16-year-old Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds) and 19-year-old Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) are caught robbing a London warehouse. Bentley is held by the police, but Craig won’t give up his gun.
“Let him have it,” says Bentley. Craig opens fire, wounding one officer and killing another.
Was Bentley telling Craig to use his weapon or hand it over to the police? A jury believed the former and both boys were convicted of murder in 1952.
Craig was legally too young to hang. Bentley was not.
Director Peter Medak makes a vigorous case that Bentley, an epileptic with the mental capacity of an eleven-year-old, should never have stood trial.
The script shows Bentley as a victim of his era: Juvenile crime was rife in postwar Britain, and the system took a hard line.
Bentley’s family launched a public outcry which led to a 45-year-long campaign to win Derek a posthumous pardon – which was granted in 1993 – and then a further campaign to quash his murder conviction, which occurred in 1998.
Derek aged 8
Derek aged 14
Iris aged 10
Serena Scott Thomas