June Lenker In ‘Criminal Record,’ Explained: Did She Prove Errol’s Innocence?

Criminal Record will be viewed as an inquiry into the dark recesses of the human mind and how racial prejudice is so deeply ingrained in some people that they would go to the ends of the earth to justify it and hide their actions even from themselves at points. The characters in this show are so well written that even when there is an episode where the action slows down, it doesn’t bother us much because we are with the characters even in their dry moments, not that there are many. The show’s crux was built by fleshing out the battle between DS June Lenker and DCI Daniel Hegarty. This could be viewed not only as a battle of the sexes but also as a battle of intelligence, as the case Hegarty once ‘solved’ was now being investigated by Lenker as she felt there had been a grave error, or worse, someone with a racial prejudice deliberately derailed the process of justice. Lenker, a light-skinned black woman, goes toe to toe against Hegarty, a white male in his late 50s who was not only considered a distinguished member of the police force but dominated the department. 


DS June Lenker is really a well-written character, and Cush Jumbo does well to play her with the purest of intentions. She has such empathy for Lenker’s situation that it oozes out of every frame she is in. The sighs, the turning of the head in disappointment, and the initial charge towards a criminal—all of the little details seem so authentic that they make the character come alive. At its core, this is a story about June’s struggle to get Errol Mathis a second chance. All of it began when Lenker heard a distressed emergency caller talk about her boyfriend, who had killed a woman and was threatening to kill her as well. She mentioned a certain man who was serving 24 years in Whitecross prison for the crime her boyfriend had committed. This little extra detail became the splinter in June’s eyes, and she couldn’t rest as the details were matched exactly with those of Errol Mathis, who was serving 24 years for killing his girlfriend Adelaide Burrowes. 

Lenker’s sense of justice, or more importantly, her getting triggered by the sense of injustice, is what we take a deep dive into after the episode with the caller. Lenker does everything—finds a confidential report, searches the criminal database without due legal cause despite raising some eyebrows in her department, goes to meet Hegarty without dropping him an email, not giving him any breathing room—to get to the truth and smell out if there was any sort of foul play. The baffling thing is how she immediately feels like she has skin in the game. Lenker is not one of those jaded cops who has to be pushed to find out the truth. The moment she had an inkling that the anonymous caller had told her the truth, the case seemed to have become personal. The detail could have felt more personal when she discovered that Errol was the prisoner and that he was a black man. The alarm would have gone off in her brain because she knew that he could have been a victim of an unfair trial, given that the investigating officer Hegarty had mentioned Errol as ‘poor man’s O.J.’ (referring to the OJ Simpson case).


Cush Jumbo brought resilience to Lenker’s character. At first, she appears quite childlike, taking the case so personally that it looked like this child would be crushed against Hegarty and the other officers like Tony and Kim. But as the show progressed, we realized that, even though she was down, she was never out. She had the grit of a seasoned veteran, yet there was a tender heart in there that wanted to help Errol, not as another duty but because she cared deeply about injustice. She was right in pursuing her instincts, as the rabbit hole led her to find out how Errol had been made to confess the murder he had not committed. There is much to say about Hegarty’s involvement, but Lenker becomes a force to be reckoned with when she gets the evidence against Errol’s incarceration.

Firstly, there was the anonymous caller, who was later identified by a woman on one of the flyers Lenker had printed as Carla. Then the bite marks on Adelaide’s body were not Errol’s, which Sonya, Errol’s lawyer, had shown her, citing a new report. The clincher was finding that Errol had an alibi who had wrongly identified another man, and later he was too afraid to come forward and tell Hegarty that he had made an error. This didn’t mean that Lenker had an easy road ahead of her. There was Errol’s confession, which made matters worse, but she kept at it, investigating the case from all angles and risking her life at times.


Errol had taken away Adelaide’s son Patrick from the murder scene and met with an accident, after which he had a memory loss of sorts about what had happened in the flat. He had confessed to the murder after hearing Patrick’s tape that Hegarty had presented to him, where Patrick could be heard saying that Errol had threatened Adelaide. It is a testament to her willpower that she persisted, which is how she got Hegarty on his knees and made him admit that a mistake had been made. She went against Hegarty’s man, Tony, who had connections with alt-right groups and had clearly botched up the case. Hegarty and Lenker worked together like a team, just for a while, to get to Stefan Ash, Carla’s boyfriend, who was the real murderer. Lenker had to face a lot of backlash and see a lot of tragedies, like the passing of Doris, Errol’s mother, after she was run over by Tony. Yet she persisted, found the real killer, and got Errol out of jail. She had no qualms about working with Hegarty to get Errol out, as she did not harbor any resentments, but that couldn’t be said about Hegarty. He was a real wolf, and even though he did so much to break Lenker’s spirit, she didn’t cower down. The greatest thing was that she stood for justice and did not become like Hegarty. That was her true win in an individualistic sense. She will continue to be a force for good for her family and society, upholding the values of the police in their truest sense.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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