Wednesday 21 October 1998
Witness Special lasted an hour, and the evidence lasted about 10 minutes. The bulk of the programme was made up of an interview with Frank Gilford, the victim's brother, on the subject of why he had always been certain of Deborah Parry's guilt. There was all this previously unheard evidence, you see.
When it came, the evidence was convincing up to a point, but was presented in a rather naughty way. It was reasonable for Parry's former associates to talk about the scratches on her arms, and the hair missing from her head, but when we were told, in terms of resounding vagueness, about her "history of depression" and "signs of mania", it all got a bit uncomfortable - rather like a trial to which only the prosecution counsel had turned up.
But then, Deborah Parry has already presented her own defence on Panorama and GMTV. Yvonne Gilford's side was surely entitled to its say. In a case like this, where people from one culture are tried according to another, some re-examination is inevitable; but apres trial-by-television is still a dangerous thing to conduct.
What is one to make of these media free-for-alls, in which defendant fights accuser and network fights network? Irresistible to the viewer they may be, but their highly dubious message is that a judicial verdict is not an end in itself but - as in the Louise Woodward trial - a bone over which protagonists can keep on scrapping. It is as if the real verdict, the one that counts, is the one delivered by the viewers; according, in this instance, to whether we think that Parry on Panorama or her ex-associates on Witness Special had the gleam of truth in their eyes.
Wilfred Paterson, the helpless paedophile who told his story in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads (BBC2), could barely meet the gaze of the camera; but then, he was not trying to convince us of his innocence, only begging for our understanding. This was a brave subject for Bennett to take on, and some viewers may have found this sympathetic portrayal inappropriate. Perhaps I would, if I were a parent.
If the material was shocking, the world was recognisable and Wilfred was, in his way, a typical Bennett character. Indeed, his opening line about buying Liquorice Allsorts seemed exasperatingly predictable - only in Alan Bennett plays do men buy Liquorice Allsorts - until it became clear that the sweets were bought for the purpose of enticing children.
What was also made clear, and convincing, was that Wilfred only felt comfortable when with children, that they were drawn to him, and that - up to a ghastly point - he was often kinder to them than their own parents were. Quite rightly, no glib explanation was offered for why he went beyond that point. But David Haig, unbearably touching in the part, took you with Wilfred every inch of his way to temptation, resistance, and sorrowing fall.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
- 5 Ryan Gosling posts tribute to 'Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal' creator Ryan McHenry
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
Eurovision 2015: What date is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Game of Thrones, season 5 episode 4, review: Sansa in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Jar Jar Binks is going to die unceremoniously in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
JK Rowling is 'really sorry' for killing off one of your favourite Harry Potter characters
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally