Both Sides of the Law (1953) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A pseudo-documentary in style with an emphasis on the daily work and routine of women police built around three different story lines. The first involves 18-year-old Bridget Foster (Peggy Cummins) who is picked up for shoplifting but let off lightly. She has a small child, an often-absent husband and mother-in-law trouble. To compound that she takes up with a petty hoodlum who commits a jewel robbery. The second story tells of a young girl who deserts the Army to marry a boy who needs her and commits bigamy in the process, but it all works out. The third story is about a baby who is mistreated by its father and step-mother, but is reunited, through police work, with its real mother.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • A thirty-something couple are killing time late at night on a bench. When two female police constables pass by, the man insists on moving on, in case the police want to question them. The couple look over a wall at the river, where two boys are playing, despite the late hour. They run across some walkway planks and one falls in. The woman dives in and rescues the boy, and two policewomen get involved. The couple admit to the police women that they are homeless, having been evicted. The couple turn up at the police station the next morning, and are interviewed by a well-meaning female police officer. The woman, Edna Hurran, admits she hasn't got any papers, and that she has deserted from the army. The police officer says that she will put in a good word with the woman's commanding officer. Next the police women go to a slum block of flats, enquiring about a toddler that is regularly left alone. The Mother is Mrs Dawson, but she goes out to work and leaves the toddler alone in the house. Neighbouring women confirm that the baby is regularly left alone and cries. While the conversation is going on, they see the little girl climb out of a high window, and inch along a pediment. The danger is obvious and one of the police officers breaks in to the flat and tries to rescue the child. She herself inches along the pediment and manages to grasp the infant. A fire appliance arrives and a ladder is extended, and firemen climb up and take the child down to safety, and the police woman follows, to applause from, the bystanders. Now a female CID officer is called to a case of suspected shoplifting; a young woman Bridget Foster, has stolen some baby clothing, and despite her protestations, it is obvious she is guilty. She has a baby with her. She is charged by an unsympathetic male officer, who repeatedly demands that the child should be silenced. Her husband Stanley comes to sign something, and they leave the police station; they argue about money. She will have to go to court on her own as he has to leave town because of his job. If she gets fined, how will she find the money? One of the women officers now appears in her best clothes; she is off on a plain clothes assignment apparently at a dance hall. Meanwhile a young boy has appeared at the police station, and won't speak to anyone. Some officers interview Mrs Dawson; she is hostile, and it is obvious she is a poor mother. The Mother of the young boy who was at the police station now comes for him, and complains that the police are encouraging small children to go there. Bridget Foster appears in court and gets fined £5. A man called Ray, whom she met in a club pays the fine for her, and he tells her to come to the club that evening. Shortly afterwards he arranges to steal a van that is making deliveries to jewellers' shops. The van contains a safe, and they take it to a workshop where it is cut open. A large collection of jewellery is inside. That night at the club the Ray gives Bridget an expensive bracelet, without telling her that it is part of the proceeds of the robbery. Bridget's Mother-in-law has taken Bridget's baby by this time, and Bridget seems unconcerned. Now in the police station an older woman has come to complain that a man has been following her; she is interviewed sympathetically, but it seems to be fantasy, and she is sent home. Edna Hurran, who deserted from the army, is now returned to her unit and appears before her CO. Another day a journalist appears there; his newspaper published the story about her rescuing the boy; readers have sent in donations and the newspaper has made the money up to £300; he gives her a cheque. Bridget Foster's husband has now returned from the work that took him away from home; he reports his wife missing; he didn't know about the fine being paid, nor who could have done so. Chick goes to a fence with the jewellery on Ray's behalf and gets some money. The jeweller, Muller, pays Chic much less than Ray hoped, and Ray decides to get his revenge on Muller. That evening two WPCs go to see Mr Dawson about the toddler who was left alone. It turns out that the baby is by his wife, and that his present partner ("Mrs Dawson") came later. The police go and find the real mother, Mrs Propert, who is distraught that the baby might have been in danger. A man phones the police and says that he is the husband of Edna Hurran; he wants to get in touch with her, to get his share of the £300. At the Army base it emerges that Edna has married bigamously. Ray visits Muller, the jeweller, taking an unwilling accomplice, Pinky, with him. He pretends they are police officers searching for stolen goods, which they themselves have stolen; it was Chick who saw Muller and sold the goods to him. Ray threatens Mueller with jail and take the jewellery and some cash, and blackmail him, telling him to get another £500. Muller's wife persuades him to consult a solicitor friend, who advises him to tell the police. At the police station there is a briefing; tonight there will be a raid on the club run by Ray. All drinks on the tables must be impounded as evidence, so presumably the raid is because the club doesn't have a drinks licence. That night Mrs Muller goes to the police station herself. Meanwhile Ray goes to Muller's shop and claiming to be a policeman, gains entry. He coshes Muller and takes cash from the safe, using Muller's keys. Bridget is arrested as part of the raid on the club, and she is wearing the brooch given her by Ray; the police realise it tallies with the stolen jewellery; she refuses to say how she got it, so the police let her go and put a tail on her. She goes to Ray, but he is tipped off that the police are waiting outside his flat, and he makes his escape and drives off; he abandons the car later. Mr and Mrs Propert turn up at the police station, and declare that they wish to adopt the baby, that was being looked after by Mrs Dawson, having changed their mind. Ray and Bridget are hiding out with Chick, and Bridget goes out to buy some food. By coincidence one of the WPCs spots her and follows her back to the hideout; Ray spots her and starts to make his escape. The WPC tries to stop him from getting into the escape car, but Ray and Chick overpower her and strike her to the ground. A police car arrives, and after a thrilling chase Ray and Chick are caught with the aid of a police dog. Edna Hurran is now on trial at the Old Bailey on a bigamy charge, but is given the most lenient sentence possible, two days in jail, which she has already served on remand.

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