Peter Medak's Gain of the Viewer's Sympathy for Derek Bentley in the Film Let Him Have It
The film 'Let Him Have it' is a powerful social drama based on a true
story. The film's Director, Peter Medak, made this film in 1991
because he thought the judicial hanging of Derek Bentley in 1953 was a
grave miscarriage of justice. Peter Medak, like many film directors,
used his bias to show his sympathy to the viewers, probably in the
hope that the he could pass his sympathy on to many people in order to
influence their view. Bias is a tendency to support or oppose a
particular person or thing in an unfair way by allowing personal
opinions to influence your judgment.
By influencing the public view regarding the events surrounding this
November evening in 1952, Peter Medak was perhaps hoping that people
would be drawn into sympathising with Derek Bentley and his family,
ensuring that a miscarriage of justice such as this would never happen
again. The film showed the Bentley family's suffering and may have
also subsequently helped clear Derek Bentley's name. Having said this,
I also maybe think that Peter Medak wanted to make some money from the
film, after all it is his job. Films based on true stories draw many
people to the box office in the name of entertainment and curiosity,
but Peter Medak's careful reconstruction of events reveals why this
miscarriage of justice shocked our nation.
Derek Bentley was hanged at the age of 19, on January 28th 1953, for a
murder he did not commit. He had been a recluse for most of his life
since suffering brain damage during the World War 2 bombing of London.
He was illiterate and epileptic with the
mental age of 11.
Derek Bentley went out with his friend, 16 year old Christopher Craig
on Sunday November 2nd 1952, to see if they could burgle a warehouse
in Croydon. Craig gave Bentley a knife and a knuckle-duster, and Craig
carried a similar knife along with an Eley revolver. They intended to
break into a warehouse occupied by a firm called Parker & Barlow.
Craig and Bentley were spotted on the warehouse roof by a child whose
mother notified the police. Bentley surrendered at once to DC Fairfax,
the first police officer who arrived on the roof. When Craig aimed his
gun at the officer, the officer asked Craig to surrender and hand over
the gun. Bentley then yelled to Craig, "Let him have it, Chris." Craig
then shot and wounded that DC Fairfax and later shot and killed a
different officer, PC Miles.
Six weeks later, both Craig and Bentley were tried and convicted of
the murder of PC Miles. The jury returned guilty verdicts on both
youths with a recommendation for mercy in Bentley's case. Craig was
sentenced to ten years in prison as he was he is too young to face the
death penalty. Bentley was sentenced to death by hanging.