Episode S03E04, “Confession”
Patrick Malahide made his third and, sadly, final appearance as the slippery Robert “Limbo” Ridley, QC in Law & Order: UK S03E04 “Confession”.
Police detective Matt Devlin’s (Jamie Bamber) childhood friend and fellow officer Pete Garvey has been found dead from an apparent suicide. They learn Garvey had recently been suffering nightmares and mental anguish which likely resulted from being molested as a child by a man named Jonathan Nugent (Matthew Marsh), now a former Catholic priest, who worked at Devlin’s old parish. Though it had been many years since the abuse, a chance encounter with the ex-priest reignited the trauma with disastrous consequences.
Detectives Devlin and Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) track down another childhood friend Harry Lucas (Johnny Harris) who was also molested by the same priest. Lucas is willing to testify to seeing Garvey being molested but adamantly refuses to discuss his own experiences.
The prosecution charge Nugent with manslaughter, arguing his abuse led to Garvey’s PTSD which resulted in his taking his own life. It is a very risky maneuver and will be difficult to prove, something that Nugent’s lawyer Robert Ridley is all too happy to let them know.
It’s Actually Quite Amusing
Ridley first appears in court for the Plea and Case Management Hearing presenting an application regarding bail. Later he incredulously confronts Crown Prosecutor James Steel (Ben Daniels), “Manslaughter?! Garvey shot himself. Your charge is so ridiculous it’s actually quite amusing.” Ridley is certainly amused. It is as if he can’t believe his own luck in securing a high-paying client for such a seemingly easy case.
Steel isn’t so amused and angrily explains the genuine merits of his case while simultaneously cutting down Ridley, “Amusing? Your client abused Peter Garvey to such an extent that 25 years later the damage was enough to make him take his own life. That’s amusing?” Come on, Steel, that isn’t what Ridley meant.
Ridley gets serious, casually approaching Steel with hands in pockets, “We’ll never know why Garvey shot himself, unless you can communicate with the dead.” His voice is soft and raspy. I doubt Steel’s earlier riposte touched any nerves, Ridley is far too hardened for that, but he definitely realizes that the case with its basis in PTSD isn’t so far-fetched.
Steel can’t resist another jab, though, “I am a man of many talents,” referring to Ridley’s “communicate with the dead” jibe. Ridley has had enough. “Well, change the law; stand for parliament.” Ridley saunters away as Steel’s junior Aleshia Phillips (Freema Agyeman) deadpans, “another satisfied member of the James Steel fan club.” I think Ridley still feels extremely confident that this is an easy case to win, but his aplomb is somewhat rattled.
Ridley Gets Brutal
The trial is underway, and on day four Garvey’s widow Mel (Ruth Gemmell) takes the stand. She describes how unsettled Peter was the week after seeing Jonathan Nugent again. He had nightmares and didn’t want to be touched.
Ridley cross-examines her, asking how long she’d been married. Thirteen years. “And in all that time your husband never once mentioned my client? He never once alleged to you that he’d been abused as a child?” “No.”
Ridley continues, “Is it possible he never mentioned it because it didn’t happen?” Steel stands, ready to fight back, but Ridley cuts him off with a gentle wave of the hand, obviously content that his words had the desired impact, “Withdrawn.”
It is Matt Devlin’s and Peter Garvey’s childhood friend Harry Lucas’ turn to take the stand. He is clearly nervous and unsettled as he recalls witnessing Nugent abuse Garvey as a child. When it is Ridley’s turn to cross-examine, he is brutal. “Didn’t you once make a false allegation about a maths teacher at your school?” Lucas confirms that is true, but insists it doesn’t mean he is lying about Nugent. Ridley also gets him to admit that he cheated on his now ex-wife which suggests a history of lying and deceit.
Lucas becomes increasingly agitated as panic creeps into his voice. Ridley goes in for the kill asking if Nugent ever touched Lucas. As we already know, he had, but a badly shaken Lucas is not prepared to discuss his own abuse. Ridley keeps asking the same question over and over with relentless zeal, “Did…he…ever…touch…you?”
Ridley calls Lucas a liar and the poor man snaps crying that it isn’t fair, and he isn’t a child anymore. He can’t continue, and the judge excuses him from the stand with his credibility as a witness in absolute tatters.
It is a brutal scene. Ridley is absolutely unyielding in his cross-examination. He smelled blood the second the fragile Lucas took the stand. There is something very shark like about his attack. It is methodical, absolutely heartless, and terribly effective.
A Scottish Defense Witness and the World’s Smuggest Cup of Tea
The next day an attractive Scottish expert witness, Dr. Roddy Armitage (George Anton), takes the stand. His accent is reassuring, and he speaks confidently as he describes the horrors of PTSD and how they likely manifested themselves in Peter Garvey. “In the end, I’d imagine he felt death was his only escape.”
Ridley picks up on that one little word, “So, ‘you’d imagine‘ what he felt. Is that because Peter Garvey wasn’t your patient?” The doctor confirms as much. “Your observations and conclusions are based on files and hearsay, aren’t they, Doctor?” The doctor though has a good come back, “No more than your observations of him are, Mr Ridley.” Ha-ha. Ridley with a slightly amused voice has “no further questions.” Awww, that’s a pity. I’d have liked more.
Our legal foes, Ridley and Steel, finally get a little break. Ridley is enjoying the World’s Smuggest Cup of Tea as Steel enters the lounge. “Master stroke, James. Scottish expert witness. Always plays well with the jury. Don’t know how I’m gonna bounce back.” Oh, Ridley, you wag. It is true though, studies have shown that people find Scottish accents to be the most reassuring.
Poor James Steel is still reeling from the Lucas disaster, “Don’t sell yourself short, Robert. I’m sure you or one of your flying monkeys are already cooking up a way for Nugent to wriggle out of this.”
Ridley: “No, no. You’re home and dry on this one. Unless, of course, that’s an application to dismiss all charges,” pointing with his mug as at that very moment someone enters the room with a very nefarious looking document. Ridley’s smug expression says it all. I’m 100% certain that Ridley timed the application bloke’s entrance down to the last second just to rattle Steel. 🙂
Case Dismissed…Or Is It?
Back in the court room we see what the mystery document is all about. Ridley: “My Lord, my client has brought some fresh evidence to my attention. It appears Garvey was blackmailing my client to the tune of £10,000.”
Steel believes that Nugent had offered 10K as a bribe, and the FIU found no evidence that Garvey accepted any payouts. Ridley shows proof that money was put into Peter’s son Daniel’s account, “Financial Investigation Unit clearly didn’t look hard enough.” The judge dismisses the case, and Nugent is free to go….for a while at least.
Despite the case being dismissed, Ridley hasn’t won just yet. Steel decides to try again. This time he tackles the Catholic Church itself. After being warned off earlier, Steel is given a list of names of Nugent’s other victims from a rather interestingly named Father Brown (Struan Rodger). I’m a fan of the Father Brown series featuring Mark Williams, so I had to smirk at that. I don’t think Chesterton’s Father Brown would have been so initially obstructive though.
Now armed with plenty of victims willing to testify against Nugent, the prosecution goes for a 44 count indictment against the former priest. Nugent practically begs Steel to stop what he is doing. Ridley, realizing it is over, silently whispers in Nugent’s ear. Nugent leaves Steel’s chambers. Ridley is obviously preparing to attempt a plea deal.
Ridley: “This place gives me a migraine.” Steel comes back, “That’ll be your conscience gnawing at you.” Ridley sneers, “Oh, please.”
Ridley tries to make a deal, “What if we plead guilty to…ten, including the Garvey abuse?” Steel won’t go for it. Ridley continues, “Twenty? Thirty? What would be good enough?” Steel won’t go for a deal. He wants all 44 victims to find justice. Patrick Malahide shows some incredibly effective sneering prowess during this scene. He knows that Steel now has the upper-hand by a 44-count margin.
Justice is Finally Served
The new trial is underway, and Matt Devlin takes the stand describing how a young Garvey once told him about finding pornography stashed in Nugent’s sacristy. Nugent showed Garvey how to masturbate, later threatening him with hellfire not to tell anyone. At first, the young Matt found it funny until the description went too far and upset him terribly.
Ridley cross-examines Matt asking him why didn’t he tell an adult. Matt said he promised not to. Ridley tries the “did Nugent ever touch you” tactic again, but this time it doesn’t work. Matt says Nugent was always hovering around looking at him. Matt admits that the altar boys laughed about Nugent, making up jokes and stories about him. But, instead of shedding doubt on his testimony, it only serves to bolster it.
Ridley gets vicious again, “….you failed to spot your friend was suffering from depression. Now, it’s easier for you to blame my client than to face the truth, which is that you could have prevented the death of your best friend.” Matt remains unfazed and lets the jury know he is under attack, “I’m sorry, I missed your question.”
Ridley accuses Matt of lying, “You need to believe this lie so that you can live with your failure to act with your guilt at the suicide of a good friend.” Matt, with incredible confidence, responds, “I don’t need anything other than for that paedophile to be locked up.” Ridley’s decision to use the same tactics he used on the vulnerable Harry Lucas only backfire.
The trial ends and the jury finds Nugent guilty on charge after charge of sexual abuse of a minor. Nugent’s lip literally trembles as he realizes he is going to prison for a very, very long time. Ridley remains calm but looks disappointed yet at the same time unsurprised. He knew that there was no way to “limbo” out of 44 witness statements.
As with the previous L&O: UK “Limbo” episodes, “Confession” is very good. Patrick Malahide is wonderful as always. Ridley goes from amused contempt at what he first sees as an easy case. The scene where he eviscerates Harry Lloyd is intense and we get to see what Limbo is like when his claws are out all the way.
I also like the scene where he is in Steel’s chambers, sneeringly offering to cop a plea deal. He doesn’t care that he is representing a serial offender and just wants to make the case go away as quickly as possible. His facial expressions are golden.
Unfortunately, that is Mr. Malahide’s last appearance as Limbo. It would have been lovely to have had more, but the three episodes we do have are brilliant. Mr. Malahide perfectly conveys the over-privileged, slimy QC to a tee. He isn’t very nice, but he is very entertaining and makes the perfect foe for the always pure James Steel.
Gallery, Courtesy of RFodchuk