Standing on a soap-box, Harvey Lawrence proclaims that he killed a man. A flashback reveals that when he was an up-and-coming lawyer prosecuting a man for murder he deliberately allowed the... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview:
Harvey Laurence
Sarah Malone
Douglas Ives ...
Raymond Rollett ...
King's Counsel
Gerald James ...
Eileen Way ...
Mrs. Evans
Julian Orchard ...
Jack Newmark ...
Brenda Dunrich ...
Himself - Host


Standing on a soap-box, Harvey Lawrence proclaims that he killed a man. A flashback reveals that when he was an up-and-coming lawyer prosecuting a man for murder he deliberately allowed the man to hang even though Sarah, the supposed victim came to see Lawrence. When Sarah reappears after many years Lawrence's past catches up with him. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Release Date:

11 April 1961 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of Lawrence's legal colleagues tells him he is prosecuting a murder case with no corpus delicti. The body of the woman supposedly murdered was not found, but that has nothing to do with corpus delicti. Corpus delicti is a Latin phrase for "body of the crime", and does not refer to a literal dead body in a murder case. See more »

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User Reviews

Do we ever escape the truth?
17 September 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode of ONE STEP BEYOND dealt with a serious miscarriage of British justice, and the events that drove the man responsible to lose his mind.

Donald Pleasance is a gifted barrister named Harvey Lawrence. He has been prosecuting a man for the murder of the man's unknown girlfriend, whose body or remains have never been found. In short, a strong circumstantial case has been built up around the defendant, and Pleasance has been finding it easy to construct a wall of guilty about the poor man.

Pleasance is alone in his chambers when a woman comes in at the end of the day. There was nobody on Pleasance staff who has seen the woman come in (they've all gone home). The woman (actress Adrienne Corri) informs Pleasance that she is the missing girlfriend, named "Sarah". He dismisses this at first - anyone can come to see him and claim they are a missing person. This lady may just be a friend of the defendant, trying to confuse Pleasance. He is about to show her out, when she insists she is the missing woman.

Okay, says Pleasance to Corri. If you are the victim, why not show up in court and just prove it? She hesitates. You know what he (the defendant) is like, she says to Pleasance. He has a terrible temper. If I show up like that, he'll jump out of the defendant's box and kill me. And even if he doesn't then, he'll search me out to kill me later on. So Corri explains that she plans to leave England within the day, going to the continent and then elsewhere, so the defendant will never find her.

Well, says a cynical Pleasance, how do I know this is true? Corri asks if Pleasance has any samples of her writing in the evidence. Pleasance says he does. She goes to his desk, and writes a note signing it. She gives it to Pleasance, and asks him to compare it with one of the pieces of her writing. Pleasance does that - and his jaw drops. Her signature is identical. Corri IS the missing unnamed woman! Smiling, she tells him she expects him to do his proper duty, and she leaves. For awhile Pleasance looks at the writing she has just given him. He knows it means the defendant, no matter how vile a temper he has, is an innocent man. It means that Pleasance's huge activities in proving the man guilty were totally worthless. He will be the laughing stock of his profession. After a moment, Pleasance burns the freshly signed letter from Corri. And he proceeds to prepare for driving the final nails into the defendants coffin.

And he does. We learn that case made his reputation, and he has been getting bigger and bigger over the years in the law and even politics. He's even spoken up on some social issues for the poor (one wonders if it was to assuage his guilt). He is about to get an even greater honor

  • a judgeship. It is now twenty years later, and Pleasance is alone
trying on his new robes, when he is told that there was a phone call for him. Some woman named Sarah. Pleasance naturally panics, and tries to dismiss it. But when he gets home he finds among his mail a copy of the same note that he destroyed twenty years earlier - in fact, he thinks it is the same note! He is informed that a woman has been asking for him at his home. Pleasance flees the house.

He ends up at the courtroom ("the Old Bailey", one wonders). It is deserted except for the voices of the past - the ghost of the judge, the jury, the defendant and his counsel, and Pleasance as prosecutor. He confronts the voices, especially his own, condemning him for failing to live up to the true spirit of the law. But he hears the inevitable condemnation speech again, and the screams from the defendant claiming his innocence. And Pleasance collapses on the witness chair.

This was the main body of the story, and it was framed by John Newland showing up to watch an older, wilder looking Pleasance (whom most consider insane) giving a daily speech condemning himself for his killing of the defendant by a judicial murder (the speech being given in Hyde Park). As the episode ends, like all of them, Newland discusses the odd circumstances of Pleasance's confession, and whether it was true or not. He does mention, in passing, that when the defendant was hanged, his last word was "Sarah".

Was it true? I haven't found such a crime in my reading of British crime. But Pleasance was very good, first with Corri testing her out as a potential phony, and then realizing she has blown his case and reputation sky high. Secondly he was very good in the scene at the empty courtroom. Given he was only sharing the scene with unseen voices it was a nice piece of acting. Again, the story line carried the viewer even if one did not believe the story's essential truth or not.

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