villain, the Brief and the Prisoner.[1] The series was highly controversial upon its release due to its depiction of a corrupt British law enforcement and legal system.[2]

In 2009, G.F. Newman stated that he considered "90% of police to be corrupt at the time, and that there has been no significant change since then."[3] For the series' thirtieth anniversary in April 2008, it was released on a limited edition DVD via 2|Entertain.[1] In April 2018, BBC Four announced that the series would be rebroadcast on television for the first time to mark the series' fortieth anniversary. This statement was inaccurate, as a full repeat had previously been broadcast on BBC4 from 24 March to 14 April 2009.[4][5] The 2018 repeats began at 10:00pm on Thursdays from 12 April 2018.[6]


  • Peter Dean as Jack Lynn
  • Derek Martin as D.I. Fred Pyall
  • Deirdre Costello as Cathy Lynn
  • Billy Cornelius as D.S. Eric Lethridge
  • Alan Ford as Clifford Harding
  • Ken Campbell as Alex Gladwell
  • Fred Haggerty as D.C.I. Tony Simmons
  • Geoffrey Todd as D.C. Peter Fenton
  • Alan Davidson as Benny Isaacs
  • Tony Barouch as Collin Coleman

A Detective's Tale[edit]

  • David Stockton as D.S. Tony Shields
  • Tom De-Ville as D.I. Frank Polden
  • John Hogan as D.S. Ian Middlewick
  • Chris Hallam as D.S. Lewis
  • Steve Kelly as Maurice Dickinson
  • Billy Dean as David Shepley
  • Stanley Price as Brian Finch
  • Roy Sone as Micky Fielder
  • Cy Wallis as Billy Little
  • David Harris as Witness
  • Val Clover as Telephonist
  • Michael Sheard as Insurance Assessor
  • Byron Sotiris as Duty Sergeant
  • Stewart Harwood as P.C. Malcolm

A Villain's Tale[edit]

  • Colin Howells as D.C. Roger Humphreys
  • Robert Oates as D.C. Warren Salter
  • Johnny Feltwell as D.C. Matthew Hall
  • Alan Clarke as D.C. Ray Jenkins
  • Mike Horsburgh as D.I. Graham McHale
  • Doug Sheldon as D.S. Jack Barcy
  • Mike Cummings as Tommy Haines
  • John Bardon as Del Rogers
  • Alf Coster as Philip Hayes
  • Barry Summerford as John Tully
  • John Blackburn as Security Guard

A Brief's Tale[edit]

  • Terence Bayler as Michel Messick Q.C.
  • André van Gyseghem as Judge Robert Quigley
  • Michael Griffiths as Horace McMillan Q.C.
  • Peter Welch as Brian Harpenden-Smith Q.C.
  • Jeffrey Segal as Stanley Eaton Q.C.
  • Peter Craze as T.D.C. Peter Footring
  • Jason White as D.C. Simon Brent
  • Barry Summerford as John Tully
  • Frank Henson as Frank Ryan
  • Mark Gordon as Mr. English
  • Jean Leppard as Margaret Lloyd

A Prisoner's Tale[edit]

  • Lloyd McGuire as P.O. Jordan
  • Graham Gough as P.O. Powell
  • Ronan Paterson as P.O. Westbury
  • Dave Atkins as P.O. Dorman
  • Roger Booth as Chief Officer Carne
  • Harry Walker as Dr Eynshaw
  • Bruce White as Bob Mark
  • Robert Bill as Micky Dunkerton
  • Myles Reitherman as Mervyn Latimer
  • Stanley McGeagh as Trevor Reid
  • Gilbert MacIntyre as Baylis
  • Laurence Foster as Senior Officer Walters
  • Stanley Illsley as Visiting Committee
  • Terry Yorke as Police Sergeant, A.10
  • Dominic Allan as Inspector Chatt, A.10
  • Alf Roberts as Prison Officer, Punishment Block
  • Ian Munro as Prison Officer, Punishment Block
  • Mark Warren as Prison Officer, Legal Visiting Room
  • Colin Taylor as Prison Officer, Visiting Room
  • Max Latimer as Prison Officer, Visiting Room
  • Harry Landis as M.P.
  • Pauline Wynn as Visiting Committee


No.TitleDirected byWritten byBritish air date
1"A Detective's Tale"Les BlairG.F. Newman6 April 1978 (1978-04-06)
Detective Inspector Fred Pyall (Derek Martin) is open to corruption from villains and operates a system of 'checks and balances' where certain villains get brought to justice and some do not. After a meeting with his informant Mickey Fielder (Roy Stone), Pyall discovers that a villain from Kentish Town Jack Lynn (Peter Dean) is putting together an armed robbery of a supermarket in Putney. Prior to this Pyall had arrested Clifford Harding (Alan Ford), following a police raid of his home, which recovered an illegal firearm. Harding agrees to bribe Pyall to walk away from the firearms charge. Pyall however knows he can get more out of Harding and later on uses Harding's relationship with Lynn to make him turn informant and gain further information about the supermarket robbery. Pyall's informant Fielder reveals the date and time of Lynn's robbery but for some reason it does not happen. Pyall however is determined to nail Lynn and is willing to resort to 'fit up' tactics to gain a conviction - even if he has not actually committed the crime in question. Add to this a cosy relationship with a corrupt lawyer Alex Gladwell (Ken Campbell), and a seemingly blind eye to his activities from superiors within Scotland Yard it seems Pyall is almost a law unto himself.
2"A Villain's Tale"Les BlairG.F. Newman13 April 1978 (1978-04-13)
After two of his 'firm' are arrested for an unconnected armed robbery, Jack Lynn is short of personnel and sets about recruiting for the supermarket robbery. He approaches longtime associate John Tully (Barry Summerford), who is interested but has already made commitments to a 'firm' planning an armed raid on a British Gas depot in Romford. Lynn continues with his plans recruiting Tommy Haines (Mike Cummings), to act as a backup man, and procures firearms from Alf Coster, an arms dealer with a middle-class grocer front (Philip Hayes). Lynn stores the weapons at a lock-up garage that he rented in a false name, and is ready to go. However he is under pressure from his wife Cathy (Deirdre Costello), to give up his life of crime and go straight. Furthermore, Lynn discovers Micky Fielder is Pyall's informant and has given Pyall details of their supermarket robbery. Lynn decides to postpone the robbery and take retribution against Fielder for informing, giving him a severe beating and smashing his kneecaps.
3"A Brief's Tale"Les BlairG.F. Newman20 April 1978 (1978-04-20)
Alex Gladwell, brought in to represent Jack Lynn, will use any means to get his client off.
4"A Prisoner's Tale"Les BlairG.F. Newman27 April 1978 (1978-04-27)
Lynn is sent down, but rehabilitation is not on the agenda.

Critical reception[edit]

The series was highly controversial upon its release due to its depiction of a corrupt British law enforcement and legal system.[2] There was such an outcry regarding the series in the British press (perhaps hinting at the - alleged - historic, and continuing, close ties between press and police) that the BBC was prevented from trying to sell the series abroad.[4]

John Cooper, QC, writing in The Times, described the series as 'Seismic', continuing to say that 'at the time [the plays] provoked calls from MPs for Newman to be arrested for sedition and the summoning of the director-general of the BBC to the Home Office to explain himself.'[7]

A review by Matteo Sedazzari in May 2018 concluded: 'it’s such a shame that the BBC seriously do not produce dramas like this anymore, thought-provoking, brutal and powerful',[8] and Adam Sweeting in the Spectator described it as 'compellingly plausible'.[9]

Jasper Rees wrote for the Arts Desk in May 2018 'Law and Order more than earns this 40th-anniversary trip down memory’s stinking back alley'.[10]

The series was discussed on BBC Radio 4's programme Thinking Allowed on 23 May 2018, with the host Laurie Taylor talking to criminologist Tim Newburn and Charlotte Brunsden, Professor of Film & Television Studies at the University of Warwick, along with the author, to engage with the question of 'the extent to which... [the series] created a public and political debate which produced positive reform'.[11]

Among the series' successors was the BBC TV series Police.[11]

Book series[edit]

In parallel, the 'Law & Order' series of books was a trilogy of works written by Newman, first published by Sphere in 1977 and then reprinted in Sphere Paperbacks in 1978. The trilogy consists of 'A Detective's Tale', ISBN 9780722163498, 'A Villain's Tale', ISBN 978-0722163634, and 'A Prisoner's Tale', ISBN 978-0722163641. An omnibus edition including all three was published in 1984 by HarperCollins ISBN 9780586057834.[12]


  1. ^ a b Law And Order (BBC, 1978) (DVD) at, accessed 3 April 2018
  2. ^ a b Newman, G.F. Television interview with Mark Lawson. Mark Lawson Talks to... G.F. Newman. United Kingdom: BBC Four. Accessed 3 April 2018
  3. ^ Good cop, bad cop, very bad cop at, 30 March 2009, accessed 27 April 2018
  4. ^ a b Gerard Gilbert: The cop drama that rewrote TV history: G F Newman's Law and Order shocked the nation when it was shown on television 31 years ago. Its first airing since will still pack a punch 24 March 2009 at, accessed 9 May 2018
  5. ^ 24 March 2009 Schedule for BBC Four, as reported on Genome BETA Radio Times 1923 - 2009 at, accessed 9 May 2018
  6. ^ BBC Four: Law and Order at, accessed 3 April 2018
  7. ^ John Cooper, QC, The Times "Law & Order 40 years on: the crime drama with real-life influence" at The Times 26 April 2018, accessed 27 April 2018
  8. ^ Matteo Sedazzari: GF Newman’s Law & Order 40th Anniversary -BBC 4 Airing 12 April 2018 on ZANI at, accessed 9 May 2018
  9. ^ Law & Order, made – and banned – in 1978, puts most recent crime series in the shade- Adam Sweeting interviews the director G.F. Newman, who was nearly tried for making a drama for the BBC about police corruption at, accessed 9 May 2018
  10. ^ Jasper Rees: Law and Order, BBC Four review - not a fair cop: GF Newman's 1978 series about police corruption still intrigues at, accessed 9 May 2018
  11. ^ a b Thinking Allowed episode details at, accessed 24 May 2018
  12. ^ Law and Order (Law and Order omnibus 1-3) by G.F. Newman at, accessed 14 May 2018

External links[edit]