Trial And Retribution: David Hayman (centre) believes the horror of Lynda La Plante's drama is necessary
A time for retribution
Prime Suspect writer LYNDA LA PLANTE tackles the controversial subject of child murder in her latest drama.
Words: Rob Driscoll
Lynda La Plante’s latest television drama has made her realise the torment that her own parents suffered when their six-year-old daughter was killed in a road accident.
‘It made sense of all the unspoken anguish and hell they’d gone through,’ says the award-winning creator of Prime Suspect and The Governor. ‘My mother was six months pregnant with me at the time, and it was something we never talked about as I grew up. But I did know I’d had an older sister called Dale — she was in my life from the day l was born.’
Trial And Retribution is the most far-reaching crime thriller La Plante has written for a mainstream TV audience. The frequently harrowing two-part drama follows the emotive events sparked by the abduction of a ﬁve-year—old girl, and the subsequent murder inquiry. Helen McCrory stars as the mother of the missing child, with Rhys lnfans as the alcoholic misﬁt charged with the murder and Glaswegian actor David Hayman as the detective superintendent who heads the investigation.
Himself the father of three young children, Hayman concedes there were moments within the drama that made him shiver. ‘Going into the mortuary and looking at the young girl on the slab — you know it’s all make-believe, but for a second you can’t help thinking it might be a bit distasteful.
‘But it’s important we cover these topics in contemporary drama, and in a non-gratuitous way.
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Lynda La Plante
‘Not one of those murderers had any remorse or guilt. Not once did anyone say to me, "God forgive me
You don’t see any excessive or oven violence in Trial And Retribution — the full horror remains in your mind.’
La Plante reckons the series breaks barriers. ‘We’ve never seen a drama which takes you from the crime itself right through to the arrest and trial,’ she says. ‘We’ve attempted to look at the complete progress, through the forensic investigations, the police work, the trial and on to the ﬁnal verdict.’
Because of its sensitive and sometimes grisly subject matter, Trial And Retribution is likely to provoke controversy. But of all her work, La Plante seems proudest of this particular opus.
‘This is the best thing I’ve ever done,’ she says pointedly. Better than Prime Suspect (itself up for reappraisal, with a rerun of the ﬁrst series just started on Channel 4)?
‘Oh, yes, because this opens up a whole new police procedure for the viewing audience,’ she says. ‘Today’s police have developed a new style of interrogation that’s much slower and more psychologically aware. lt’s
u . the softly-softly approach,
and the concentration required is phenomenal. Gone are the old bullying tactics — and likewise. hopefully, the days of coercing a statement illegally from a suspect.’
La Plante admits to being emotional while watching parts of the drama. ‘The rushes always reduce me to tears, but that’s the kind of person I am,’ she says. ‘But I deliberately chose such a poignant subject so we can see the way the law takes such massive emotions on board.’
While researching the drama, La Plante spoke to several parents and imprisoned killers of murdered children. ‘That wasn’t easy, but the thing I found most prevalent was that not one of those men had any remorse or guilt,’ she says. ‘Not once did anyone say
to me, “God forgive me .
Trial And Retribution is on Scottish Television, Sun 19 8: Mon 20 Oct. 9pm.
Cutting Edge: The Sport Channel 4, Tue 21 Oct, 9pm.
There may be a regular stream of organs on show, but The Sport has never been regarded as one of social responsibility. Editor-in-chief Tony Livesey wants the record put straight. ’We averted an ecological disaster in Sweden,’ he says. 'We discovered that a lighthouse keeper had put a sun-ray lamp on and he'd fried three tonnes of cod before we got to him. And we were first to print the Camillagate tape. There's as much news in our papers as others. We just decorate it with girls and wonderful stories.’
Those stories, to be exposed again in a Channel 4 Cutting Edge documentary, have been shifting wads of the newspaper launched ten years ago. Headlines such as ’Donkey robs bank' and 'Hide and seek champ found dead in cupboard'; the revelation that Hitler was a woman; and the discovery of a Starsky and Hutch tribe in Africa and a statue of Elvis on Mars do more than raise a mischievous giggle.
‘I think we gave a new dimension to Fleet Street and affected other papers’ agendas,’ believes Livesey. 'It sounds daft, but we’re part of the establishment now.’ A long way from the original brief. 'At first we were these maverick bower boys going down Fleet Street to get drunk, abuse other journalists, and have more Page Three girls than The Sun.’
Such an attitude has lead other editors to be scornful of the likes of Livesey and the paper's owner and sex industry king David Sullivan - who, on the evidence of the documentary, has one of the oddest walks this side of Max Wall. Livesey is unconvinced by their holier than thou stance. 'If you ask anyone officially they’ll say, "oh, tosh,” but unofficially, they will tell you that we do what we do very well indeed. The company is worth £100 million, so we must be doing something right.’ (Brian Donaldson)