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'Common' Review - Jimmy McGovern's Study Of Joint Enterprise Law Makes Striking, Unsettling Drama

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'Common' was the latest example of Jimmy McGovern's unique talent in painting a family picture in small, personal detail to make a big, political point.

In this one-off drama, Johnjo O'Shea went from being a young lad driving his friends to buy a pizza, to a man facing a murder charge of innocent bystander Thomas Ward.

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One crime, several defendants under the Joint Enterprise law

With this simple but striking tale, Jimmy McGovern explored the consequences of the Joint Enterprise Law, by which more than one person can be charged with the same offence, so police don't have to waste valuable time working out "exactly which scumbag used the knife".

We saw the repercussions of this, as driver Johnjo's life was ruined, learning he couldn't be tried separately from his peers, accepting a sentence of more than five years for GBH, instead of risking life imprisonment under a collective conviction.

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No winners in Jimmy McGovern's 'Common'

It wasn't all one-sided, though, with McGovern's compassion stretching to include the red-raw grief of Thomas Ward's mother, the despair of his father, the hunger for justice of a family, confused and indignant as to why there should be any difference in who to blame, and how much, for their devastation.

This drama alone won't be changing any laws, but it satisfied the requirements of the best kind of criminal drama - with very personal narrative, it highlighted how easy it is to move along the continuum from victim to perpetrator and, bizarrely, back again.

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