“Some cases are indelibly marked on your heart,” says Claire Lindley, the Chief Crown Prosecutor in Cheshire, where she and her team have the hard task of deciding who to charge and what to charge them with. As they put their case before the court, they are making decisions that will seriously alter people’s lives.
And it’s a particularly tragic case — which left its mark in all sorts of ways — that the first episode of BBC4’s three-part documentary The Prosecutors: Real Crime and Punishment focuses on. Nicky Morrissey was driving her 11-year-old son Flynn to school one morning when a Porsche rammed into her car. The collision killed Flynn.
Now, more than a year later, the case is about to be put forward before the court, and Nicky will be standing as a witness to give evidence against the other driver, who’s accused of death by careless driving.
It’s a deeply sad yet fascinating case to learn about because, as one CPS member of staff points out, driving is really one of the only things that can get a law-abiding citizen before the Crown Court to face prison. The driver says his car gave way as he went round a bend — and he doesn’t know how it happened.
The CPS has to build up a case against the driver and work out whether its realistically possible that the jury will find them guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Picking the right charges is half the battle, we hear.
With all the wonderfully glossy shows about criminal law, it’s good to be reminded that it all comes down to whether there’s a realistic possibility of getting a conviction. And above all, evidence. Without that, there’s nothing. Just because an 11-year-old boy has been killed, doesn’t mean this driver will necessarily be found guilty.
As well as hearing about the workings of the case — plus another case involving a gang trying to blow up cash machines — we see a lot of the unbelievably strong Nicky in the aftermath of such unimaginable horror. She simply wants some sort of closure; to know the truth about why her son died.
“What I’m doing, and what my family is doing, in Flynn’s memory, is surviving and living,” she says as she looks at the witness summons, hardly able to believe the court date is nearly here. “The worst thing has happened. Nothing can be as bad as that day.”
When the jury and judge finally make their decisions about the fate of the other driver, Nicky’s response is remarkable and leaves you wondering whether in her position you’d be quite so full of humanity.
The Prosecutors is a riveting film which brilliantly shows the raw reality of the justice system — and what it’s like for the people at its mercy.
The Prosecutors: Real Crime and Punishment begins on Wednesday 24th February at 9pm on BBC4