Alison’s Story marked the end of Jimmy McGovern’s unique crime series, Accused. If you haven’t seen the series before, it’s a defendant’s eye view of the crimes that lead people to the dock.
What’s really gripping about each episode is that your mind is feverishly trying to work out why that person’s in the dock. What crime they committed? What series of decisions will lead to them being arrested and tried?
This final Accused introduced us to Alison, special needs worker, wife, mother of two. She finds herself the victim of an almighty police stitch-up when she cheats on her husband with another man and events spiral out of control at an alarming rate. The couple split acrimoniously after David, drunk on several bottles of wine, viciously rapes Alison and she tells him to leave. Instead of being remorseful over the incident, David ramps up the hostility towards Alison, being especially menacing when she drops the children off for the weekend.
It’s not long after this that her new boyfriend (yes, the guy she’d had the one night stand with) gets a tremendous beating from two thugs. As she drives him to the hospital, a police car pulls her over. And this is where the stitch up begins – they’re not giving her assistance with her beaten boyfriend, they’re searching the car on a tip-off that she’s in possession of Class A drugs. And unsurprisingly, they find the drugs that have been planted in the car, leading to Alison’s arrest.
The sense on injustice here is fierce. We know Alison is being set up, and we know David and his father (who’s a policeman) are involved somehow. But how can she prove her innocence?
It’s about this point in proceedings that the viewer’s blood is boiling. Sure, she cheated on her husband. That was bad, but did she deserve the rape and mental torture? Of course not. Luckily, this is also the turning point. The police officers who are involved in this elaborate stitch-up constantly refer to an informant who tipped them off about Alison. This person doesn’t exist, but the judge insists that they be called to give evidence given how their testimony is linked to the case. David’s father brings in an informant who’s told what to say, but during cross-examination he claims that Alison deals drugs from her car.
Alison spots this opportunity to unmask this liar. She passes a note to the barrister to ask him what colour the car is. It’s actually a luminous yellow, quite an easily identifiable car. But the ‘informant’ obviously doesn’t know this. It’s a short trip to acquittal for Alison.
The most satisfying aspect was David and his father both getting arrested for perjury at the end of the episode, the two embittered men getting a taste of their own medicine. It was a punch-the-air moment!
I love the format of this show. It’s not all about coppers catching up with criminals, it’s about normal people making bad decisions and paying for them. And McGovern keeps you guessing right the way through. Initially, I imagined that Alison’s co-worker might attempt to rape her and end up getting a bottle to the head in her attempt to escape. Initially, you have sympathy for David, for thinking that Alison had died in a train crash when she was sleeping with someone else.
But as she’s forced to pay way over the odds for her indiscretion, the picture suddenly becomes clear and in this instance we know that the accused is an innocent woman. But can an innocent woman clear her name when she’s facing corrupt policemen who know the law and know what they can get away with?
It’s often said that the best television can provoke an emotional response from the viewers. I was tense and shocked and upset during this episode. Accused gave us gripping crime drama, told in a unique voice that kept viewers guessing right up to the end. A fantastic series, one deserving of the highest critical acclaim, especially in a country that thought The Bill was the pinnacle of crime drama!