from Jeremy Sandford
All rights asserted.
Narrative outline for a documentary drama telling a true story
It’s a completely empty car, or at least that’s what it looks like, careering down the roads at speed. Police officers pursuing it are amazed and can’t make out what is going on.
As the chase continues dangerously, we see the secret. Young Rick, aged 9, is hanging onto the steering wheel, tucking his legs under the dashboard to operate the pedals. He can only just peer over the bonnet to see where he is going and is not visible from outside the vehicle. Music is blaring from the radio and, dangerously, he leans over to turn it up even higher.
The police finally get ahead of the car and stop it. Rick, a frightened nine year old, is inside. Keeping a firm hold on his elbows, they usher the boy out of the car and into their own vehicle.
As the boy sits in the back of the police car, ‘Isn’t he a bit young to be doing this sort of thing?’ asks one police officer. ‘I don’t know,’ says the other, ‘but he’s certainly got a big future ahead of him.’ ‘Just what sort of future?’ asks the first.
Title here; Pyjama Boy
In juvenile court, Elspeth, Rick’s alcoholic shop-lifting Mum, says; ‘He’s no good. He’s never been any good. He’s a wrong one through and through.’ Unwillingly she agrees to take him back home with her and is told that social workers will be calling to make reports.
Such is our introduction to Rick. He’s only a child yet but he has already twocced scores (he claims hundreds) of vehicles. [Twocced = Taken without owner’s consent]
With surprising mechanical know-how for his age, he can fix the wires and security devices and our film will show him nick not only cars but also a JCB, a mobile crane, a tank and a luxury yacht.
Twoccing for him has become compulsive. He’s mischievous, lively, attractive. His Mum, a run-down alcoholic (35), can’t control him. We realise how deprived and disturbed he is when bedtime reveals that he doesn’t sleep in a bed, but curls up on the end of it, or the floor, like a dog. He is admired by his peers and is unable to read or write. A scene at his school shows he is virtually unteachable due to a very short, three minute, attention span.
Note: For these early scenes, when Rick is 9, we’ll probably use a different lad to the one who plays Rick at 13, 14, 15.
As he nicks another vehicle or two there are mischievously comic scenes. A car he’s twocced, apparently without a driver, passes the surprised attendant at the exit to a multi-storey car park. A JCB, with Rick at the helm, rumbles out before the bemused gaze of people waiting for a carnival parade.
His Mum, who is staggering into a new affair with a toy boy, says she can’t comprehend her son.
Rick absentmindedly wanders miles, travelling without a fare on buses and hitching lifts with lorry drivers. Finding himself stuck in the middle of nowhere he twocs a vehicle. Mum does not give him a very warm welcome when he gets back to her. She has even been known to ring the social services, asking for him to be taken into care.
When we next see him, Rick is authoritatively instructing two professional class adults, enjoying the irony of the situation. The adults are two important people in his life, his Brief and his Guardian at Litem. A child appearing in juvenile court these days must have one of each and they are there to protect the boy’s interests.
The Brief, Amanda (43), a good-looking, well-dressed woman, lives in a big thatched house in a village in the country with her Euro-MP husband, and represents Rick on his increasingly frequent appearances in juvenile court. She says that Rick’s reason for twoccing motors is always to get back to his Mum.
Melanie (13), his elder half sister, like Rick is frequently on the run from the authorities. Originally picked up outside school by an Arab and taken to the Arab quarter of town, she’s been sexualised and there’s no way she can go back to school or childhood, now she’s got used to being treated as a desirable woman. Melanie likes living with Arabs, although also sometimes finding it all a bit much.
Rick is once again in a twocced motor and we assume that he is once again heading for his Mum. He makes an unexpected detour to pick up Melanie and both drive back together to their Mum.
Increasingly, as a result of these sprees, he’s coming to spend weeks, months, years, in a series of ‘Secure Units’, the places to which, under section 25 of the Children Act, unruly children are sent as a last resort. There are not more than a score of such places, which hold about 20 children each. They have their own strict regime with strongly surrealist overtones. More, as a matter of urgency, are being built. They are called secure because children ‘banged up’ there are meant to be kept secure, unable to do further harm to themselves or to society. Rick here has to wear ‘paper clothes’, disposable suits which are changed once a day. This unusual outfit is intended to be a deterrent to escape. There is a room filled with his clothes which it is said they will not give back.
Amanda the Brief, and Kate the Guardian ad Litem, are concerned at what is happening to Rick in the ‘Secure Unit’. They say he is, in effect, receiving no education, because his learning disability is not being catered for, and is turning into a zombie.
Encouraged by the social services who feed them sensational titbits, newspapers are beginning to headline Rick’s binges in which, according to them, he often twocs scores of motors.
At Melanie’s, in the Arab quarter, the social services turn up and gently, but firmly, take her back to her and Rick’s Mum.
Rick gets to know some of the other inmates of the Secure Unit. For details of some of the other inmates, see the notes. He meets Madonna here, a nine year old who becomes his ‘girlfriend’. With her he sets off in a stolen motor launch heading across the Bristol Channel for Ireland. Most of it is zooming round the harbour creating havoc, running into other boats. The trip finally ends at Porlock.
His relationship with Melanie and Madonna will be quite an important strand in our story.
Rick escapes a few times more. He’s usually picked up within hours or days, so that more and more of his life is coming to take place in the ‘Secure Units’.
One of Rick’s twoccing destinations is a place, possibly docklands, where he believes he once or twice has caught sight of, and even had words with, his Dad.
Someone comments; ‘If he’s like this at nine, when he’s only twocced a few score cars, what will be be like at thirteen?’
We jump in time. Rick is now 13. He has been banged up for most of the four and a half years since he was ten.
He is sent on various schemes for rehabilitation, one involves him going on a barge. Others, proposed schemes such as holidays to Spain or Austria, are vetoed for fear of press exposure.
Once again he’s escaped and the council decide to do something that is most surprising. They entrust him into the hands of Harry, a convicted criminal, in the hope that this man may become a role model. This, as might be expected, gets front page treatment in the local and national press. The attempt is successful for some while and Harry is loyal to the boy, but in the end even Harry finds it too much and, after some months of success, gives up, having found it too difficult. The boy twocs a few more cars and ends up by being chased up on to the roof of Harry’s block of council flats. There, taunting the forces of law and order in his pyjamas, Rick threatens to jump from the third-storey window ledge of the multi-storey council block to which he had escaped to avoid capture. A helicopter, riot police, and a trained negotiator, are necessary to bring an end to that one.
As a result of this incident the press nicknames him ‘Pyjama Boy’. From now on he appears fairly frequently, under this nickname, in the headlines of newspapers, both local and sometimes national.
Rick twocs more unusual vehicles - a JCB, a mobile crane, a tank, a luxury yacht. At one point he drives a steamroller down Tewkesbury Road.
His Mum has a new, Spanish, boyfriend. She’s going to take Rick away from it all, to Spain. Unfortunately that relationship comes to an end, and so does the trip to Spain.
In his Brief Amanda’s office, the phone rings. She listens and then says, with fury, ‘Why was I not told?’ She’s talking to the boy’s Guardian ad Litem, Kate (56), about Rick’s most recent appearance in juvenile court, in which he got ‘banged up’ again. ‘I should have been there’. But before this conversation comes to an end another call comes through on a different phone to the Guardian ad Litem. ‘Nothing in the conversation we’ve just had matters any more,’ she tells Amanda, ‘because the boy has just escaped again.’
‘By the way,’ says Amanda on another occasion, ‘I’ve got a lass here called Melanie. She’s one of yours, isn’t she?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘The council want a section 25.’ It is Rick’s sister.
Amanda’s own daughter, Amaryllis (13), takes her first lover, a dangerous boy from the village. Amanda discusses with her daughter that because they are professional class people, Amaryllis will never be taken into care, but if they were manual class, she would be in considerable danger of this happening. In their affluent and desirable home, Amanda has conversations with Amaryllis and her elder sister Bella (15), asking questions like ‘why him? why not you?’.
Amanda is getting to know Rick better. She learns that he feels guilt if he takes a car that he finds belongs to an old or disabled person or has a baby seat in it. He would feel shame if he were ever forced to grass. He knows who took Amanda’s car radio and feels badly about this. Amanda believes that his idea that he once saw his father is a fantasy. But he does have many relatives all over the place.
Next time he’s in court, the boy wrecks a court waiting room, is suspected of starting a £250,000 fire. Then he holds the court staff at bay, waving a syringe at them that he says is infected.
An official ‘holiday’ with other inmates on a barge. Attempts to ‘tame’ him at the Secure Unit. ‘Taunt therapy.’
In conversation with Amaryllis, Amanda says that, although Rick is allegedly banged up in the Secure Unit because of the risk to himself (and to others?), it is actually Rick who is at risk because of what is happening to him there. When he has written off cars, etc., it has always been as a result of a police chase, says Amanda. He has harmed himself, in cars, never anyone else. She says the social services should have got an injunction against use of his nickname in the press, since in law the identity of a criminal minor must not be disclosed, and that includes nicknames. She says that instead of protecting him, the social services join in the hunt, even ringing the press with the most recent tally of cars he’s nicked. The social workers involved in his case, who should be in loco parentis, protective of his best interests, have instead joined in the ‘witch hunt’ and betrayed him. He doesn’t get caring parenting; the social workers slag him off and are judgmental. Although they have parental responsibility, they don’t show loyalty. This is especially worrying because they have far more powers than real parents. They can, and do, lock him up for months or years at a time.
Social workers and local politicians who join in the witch hunt are alleged to be serving their own ends rather than the boy’s best interests.
In April ‘96 he escapes once again. While he is out, 14 cars are taken in the area and are said by his social workers to have been taken by him. However, since he has not been apprehended, there is no way that they can, in fact, know whether or not he has taken them.
Incidents with the ‘good’ psychiatrist and the ‘bad’ psychiatrist.
Amanda comments: ‘The social workers shop around till they find an expert opinion to fit what they want.’
At age 14 he’s committed for two years to another secure unit. He’s banged up once again. The tragedy is that the boy is clearly fascinated with cars but, in addition to being ‘banged up’, he was banned from driving till he is twenty. The pity is that even when he is seventeen and able to give a legal outlet to his passion, he will, because of this, not be able to.
There is no space in any secure unit and so he is sent to an adult prison.
Amanda arranges an appeal. But at this appeal, she says, he did not get a fair hearing. It was claimed, among other mistakes, that his mother refuses to stand by him. In fact, during his last incarceration which lasted nine months, she seems to have changed and has been making fairly strenuous efforts to get her boy back with her. Also, the evidence of his usual psychiatrist, who is sympathetic to the boy, was ignored and instead a new shrink was brought in who had only seen the boy for 15 minutes. It is believed that he and the judge are both freemasons. When Amanda suggested that 15 minutes was not long enough to form an expert opinion, the judge ruled this as out of order. The testimony of the psychiatrist, Dr Susan Bailey, who knows the boy very well and is far more sympathetic towards him and believes he should not be in the Secure Unit, was not allowed.
Amanda feels that two years is an appallingly long time to lock a child up, and inappropriate. It was at this point that she contacted me, in confidence, asking me to write something which would alert the public to the injustice being done to this boy.
His mother, with the help of Amanda, is trying to get him out to live with her where she’s now moved to, in Cambridgeshire. Amanda tells him that, now the appeal has failed, there is little chance.
Rick escapes again. After a spectacular chase in which he manages to elude those who are pursuing him, he arrives at his Mum’s and for the first time she gives him a warm welcome.
There is a poignant scene as he realises that she is no longer rejecting him. However, she has now “gone to seed”. She’s declined into alcoholism and from now on, he realises in a moment of truth in which (perhaps) he says goodbye for ever to childhood and takes on adult responsibility, it’s going to have to be him looking after her rather than him trying to get her to look after him.
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.
There is a note of (extremely qualified) hope at the end of our story. He’s 15. For most of us at this age our lives are just beginning. But for him ...
Here are some of the children in the secure unit. Amanda represents some of them. We will get to know some of them in the course of the film.
Rick: (compulsive car thieving).
Melanie: Rick’s sister, (abducted wild child).
There are also;
Andy: He’s in a children’s home and wants to get back home to his Mum.
Sylvie: She’s unhappy in an apparently idealistic commune where sexual initiation rites are about to be performed on her and, against the wishes of her mother who is a commune member, wants to put herself into care. The Brief will help her.
Xiamaine: She’s being molested by her stepfather and wants him to be told to stop, but doesn’t want him to be taken away to gaol or herself to be put into care.
Siobhan: She’s a three year old victim of Monkhausen’s disease by proxy; in order to make herself the centre of attention, her mother semi-smothers the child with a pillow. A concealed camera in hospital records this.
Jacquetta: After her parents split up, she was happy to stay with her Mum, but that Mum has just announced she’s going up to live in Scotland and Jacquetta doesn’t like her new boyfriend and wants to stay at school where she is and live with her Dad.
Gareth: He’s being manipulated by his Dad in a split up marriage. His Dad has persuaded him to keep a covert diary of his mother’s movements, who she goes out with, when she got home, what she was wearing, etc.
Briony’s father is believed by the social services to be abusing all of his four children. During school term he always keeps one at home as a hostage. When the decision is made to take the children into care, the social services and police blunder. They take the ‘hostage’ child first but the father goes a back way to the school and gets the other three out and there is a car chase.
Amanda also represents Josie, the child of Sonya, a ‘learning difficulty’ Mum, who is what used to be called ‘simple’. She gives birth to children and they are taken from her for reasons she can’t understand. Now Sonya’s being taught mothercraft at a mother and baby unit and Amanda argues that she is making great improvement and the child should not be taken from her.
The legislation under which Rick is kept in the Secure Unit is called a Permissive Order. Under Section 25 of the Children Act, local authorities have the power to keep children in secure accommodation. Parents can’t do this but they can ask local authorities to do it.
Twoccing, the offence of Taking Without the Owners Consent, is not that serious a crime in the law book. Amanda says that in the course of some years of Twoccing, the boy has never harmed anyone - except himself.
Some of the people involved. I’ve not visited any of these yet;
Teresa O’Neil, his guardian ad litem, (Kate). She lectures on the subject of ‘Delinquent Children’.
Johnny Lawrence at 34 Moores Road was his convicted criminal guardian. CONFIDENTIAL.
Donna, Rick’s mother, married one of the Smiths.
Dr Martin Gaye, the psychiatrist, who appeared as expert witness at the appeal had only ever seen the boy for fifteen minutes, yet his testimony was highly influential in getting the boy locked up.
Among places Rick has escaped from are the Secure Unit at Bryn Melyn, or possibly Bryn Alleyn (?). Over the years he’s also been in Earlswood (meade?) and at Vinney Green, near Bristol.
‘Rick’ is not the boy’s real name and the Brief’s name has also been changed, to Amanda, to protect their anonymity.
All the events dramatised in this story actually happened.
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