Jimmy McGovern returns to BBC One with one-off drama ‘Common’

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Set in Liverpool, Common examines the potential for injustice with the Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose rule; a young man gives friends an impromptu lift to a pizza parlour and finds himself charged with murder.

The official synopsis reads: “The film opens as three young men hurry to a parked car, with 17-year-old Johnjo at the wheel, as they pile in and speed off in sheer panic following a fatal stabbing in the local pizza parlour. The lives of the four young men, the lives of those they love and the lives of the victim’s family will never be the same again.

“The belief that, if you tell the truth, you have nothing to fear is undermined as the mother of the victim, the mother of the suspect, and the policeman trying to navigate the truth, find themselves entangled in this law.

“Joint Enterprise or Common Purpose, is a 300-year-old legal doctrine that allows several people to be charged with a crime where they are not the primary offenders. It has been increasingly used in the last ten years to tackle crimes, often murder, which are deemed to be gang-related.

“The law suggests that the prosecution do not need to prove that a person took someone’s life or had intent to cause harm, but that they had knowledge or foresight of another person’s intent, or were present and failed to stop it and all of this is explored in Jimmy McGovern’s powerful new film.”

Ben Stephenson, BBC One Controller of Drama Commissioning, commented: “Common is an ambitious and controversial film by award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern. Much in the same way as Hillsborough and Sunday, he wanted to write this film after talking to the families of those directly affected by the joint enterprise law.  We believe it is right for the BBC to give writers such as Jimmy an opportunity to tell a story like this, and to allow the audience to make up their own minds about it.”

Jimmy McGovern added: “Joint Enterprise was first used in Britain’s courts a few hundred years ago. It was designed to stop the aristocracy duelling. If one duelist killed another then all involved in that duel (the seconds and the surgeons) were charged with murder. It worked. Britain’s aristocrats stopped duelling. Now the law is being used against Britain’s youth. If someone dies in a fight and you’re involved in any way whatsoever, you could find yourself charged with murder. And, if you do, Heaven help you because the burden of proof required in joint enterprise cases is frighteningly low.”

Directed by David Blair (The Street, Accused), filming will begin next year and Common will air on BBC One in in 2013.

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