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TV review: The Accused: National treasures on trial and The Capture

02 September 2022

Channel 4

The Accused: National treasures on trial (Channel 4, Wednesday of last week) examined the investigations into Sir Cliff Richard (centre) and the DJs Paul Gambaccini and Neil “Dr” Fox

The Accused: National treasures on trial (Channel 4, Wednesday of last week) examined the investigations into Sir Cliff Richard (centre) and the DJs P...

INNOCENCE and retribution were in the dock in The Accused: National treasures on trial (Channel 4, Wednesday of last week), marking Operation Yewtree’s tenth anniversary. The documentary’s difficult task was to portray Yewtree’s effect on three individuals: Sir Cliff Richard, and the DJs Neil “Dr” Fox and Paul Gambaccini; and also to chart changing attitudes towards unacceptable behaviour.

Both lines of inquiry left a queasy feeling. Treated as a block, the three men’s stories were not identical. The charges against Sir Cliff and Mr Gambaccini were dropped. Mr Gambaccini won compensation from the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service; the singer received substantial damages from the BBC for filming the police raid on his Berkshire penthouse.

But Mr Fox went on trial at Westminster Magistrates Court on ten charges of sexual and indecent assault. He went before the bench, reasoning that his celebrity might unfavourably sway a jury. This was not without risk, as the conviction rate for jury trials is lower than before magistrates. Concluding Mr Fox’s case, the district judge said of the six women complainants: “We believed each of the complainants,” but establishing context for the 1988-2014 alleged events, and proving criminal offences had been committed, was not possible. Mr Fox refused to talk about the allegations.

While the celebrities’ personal stories were told through archive, interview, and self-shot footage, detectives, journalists, and investigators were confined to talking-heads shots. The investigator Mark Thomas-Williams highlighted how the serial offenders Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris, and Gary Glitter were brought to justice; and DS Gary Pankhurst said that malicious allegations accounted for between two and five per cent of sexual-offence allegations.

Sir Cliff’s account of watching the televised police raid on his home had echoes of The Capture (BBC1, Sunday). In the surveillance drama’s second series, every moment is captured by security cameras, but the gap between what happens and what is shown on screen grows wider. The Capture immerses viewers in interiors of flickering screens reflected in glass windows, and lifts’ transporting characters between corridors pulsing with motion-sensor lighting.

Holliday Grainger, as DI Rachel Carey, and Paapa Essiedu, as the youthful security minister, Isaac Turner, breathe life into dialogue that is at the service of the plot rather than character. “He was a good bloke,” DI Carey laments of her shot colleague DS Patrick Flynn (Cavan Clerkin). “I know,” his wife says, after a dramatic pause long enough for the doctoring of a week’s worth of hospital security-camera footage. For a security minister, Turner is sensationally reckless — but he is image-conscious. He asks an adviser whether a cross should be visible for a TV interview, and then tucks it behind his tie; so ministerial faith may be concealed for a few episodes more.

The Revd Gillean Craig is away.

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