Introduction from Rob Williams
Rob Williams is the writer and creator of The Victim.
By necessity, the system deals in the black and white: it demands a defendant and a plaintiff, a victim and an accused. But outside court, life is far more complicated than that
The idea for The Victim came about as I suspect many ideas do: the confluence of several things at around the same time. I’d been talking to Sarah Brown at STV about the Oscar Pistorius case and how court cases retain that particular power to polarise opinion.
I’d also been reading about several instances in which social media was used to vilify people, and how, because of the unique and unprecedented power of digital media, their lives were changed forever.
Despite these starting points and subsequent research, it’s important to stress that The Victim is a work of fiction and not based on any one story. There are many cases in which a juvenile has committed a horrific crime and not been publicly identified, or has been given a new identity on release.
Also high in the mix was a long-time interest in issues surrounding crime and punishment - and particularly the difference between the law and justice. As a society we look to the courts to satisfy our sense of right and wrong, and; most crimes create an array of victims and a ripple effect of damage.
Both the main characters in The Victim are damaged. Anna, by the murder of her nine year-old son 15 years ago, and her passionate belief that he didn’t receive justice; and Craig, who is attacked after he is accused of being her son’s young murderer.
Both characters elicit sympathy, and as a court case proceeds in the present and we watch the fall-out of the attack on Craig play out in the recent past, huge questions hang over both. Who is the real victim?
The best drama often comes out of the most difficult dilemmas, and as the characters formed and began to speak it became clear to me that this story threw up many questions without easy solutions, questions that were and are uncomfortable to me - not least as a parent myself.
What punishment could ever make up for the murder of a child? How far would I go in the pursuit of justice? Where does justice become revenge? The court is the natural place to seek answers - but what are the limits of that? What about when the law doesn’t give victims of crime what they need to move on with their lives? And ultimately, who does our system of law exist to serve: those whose lives are affected by crime, or the state?
In exploring these questions we talked to all sorts of advisers and experts in different areas of the Criminal Justice System, and I sat in a lot of courtrooms! In searching for a fresh take on the legal drama, we took an early decision that Scotland, with its unique system of law (different to England in all sorts of ways, from the procedural to the way it looks and sounds) would provide the perfect canvas for the drama. I hope and believe the series has the ring of truth. We prioritised research and did everything we could to ensure authenticity, but more than that, I hope it contains emotional truth.
There are twists and turns throughout The Victim and of course, we have strived to deliver a compelling piece of drama. But we were also mindful that the subject matter demands that our intention at least must be to do more than simply produce entertaining TV. I’m proud to be able to guarantee that this intention was absolutely there, at every level of the production and from start to finish. I can only hope the audience feels we succeeded.