Two options have been suggested:
1. Documentary ‘Cutting Edge’ Type 30 minute Treatment
This option is the most likely of the two to effect some immediate change in the boy’s situation while in the secure unit, since it could be made and transmitted in a matter of months.
Against it are:
(1) The possible unwillingness of some key figures in the story to appear (this needs a week or so to clarify).
(2) The solicitor’s doubts as to whether it is in the boy’s best interests to identify him so clearly (this is also being clarified).
(3) We need to clarify how far we are permitted to identify, on TV, a minor who is a convicted criminal.
(4) Jeremy (and the solicitor) wonder whether there would be an advantage for us, and for the boy, to hold our horses and go for the maximum impact of Option 2, which might be lessened or even invalidated by the appearance of Option 1.
2. Dramatic 75 or 90 minute Documentary Drama
(a la ‘Cathy Come Home’ or ‘Death of a Princess’)
This was the original format envisaged by the solicitor when she suggested the project.
It could be transmitted before the boy’s release (in December 1997?) The large budget available for a drama would mean it could be made with adequate resources to make a really powerful film. Blurring of some of the details for reasons of law or non-intrusion will be much easier in this context.
The larger budget would attract a first rate director, and a lump sum could be made available to the boy on his release (to get the ban on his having a driving
This film could use much more than just a one off documentary. Co-production could result in its being seen in cinemas as well.
The ingredients of both formats will be the same, but in different proportions:
1. Documentary evidence; newspaper clippings (see appendix for some of these), press photographs, television news footage (if available), other documents such as the written rules of the secure unit.
30 minute documentary : 5 minutes.
75 minute film : 5 minutes.
2. Possibly specially shot location pictures of places where our drama happened, i.e. exterior (and interior?) of secure unit, juvenile courts, places where car and boat were stolen and driven.
30 minute documentary : 2 minutes.
75 minute film : 0 - 2 minutes.
3. Real people involved in the action tell the story and comment on it. Amongst these:
The boy’s mother who wants him to be with her.
The stepmother to whom he often escaped.
The ex-criminal foster parent to whom he was entrusted.
A social worker involved in the case.
The guardian ad litem (who herself is a lecturer on the problems of unruly children).
Administrators of the secure unit.
The boy’s father (could he be found?)
The ‘baddy’ shrink.
The ‘goody’ shrink.
Police officer, etc.
30 minute documentary : 15 - 20 minutes.
75 minute film : 5 - 10 minutes.
4. The story is presented in dramatic form by actors working from a screenplay script. There will at some point be a caption stating their relationship to reality, i.e. something like:
Dramatic reconstruction of events which occurred between 1990 - 1997.
30 minute documentary : 3 - 8 minutes.
75 minute film : 58 - 65 minutes.
The proportions, which are of course very approximate, concern the visual content.
Voice overs from 1 (i.e. reading of newspaper reports, etc., factual information), and 3 (real people tell the story), may well be used quite extensively behind the visual presentation of all four categories.
Option 1 : The 30 Minute Documentary
a) Presentation of the boy and his predicament (3 minutes).
The lad that some newspapers dubbed ‘The Pyjama Boy’, now fourteen, was last week once again committed to a ‘secure unit’; this time till he is sixteen. His last hope, an appeal in the High Court, has failed. Since he was ten there have only been a few months when he was not locked up.
(His solicitor and guardian ad litem have approached me because they are concerned at what is happening to this boy in the ‘secure unit’. They say) he is, in effect, receiving no education, and is turning into a zombie. (They say that) he did not get a fair hearing at his appeal where, among other mistakes, it was stated that his mother refuses to stand by him. In fact she’s been making strenuous efforts to get her boy back with her.
b) Why is this being done to this wild lad? Flashback presentation of his history of car theft and incarceration including reconstructions (20 minutes).
(Why is all this being done to this wild lad? The reason is that,) even before he was ten, he had already been the object of police chases in a number of stolen vehicles, including a fire engine, JCB, and large numbers of stolen cars. Once he even set off, together with his nine year old ‘girlfriend’, in a stolen motor launch heading across the Bristol Channel for Devon.
The boy has been incarcerated for most of the four and a half years since he was ten. During a rare period of liberty, he was entrusted by the local authority into the hands of a convicted criminal, in the hope that this man might become a role model. This attempt foundered when his guardian gave up, having found it too difficult, and the boy, taunting the forces of law and order in his pyjamas, threatening to jump from the third-storey window ledge of the multi-storey council block to which he had escaped to avoid capture.
The boy is clearly fascinated with cars but he has now been banned from driving till he is twenty.
c) And the world said ... the widespread problem of our unruly children (11,000 (?) expulsion from school p.a.). The pyjama boy is the tip of a dangerous iceberg of pre-adolescent violence. Importance of finding a solution: ‘real people’ and ‘experts’ comment.
It will be a campaigning programme, though how we actually learn as a society to make use of the considerable talents of a lad like this, rather than continue the experience of them being turned against us, remains an enigma to me at the moment.
His criminal ‘foster parent’ is a cousin twice removed. The Robinsons are the chief Gypsy family around those parts, they live typically round Hesten Way and Moores.
What can be done to help him? Get the ban on his licence lifted? Buy him a scooter? The problems on his release may be even greater. It seems inevitable that he will once again begin twoccing and end up once again in custody, this time in an adult prison.
Police officers are concerned and intrigued because the stolen car they are pursuing appears to have no driver. In fact, the 9 year old lad has to drive standing and can scarcely see above the dashboard.
His alcoholic shop-lifting mother, her Spanish boyfriend, the environment; clues as to why he acts as he does.
We see his difficult home life, incidents with social workers and child psychiatrists, with his peers and at school. His theft of motors, JCB, a boat, fire-engine. Increasingly long periods of incarceration.
He instructs his solicitor and guardian ad litem and we show their increasing concern at what is happening to him.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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