Double Jeopardy Review: Jeremy Kyle For Snobs

July 30, 2009 by  
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2.5DOUBLE JEOPARDY: Thursday 30th July, BBC1, 10:35pm Alert Me

In the early hours of a January morning in 1997 66-year-old Hazel Backwell was beaten, robbed and raped in her home, to be left for dead in a cupboard.

Compelling DNA evidence was produced in court, however as it was sourced illegally and therefore “inadmissible?, the attacker Wendell Baker was acquitted, and continues to walk free.

The 800-year-old Double Jeopardy rule meant that Baker could never be tried again for the crime, though in 2005, prompted by the Stephen Lawrence case, this rule was abolished.

In this programme reporter Richard Bilton attempts to have this case reopened and Baker retried in the light of the new rules.

It’s a noble idea, unfortunately the documentary is executed poorly and in bad taste. It opens on a dramatisation of the events that took place on that night in January, disturbing footage the rest of the documentary is needlessly peppered with.

Obviously this sequence, shown over and over again, is there to get us, the viewers on their side (as if we’d need it). In inspiring such revulsion, the programme could be in danger of undermining its cause, if the case wasn’t so extraordinary.

Bilton, a thinly veiled Jeremy Kyle straight from the Daily Mail school of reporting, is also on the hunt for Wendell Baker, though he cannot justify why.

Yes, Baker is a dangerous man, and yes, he continues to be a threat to the public. But Bilton, don’t be a hero. Do you really think he is going to cooperate with you when you meet him?

Of course not. This is just another fabricated source of drama, shoe-horned into what could be an enlightening documentary.

With commentary from prosecution barristers, a forensic expert and a professor of law, Double Jeopardy does offer an informed look at this particular case, and the UK law system in general. Where it falls down is at its swells of sensationalism.

The preview disc was an early cut, and the law system being the malleable beast it is, it’s certainly worth watching on Thursday night to see whether there have been any further developments in the case since.



Leonie Mercedes