Law & Order: SVU

Saturday 31st October 11.00pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, Fin’s son comes under suspicion in connection with a double homicide.

Fin discovers that the lad is covering for his cousin (guest star Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), but once the guilty party is charged, he uses a technicality to have his confession ruled inadmissible in court.

Fin’s son, Ken Randall, is arrested while trying to dig up earth on a vacant lot. Rather than call his father, with whom he has a strained relationship, Ken opts to summon Benson for help. At the police station, he explains the purpose of his nocturnal prowl. “I was looking for something… a body,” he says.

Ken claims that he overheard a man in a bar bragging about how he killed a woman and buried her on the empty lot, so he decided to investigate. Neither Stabler nor Cragen buy the lad’s story. “I think he’s lying. I want to know why,” Cragen says. Fin is ordered to stay out of the investigation, but cannot resist paying a visit to his ex-wife, Teresa Randall, and to Ken’s cousin, Darius Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, ‘Crash’). They both swear they have no idea what prompted Ken to go digging at night.

Cragen orders his cops to scan old cases for any clues as to who the alleged victim could be. Benson finds a lead in the form of Nina Stansfield, who disappeared three years ago after being stabbed by an assailant. Police found copious amounts of blood on her kitchen floor and a knife covered in the killer’s DNA, but could not trace her body or her baby son. Investigators believed her husband Steven was responsible, but did not have enough proof to charge him. A house call soon convinces Fin and Munch that Steven is not a murderer. “I didn’t kill my wife!” the desperate man insists.

Suspicion begins to form around Ken Randall when Cragen learns that he once lived in the same street as Nina Stansfield. Did Fin deliberately conceal this fact? “I’m trying to protect my son,” is Fin’s response. He goes one step further by preventing Ken from volunteering a DNA sample that would establish whether or not he is Nina’s killer.

Fin’s ex-wife eventually convinces him to make Ken take the test. “He didn’t do this, so make him cooperate,” Teresa says. Ken duly submits his sample and detectives are stunned to learn that it is a close match to the killer. According to the DNA, Nina’s murderer was in fact Ken’s brother – but he does not have any siblings. “My ex-wife never had any other children,” says Fin.

The cop is shocked to discover that Teresa had a son before she met him – none other than Darius Parker. Teresa refused to care for him because he reminded her too much of his father, an abusive ex-boyfriend. “I can’t stand to look at Darius even now,” she says. Darius was raised as Ken’s cousin, little realising that they were in fact brothers. This also explains why Ken lied to police – the man he heard bragging about a murder was Darius.

Cops swoop on Darius’s apartment and find crucial evidence that he knew Nina Stansfield. After confessing to the murders, Darius leads the officers to the spot where he buried Nina and her child. However, Novak’s open-and-shut case is blown to pieces when Darius’s lawyer argues that he should have been present when his client was questioned. The judge agrees and rules Darius’s confession – and the discovery of the bodies – inadmissible. Can the police reopen the case and gather enough new evidence to put the coldblooded killer behind bars?

Saturday 24th October 11.00pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, the body of a female student heavily involved in gambling is found dumped in a red-light district. The trail leads to a famous American footballer and an undercover cop, before the guilty party makes an audacious attempt to beat the charges against him.

A student named Caroline Pereira is found dead in a well-known red-light district. At the university campus, her best friend, Adam Halder, reveals that she was selling exam papers. The cops wonder whether Caroline’s death is connected to her money-making scheme, until her roommate, Gloria, points them in another direction. Gloria is wearing an expensive diamond ring that once belonged to the dead girl. “Caroline bragged about ripping off some rich, famous guy for the ring… maybe he killed her,” she suggests.

Stabler and Fin locate the diamond dealer who cut the $100,000 ring and he supplies them with the name of the owner. “I made this ring for a football player – Roddy Franklin,” he says. When questioned, Franklin (Mathew St Patrick, ‘Six Feet Under’) says he lost the ring and claims not to know Caroline Pereira. “The guy loses a rock worth a hundred grand and doesn’t report it. You buying that?” Stabler asks Fin.

It does not take long for the detectives to establish that Franklin is lying. They discover he spent a weekend with Caroline at a casino in Atlantic City. CCTV footage shows that he lost his ring to the student in a poker game. When confronted with this evidence, Franklin admits he had an affair with the girl but denies killing her. “Why should we believe you?” Fin asks. “Because I know who did it,” he replies.

Franklin reveals that Caroline was a frequent visitor to underground poker clubs in New York. After a losing streak with the cards, she wound up owing $150,000 to a man named Riley, who ran one of the clubs. Stabler and Fin discover that Riley’s establishment is close to where Caroline was found. They arrest the seedy club boss, only to receive a visit from a secret-service agent. “Riley’s with us,” the agent says. “He’s a long-term undercover working up a case.”

Riley may not be the culprit – but he can supply the cops with useful information, including the fact that Caroline was also involved in online gambling. After reviewing her internet usage, Stabler concludes that she was working with a silent partner who bankrolled her gambling. When lured into the open, that partner is revealed to be none other than Adam Halder.

Adam confesses that he killed Caroline in a fit of rage when he learned that she had lost $150,000 of his money. Stabler finds himself identifying with the lad’s working-class rage and urges Novak to go easy on the boy. “I can tell when a good kid gets pulled into a bad thing,” he says. However, Adam’s wily lawyer decides to mount an audacious defence by claiming that the accused was mentally impaired due to his gambling addiction.

Novak is worried that the defence’s strategy may sway the jury. Huang, however, has some sympathy for the boy, arguing that gambling addiction can affect the brain as much as alcohol or drugs. “Gambling addicts are chasing a high just like drunks and dopes,” he points out. Can Novak prove that Adam was fully in control of his actions when he murdered his friend?

Saturday 17th October 10.10pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, the cops suspect two teenage boys of foul play when a high-school student is raped and murdered. When a key witness disappears, Judge Donnelly is left with no choice but to dismiss the case. Can Novak find the boy in time?

Teenagers Nicky Pratt, Doug Waverly and Jason King stand accused of the rape and murder of Jennifer Durning, a high school student who was on a trip to New York from Montreal. CCTV footage shows the boys leaving a club with Jennifer, but although the detectives found semen from three different sources on her abandoned clothing, her body is still missing. Jennifer made a panicked phone call to her friend, Dana, but the evidence is not admissible in court, and it seems that the boys might be released. “Arresting them today makes us all look like idiots,” fumes DA Arthur Branch.

The cops bring the boys in to take samples of their DNA, and lean on them for a confession. “That swab’s your one-way ticket to Sing Sing,” Fin shouts at Nicky. The lab tests prove that each of the boys had sex with Jennifer, but the detectives are unable to establish whether they raped and murdered her. Nicky and Doug then turn on Jason and insist he was responsible for the girl’s death. “Jason did her first, then me, then Nick – but then Jason got greedy,” Doug says. He then claims that Jason killed the girl to prevent her from talking. However, Jason’s lawyer is convinced he is being set up. “I’m telling you, Casey, this kid is too gentle,” he says.

Novak interviews Jason alone and persuades him to make a statement asserting that Nicky and Doug raped Jennifer. “They’re trying to screw you to save themselves,” she insists. “Don’t let them.” Jason admits that Jennifer had sex with him willingly – but Nicky and Doug then raped her. Nicky dropped her back at the hotel, but later lured her back outside and murdered her. “He said we should kill her so she couldn’t tell anyone what happened,” he sobs. On the stand, Novak forces Jason to recount what happened. “You did the right thing. You told the truth,” she says. Novak tells Jason’s parents he needs to get out of town, and they take him away to a secret location.

The case hits a setback when Jason disappears from the safe house. The cops find tyre marks on the drive and realise someone abducted the teenager. Novak is forced to admit to Branch that Jason has gone missing. “The 14th amendment gives Nicky and Doug the right to face their accuser,” he reminds her. Without Jason’s evidence, the case against the other two boys will fail. Novak decides to stall for time until Jason is found, and resorts to calling a long list of character witnesses. However, when she runs out of testimonials, Judge Donnelly gives her no choice but to call Jason next.

Branch and Novak remember that Jason’s location was supposed to be a secret, and they deduce that the judge is being bugged. They visit Donnelly and find a recording device in her office – however, they have no proof it was planted by Doug and Nicky. “I can’t play games with the law,” the judge insists. Without Jason as a witness, she is forced to dismiss the case. Feeling guilty for her part in Jason’s disappearance, Novak drowns her sorrows in a bar. She is surprised to receive a visit from Donnelly, who arrives to give her some advice. “The trial’s over, Casey,” she says. “Put the gloves on for round two.”

Novak realises that the best way of finding out what happened to Jason is to track down the leak in the judge’s office. After interviewing the staff, she learns that a new police officer called Emily McCooper was seen in the office a week ago. She is stunned when the tyre marks from the scene of Jason’s abduction match the wheels of Emily’s car. Why was she helping Doug and Nicky? And can she be persuaded to turn against them?

Saturday 10th October 10.10pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spinoff following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, the murder of a highflying lawyer leads police to her secret lover. But detectives believe their suspect is being framed when a second woman is murdered in similar circumstances.

Benson and Stabler report to an apartment where 29-year-old lawyer Vicky Riggs has been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Vicky was due to be married, but her engagement ring is missing. A note on one of the wedding invitations nearby reads, “Don’t marry him, you belong with me.” The detectives wonder if they are dealing with a disgruntled ex-boyfriend who called 911 in a fit of remorse after he had throttled Vicky.

The cops talk to Vicky’s boss, wheelchair-bound Tessa McKellan (guest star Rebecca De Mornay), who reveals that Vicky’s latest legal case involved a notorious crime family. However, the son of the family insists he had no grudge against Vicky – and even granted her wish to work in his strip club. Benson and Stabler are astonished to learn that Vicky was moonlighting as a stripper. “She didn’t do it for the cash. She liked dancing,” says Vicky’s friend, Josie Post.

It transpires that Vicky’s fiancé, Alan, cancelled the wedding after learning of her extraordinary second career. However, his alibi holds firm for the time of her death. Benson and Stabler gain a new lead when they come across footage of Vicky with another man outside her apartment just before her death. It is clear that this man was intimate with the young lawyer. “We’re not looking for a rapist. We’re looking for a lover,” Benson says.

The police technician takes a screen grab of the man’s face and runs it through the driving-licence database. Using facial-recognition software, the cops identify him as Linus McKellan, Tessa’s husband. When questioned, Linus admits he was having an affair with Vicky. He claims he left her apartment for five minutes and when he returned, Vicky was dead. “You really expect us to believe that in the five minutes you went out of that apartment, somebody else slipped in and murdered Vicky?” Benson asks.

Linus’s lawyer wastes no time in having the evidence against him thrown out on the basis that the software used to identify him is not approved by the court. The cops take a closer look at Linus’s phone records and learn that he made a number of calls to Josie Post, Vicky’s stripper friend. Benson and Stabler head to Josie’s apartment, only to find her dead. The chain is still on the door and there is no fire escape outside the window – so how did the killer enter? “We’re eight storeys up,” Stabler says. “The only person who could have got in here is Spider-Man.”

After studying both crime scenes again, the cops find evidence that Vicky and Josie’s killer abseiled down to their apartments from the roof. They theorise that someone is trying to frame Linus McKellan for the murders in order to get revenge over Tessa. The paralysed lawyer depends on her husband for everything and would inevitably suffer if he were sent to jail. “Wouldn’t be the first time someone tries to hurt a lawyer by getting revenge against their family,” Cragen points out.

Benson and Stabler wonder if Tessa made enemies through her legal work. They soon learn that she lost a $100million case while working for a firm of security contractors called Silverhammer. The firm happens to employ dozens of highly trained ex-marines. “I bet one of those Silverhammer guys is our Spider-Man,” says Fin. The team soon has a suspect in custody – but he refuses to talk. DNA evidence then indicates that Tessa McKellan in fact staged the plot to frame her husband as revenge for his affair. But can Novak make the case against her in court?

Saturday 3rd October 10.10pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, a newborn baby is found in a pile of rubbish. As the search for the infant’s mother begins, the cops are drawn into a murky web of murder and incest.

The team is called to the scene when a newborn baby boy is found in a pile of rubbish on the street. Still separated from his wife and children, Stabler is particularly affected by the baby’s plight. “Welcome to the world, tough guy,” he sighs as he cradles the boy. With just a T-shirt and some bed sheets as evidence, the detectives begin the search for the infant’s mother.

Back at the station, Huang tries to give the cops some idea of why a mother would abandon her baby, pointing to postpartum psychosis as the probable diagnosis. Munch and Fin manage to trace the T-shirt recovered from the scene to a student bar, where the shirts were awarded as prizes in a quiz. Using a list of winners, the pair are led to a student called Ella Christiansen, who initially denies having the T-shirt. “We really need to account for everyone,” Benson insists. The detective’s suspicions are further aroused when she notices that the sheets on Ella’s dorm bed are the same as those used to wrap the baby.

During questioning, Ella continues to deny she abandoned the baby. “You have the wrong person,” she insists. When it transpires that all the students in the dorm have the same sheets, Benson is unable to obtain a search warrant. However, just as Ella tries to leave the station she suddenly collapses and is rushed to hospital. Despite the doctor’s refusal to divulge any details of Ella’s medical exam, Benson tricks the young woman into admitting she did give birth to the baby. “It didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be real,” Ella sobs. She also tells Benson the baby was the product of a rape she suffered the previous year.

When Benson investigates the rape allegation, she is stunned to discover that Ella previously gave birth to another baby, who later died. “This nutcase is a serial baby killer!” says Fin. It emerges that Ella’s father, Everett Drake, is a city councilman who hushed up the death of his grandchild. Drake and his second wife claim they did not know Ella was pregnant until the birth, despite a slight weight gain. Drake then reveals that he had never even met Ella until she began college. “She just popped back into our lives about two and a half years ago,” he says.

The cops investigate the potential fathers of Ella’s children, but their only lead comes to a dead end.

The case takes a sinister turn when a doctor at the hospital examines the baby’s DNA and realises that Ella and her son share the same father. “He’s a product of incest,” says an astounded Benson. The cops arrive at Drake’s house and immediately arrest him. “Your husband’s been cheating on you with his own daughter,” Benson tells his devastated wife.

At the station the cops attempt to piece together the complex situation. Ella explains that her mother never loved her and she craved the approval of her estranged father. “We fell in love at first sight,” the troubled young woman says. Drake insists that although he has been having a sexual relationship with his daughter, it was consensual – and he did not know she was pregnant on either occasion. “You think I’m proud of this?” he shouts. Novak tells Benson that she is unable to bring charges against Drake because the relationship began when Ella was 18. “So Ella gets tried for murder and he gets off scot-free?” asks a disbelieving Benson.

As the trial begins, Ella attempts to explain her behaviour to the jury. “I couldn’t comprehend what had come out of me,” she sobs. There is a further twist in the case when Drake takes the stand and reneges on his statement in order to exonerate his daughter. “I coerced Ella into the relationship. She begged me to end it,” he insists. Who is really to blame for the disturbing chain of events?

Saturday 26th September 10.15pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, ME Warner finds herself in the firing line when a girl is abducted on her way home from school. Warner is tasked with delivering the ransom to the kidnapper, but a botched meeting threatens to derail the case.

Stabler responds when a young girl named Carly Hunter is snatched in the street, bundled into a black van and driven away. Initial clues implicate a paroled sex offender in the crime, but the man plunges to his death while attempting to escape police. When the kidnapper’s van is then recovered with a pool of blood inside, DNA evidence clears the dead suspect of any involvement in the crime – which means Stabler pursued the wrong man.

ME Melinda Warner reports that the blood in the van is that of Carly Hunter. She determines that the girl had a nosebleed brought about by leukaemia. “With treatment, Carly has a good chance of survival – but you gotta find her,” she tells Stabler.

Warner pays a visit to the Hunters to break the news of Carly’s illness. At that moment, the couple receive a phone call from the kidnapper. With his voice electronically disguised, the man tells the Hunters to await further instructions. “If you call the police, we’ll kill her,” he says. The kidnapper then demands to know who Warner is. Realising the man must have the flat under surveillance, Warner explains that she is a doctor and that Carly is sick. “No one else comes in,” says the kidnapper. “You will be watched.”

The Hunters are determined to abide by the kidnapper’s rules, but Warner calls Stabler to apprise him of the situation. Stabler and a team of cops slip into the apartment dressed as delivery men. Keeping away from the windows, they make sure the flat is clear of listening devices and prepare to formulate a plan. But the kidnapper confounds Stabler by insisting that Warner deliver the $300,000 ransom. “I can take care of myself,” Warner assures the detective.

Warner drives to the appointed location for the ransom drop. She is about to retrieve Carly from the kidnapper’s clutches when a security guard interrupts. The kidnapper takes fright and flees with Carly in his car. For Stabler, this is proof enough that Carly’s abductor is a novice. “We’re not dealing with some professional,” he says. However, Stabler is equally convinced that the abduction is personally motivated – and that Mr Hunter is keeping something from him.

The police determine that the kidnapper has Carly stashed away on the west side of Manhattan and are able to identify the location as a disused storage yard. Stabler finds a severely ill Carly inside and rushes her to hospital. The girl will make a full recovery, but it is clear from her testimony that the kidnapper knew her. Mrs Hunter confesses that the guilty party must be her estranged 23-year-old son, Daniel. The Hunters kicked the drug-addicted Daniel out of their house when he was 18. “We couldn’t save him, so we cut him out of our lives,” Mrs Hunter explains.

Stabler and Warner head to the bank where Mr Hunter works. He admits that he was still in touch with Daniel and occasionally gave him money without his wife’s knowledge. “I couldn’t cut him off. He’s still my son,” he says. But when Daniel’s demands became excessive, Mr Hunter was forced to turn him down – provoking Daniel’s desperate act. Their conversation is then interrupted when Daniel walks into the bank with a machine gun and holds everyone hostage. Can Stabler and Warner defuse the situation before someone gets hurt?

Saturday 19th September 10.00pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, a young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his mother. When he seeks revenge for her death, a legal battle over gun control ensues.

Benson and Stabler are called to the murder of single mother Monica Phelps at her home. When they open the cupboard behind the body, the detectives are shocked to discover the victim’s young son, Nathan, hiding in the dark. “My mom’s dead, isn’t she?” he asks. The boy explains that his mother was using drugs and gives them the name of her dealer: DJ. The pusher admits that he sold Monica drugs, but denies killing her.

The detectives interview Monica’s boss and learn that she was facing the sack owing to her addiction to crystal meth. They also find some $15,000 in cash in Monica’s locker. Meanwhile, a terrified Nathan asks to be allowed to spend the night at the station, and Benson encourages him to open up about his mother. Nathan ultimately reveals that Monica was receiving help from a charity. “One time the good people gave my mom money to get out of jail,” he says. Benson and Stabler visit the My Salvation charity, which is run by businessman Ted Carthage. However, Carthage claims that he would never have given Monica such a large sum of cash.

In search of more clues, the cops visit Candace, a friend of Monica’s from the time she spent in rehab. The troubled woman insists she cannot help with the investigation. “Monica wasn’t even my friend,” she claims. The plot thickens when Stabler examines the bullets used to kill Monica. He learns the same gun was used to kill a Jane Doe in the morgue – and the victim turns out to be Monica’s former flatmate, Gina. Stabler then discovers that Gina was also found with $7,000 in cash – courtesy of the My Salvation charity…

The team revisits Ted Carthage. “Two people you helped are dead and they had a lot of money on them!” Stabler shouts. When they examine the charity’s financial records, the detectives discover that Carthage has been making large payments to a number of drug addicts and prostitutes. Benson and Stabler interview a schoolgirl called Katie who admits that she had sex with Carthage for money. “He got all pushy,” she says. It transpires that Candace has been setting up the liaisons and taking a cut of Carthage’s money.

Katie is persuaded to help entrap Carthage, and the cops are able to arrest him. However, they have trouble making the charges against him stick. “I’ve been unfaithful many times but I’ve never paid anyone for sex,” Carthage insists. Nathan agrees to take part in an audio line-up, but he is unable to identify Carthage’s voice. “Can I do it over?” he begs. “He’s going to get out by dinner,” Novak sighs.

The case takes a dramatic turn when Nathan sees Carthage leaving the station and realises that he is the murderer. “He killed my mother!” he screams, racing after the car. Benson takes the traumatised boy back to the station, but he later goes missing. An intruder then breaks into the My Salvation offices and shoots Carthage. The detectives are horrified to learn that Nathan is the killer. “I didn’t know what else to do,” he sobs. “He was alive and my mom was dead.”

Benson begs Novak to try Nathan as a juvenile, but she refuses. “The DA would only allow him to be tried as an adult,” she says. With Nathan facing a heavy sentence, his lawyer hits on a novel defence. She finds a study equating exposure to gun violence to an infectious disease. “This study points to something that is almost unspeakable in today’s gun culture – that the blame for gun violence can be placed directly on the gun,” she claims. The defence begins to persuade the jury – but when a gun owners’ association becomes involved, it seems there are no easy answers…

Saturday 12th September 11.00pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, the stabbing of a teenage boy leads to a troubled little girl, a fierce custody battle and a duplicitous lawyer with a hidden agenda.

A teenage boy with a severe stab wound to the back is dumped from a speeding car outside the hospital. When the lad, Sean Hamill, regains consciousness, he is reticent about the details of the attack, but his parents explain that he is being bullied at school. A chat with some of the children at St Victor’s, Sean’s private Catholic school, reveals that a boy called Charlie recently gave Sean a beating. Charlie’s eight-year-old half-sister, Emma, provides him with an alibi for the time of the stabbing, but the detectives do not believe her. “She’s lying to protect her brother,” says Benson. “Charlie loses his temper, stabs Sean, dumps him at the ER and tells his sister to alibi him,” adds Stabler.

However, forensic evidence suggests that Sean was in fact stabbed by a young girl. “Emma stabbed him and then Charlie cleaned up the mess?” asks Stabler, incredulously. “Emma’s not lying to protect her brother – he’s lying to protect her!” says Benson. Sure enough, Emma tearfully confesses the truth when questioned. She explains that she has long been bullied at St Victor’s – by Sean in particular – because she was raised by a lesbian couple. On this occasion, Sean abused her, tried to kiss her, then cut her hair – at which point Emma grabbed the scissors and lashed out at her attacker. Zoe, Emma’s parent, explains that her partner, Kate – Emma’s biological mother – is terminally ill in hospital and asks that they be granted a visit before Emma is arrested.

The following morning, Zoe arrives at the station with a lawyer and a motion to suppress Emma’s confession on the grounds that it was extracted from a minor without the presence of her legal guardian. Zoe, it transpires, never officially adopted Emma and is nothing more than a babysitter in the eyes of the law. “I should have legal rights over Emma but I don’t,” explains Zoe. “Why should I claim them now when it can only hurt her?”

ADA Novak finds herself in something of a moral dilemma when called upon to deal with Emma’s case and is reluctant to press charges. “She belongs in counselling, not juvie,” she says. “You’re entitled to your opinion but this is my case,” responds Garrett Gillespie, the hard-nosed prosecutor. “Tell SVU to arrest Emma Boyd.” During the trial at the family court, Sean’s appearance in a wheelchair paints him as a real victim and looks certain to secure Emma’s conviction, until solid evidence surfaces detailing Sean’s prolonged hate campaign against the girl. A settlement is brokered and Emma is released back into Zoe’s care on the condition that she attend counselling and angermanagement classes.

The case appears to be closed until James Decker, a lawyer representing Emma’s biological grandparents, arrives at the station and demands custody of the girl on behalf of his clients. “Zoe Dunlop has been sexually abusing Emma ever since Kate got sick,” he says. Detectives raid Zoe’s apartment and find a number of photographs of Emma naked. When she returns home from hospital where Kate has just died, a distraught Zoe claims that the images are entirely innocent.

Back at HQ, Emma supports Decker’s allegation during an interview with Dr Huang, but the psychologist thinks she is lying. Owing to the way Emma describes the abuse, Huang concludes she is suffering from a psychological condition known as parental alienation syndrome, in which she has been brainwashed by her conservative grandmother to think that she is being abused. Have Emma’s grandparents resorted to some incredibly unscrupulous tactics to win custody of the girl now that their daughter has died, or could their notoriously homophobic lawyer have something to do with this bizarre new development?

Saturday 5th September 10.30pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, detectives hunt for a missing girl who survived Hurricane Katrina only to fall into the clutches of a sex offender. But the case takes a sudden turn when the perpetrator is connected to a batch of stolen anthrax.

A taxi driver accidentally knocks down two young girls in Central Park and is bemused to see the children’s father flee the scene. At the hospital, where the girls are recovering from minor injuries, Benson and Stabler try to understand why their father ran away. The eldest girl, Tasha, reveals the man is not their real dad. He rescued them from New Orleans after their mother died in Hurricane Katrina and said he would look after them.

From Tasha’s testimony, the team realises the man is in fact a sex offender who kidnapped the girls during the confusion following Katrina. Worse still, Tasha’s sister Nicky is still with the man. Benson and Stabler race against time to search the streets of Harlem, where they believe the man is hiding. When the hunt comes to nothing, Cragen decides to appeal to the public for information.

The appeal yields video footage of the girls with their kidnapper shortly before they came to the police’s attention. Benson takes a still of the man to a Hurricane Katrina relief centre, where staff identify him as Clarke Corman and provide his cellphone number. Benson calls Corman and lures him out of hiding, but her plan to follow him home backfires when a pushy journalist named Jackson Zane blows her cover.

Corman is arrested but refuses to reveal Nicky’s whereabouts. “I’ve committed no crime. You can’t keep me here,” he says. However, Corman’s fingerprints identify him as Alvin Dutch, a known sex offender who skipped parole in Louisiana in the wake of Katrina. Jackson Zane makes amends for his mistake by putting Benson in contact with Dutch’s former cellmate. The cellmate tells police that Dutch has an elderly aunt in Harlem. Benson and Stabler rush to the address and find Nicky in the basement.

Unfortunately, both Nicky and her captor have fallen ill with a fever. The detectives are horrified when Dutch abruptly dies in hospital and doctors reveal he was infected with anthrax. Nicky is given drugs and is expected to make a full recovery. In the meantime, police need to trace the anthrax before the public is endangered.

Before the detectives can get to work, their offices are decontaminated to remove any trace of anthrax. When they return to their desks, they find all their work has been removed. “The de-con routine was a scam!” cries Stabler. “Who do we call when we’ve been raped?” asks Fin. It would seem that FBI agents posing as cleaning staff have taken away all of the SVU’s case notes.

The detectives are ordered to stay off the case in the interests of ‘national security’, but Benson cannot sit back – especially when Tasha and her two sisters are whisked away by federal agents. In a bid to get the girls back, Benson leaks top-secret information to Jackson, informing him that the anthrax that killed Alvin Dutch was stolen from a research lab in Louisiana and is now missing in New York.

A furious Cragen calls Benson into his office and warns her that her actions could land her in jail. “If they prove you leaked this, they will take your job, your pension and your freedom,” he says. Nonetheless, the furore generated by Jackson’s story forces the feds to release the three girls. Benson and Stabler go to interview Nicky again. Can they gain a vital clue as to the whereabouts of the anthrax and the identity of the person who stole it?

Saturday 29th August 10.15pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, a pregnant 16-year-old girl is beaten so badly that she loses her baby. An early suspect emerges in the form of the victim’s teenage boyfriend, but the case is complicated when forensic evidence proves that the girl was complicit in her own attack.

Detectives are called to a hotel where a 16-year-old girl calling herself Jane Smith has been badly beaten with a table lamp. The girl is taken to hospital, but flees after her examination. It emerges that the victim’s real name is Lauren Westley, a schoolgirl from Virginia who had been staying in New York for two weeks. Lauren’s controlling father informs the cops that his daughter made a ‘golden promise’ – a pledge to abstain from sex until marriage. However, blood tests taken at the hospital reveal that Lauren is pregnant, while phone records from the hotel show she had been calling an abortion clinic. “Why would somebody come all the way to New York for an abortion?” asks Cragen. “Because Virginia law requires teens to get parental consent before they terminate a pregnancy,” replies Benson.

When Lauren is found, her condition has worsened and she is rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. The girl’s life is saved, but her baby is stillborn. Security footage from the car park where Lauren was found shows her in the company of a lad from her school called Wayne. When Lauren’s father hears of Wayne’s apparent involvement, he is convinced his daughter was raped. “Mr Westley, you’ve got to start considering the possibility that Lauren had consensual sex,” advises Stabler.

Upon regaining consciousness, Lauren confirms that Wayne was the father of her unborn child and explains that she and he came to New York to get a termination. When the clinic informed Lauren that her pregnancy was too advanced for an abortion, Lauren adds, Wayne got angry and beat her about the abdomen in an attempt to kill the foetus. The lad is promptly arrested.

Once in custody, Wayne confesses to the attack, prompting his lawyer to request a meeting with ADA Novak. “He’s a decent kid who got caught up in a terrible situation and panicked,” he says of his client. “He was calm enough to remove the bulb and the shade from the lamp before he used it to batter his girlfriend,” says Benson. Novak ignores the attorney’s request for a misdemeanour charge based on “extreme emotional distress” and insists Wayne will be charged with first-degree assault. “And if the autopsy proves that the baby took a single breath outside the womb, I will charge him with murder,” she spits.

The case takes an unexpected twist when forensic evidence suggests that Lauren was complicit in her own attack. Along with the bruises on her abdomen made by the lamp are a number of marks made by her own fists. Sure enough, a distraught Lauren admits that she returned from the abortion clinic and convinced her boyfriend to help her get rid of the baby. Wayne corroborates the shocking story.

Defence lawyer Sophie Devere takes on Wayne’s case and argues that her client and Lauren should be treated leniently and equally in the eyes of the law. “Casey, they’re kids,” she says. “They’re not in control of their actions.” But Novak is insistent that they will both be charged – even if that means Wayne will face prison while Lauren is likely to escape with probation. “They made a plan and they executed it,” she says.

However, Novak finds herself in a moral dilemma when it emerges that the abortion clinic is a fake organisation, set up by pro-life fanatics. Lauren and Wayne had attempted to make a number of appointments for a termination, only to be put off until it was too late. Can Novak bring charges against the desperate youngsters knowing that they did all they could to abort the pregnancy legally?

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