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#TheAccused: Social media goes mad for ‘unprecedented’ Channel 5 criminal law documentary

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We spoke to the lawyer involved in the case about his client’s trial by Twitter

Image via Channel 5
Image via Channel 5

A crime documentary described as “unprecedented” by its broadcasters captivated social media last night.

Aired on Channel 5, ‘The Accused’ followed the story of Kenzey (pictured above), a defendant in a horrific child abuse case. The young mother was charged in January 2016 with allowing physical harm to her seven-week-old daughter, who suffered what 16 medical experts concluded was a deliberate assault. It left her child brain damaged and severely disabled. She was also accused of cruelty by not calling emergency services quickly enough after the injury occurred.

The prosecution’s position was that 23-year-old Kenzey had witnessed her boyfriend, Kyle, violently shake their daughter and had attempted to cover up his actions. Her boyfriend — who she stuck by and exchanged letters with during the documentary — was charged with grievous bodily harm.

Image via Channel 5
Image via Channel 5

Aided by GT Stewart barrister Ronnie Manek (pictured above), Kenzey maintained her innocence throughout the 90-minute show in a number of on-camera exchanges with her legal team. She looked visibly upset by what the prosecution was accusing her of. “All I can say, 100%, is it wasn’t me and neither would I have allowed that to happen,” she protested.

The ground-breaking documentary looks at what it is like to be accused of a serious crime and is shot in real-time. Usually programmes like this are is done retrospectively, and often with the aid of actors and reconstructions, but not in The Accused. This, Manek told Legal Cheek, provided viewers with a sobering dose of reality. He said:

People who have never been arrested will not understand how traumatic it is to be accused of a crime.

Viewers were invited to form their own thoughts on Kenzey’s guilt before the verdict was read out, and that they did. Using the hashtag #TheAccused, a number of tweeters lambasted Kenzey and sided with the prosecution.

Other viewers were more sympathetic to Kenzey’s plight, especially when they learnt Kyle had been abusive to her.

*SPOILER ALERT*


Both Kenzey and Kyle were found guilty and sentenced to prison for three-and-a-half-years and 18 years respectively. While the social media debate rumbles on as to whether this was the right decision, Manek told Legal Cheek he worries this “trial by Twitter” does not “truly reflect reality and the correct position”. He continued:

I’m not sure tweeters fully understood Kenzey’s charges and how they related to Kyle. He was facing an overwhelming case. If he had pleaded guilty to his charges, I don’t think there would have been a prosecution case brought against Kenzey. She was blinded by misguided loyalty.

You can watch The Accused here.

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