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Catching Britain's Killers: The Crimes That Changed Us season 1 episode 3
Beginning in 1972, this episode tells the story of a miscarriage of justice that would lead to major changes in police powers.
In 1972, the body of Maxwell Confait was found in a house in Catford, south London. After a short investigation, three local boys confessed to arson and murder. At the Old Bailey, all three were convicted, despite retracting their statements and protesting their innocence.
Following the unfolding story, the programme explores how, after taking up their case, their local MP made sure it received maximum publicity, which finally led to an appeal where all three of the convictions were quashed. The fact that three teenage boys could have confessed to something they hadn’t done would shine a light on dangerous police practices and lead to a royal commission and an overhaul of the law.
Weaving together archive and interviews with police officers, lawyers, politicians and relatives of the accused boys and of the late MP Christopher Price, this episode tells the story of the new rights for suspects that were brought in following the boys’ wrongful convictions. One miscarriage of justice would lead to a change in the law which brought in the right to a lawyer, a responsible adult and the tape recording of all police interviews.
As the programme moves forward, the consequences of the case go further still, as tape recording reveals police practices have not yet universally caught up with the changes in the law. Further reforms have led to the search for evidence, rather than pressing for confessions, as the goal for UK police investigations. As the episode shows, one single murder investigation in 1972, led to major reforms in British policing, transforming the rights of us all.
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