Review

The sobering reality of being charged with a crime

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Legal Cheek’s Katie King reviews new hard-hitting documentary The Accused: An Inside Job?

Łukasz

A brand new documentary following the trial of man accused of snatching £26,000 from an elderly woman’s bank account will be airing on Channel 5 this month — and students with an interest in criminal law will love it.

The Accused: An Inside Job? comes just months after the TV channel broadcasted a documentary of a similar name (advert embedded below). The first programme, The Accused, followed the story of Kenzey, a defendant charged in January 2016 with allowing physical harm to her seven-week-old daughter. Her young baby suffered what 16 medical experts concluded was a deliberate assault, leaving her brain damaged and severely disabled.

This was, in my opinion, the best law-themed show of 2017 so far. Not least a true reflection of the tough decisions faced by criminal juries, the format of the show and the access it gave viewers was unprecedented.

To me, Kenzey radiated guilt from close to the start. Her trial by Twitter seemed to reach the same conclusion:

As did the jury. The 23-year-old defendant was sentenced to prison for three-and-a-half-years; her boyfriend, who committed the assault, got 18 years.

Though Channel 5’s latest offering lacks the solemnity of a child abuse case, it has the edge over its predecessor in its ‘keeping you guessing’ qualities. The new programme follows 32-year-old Łukasz — a Polish-born personal banker accused of lifting £26,000 from a 78-year-old whose bank account he was looking after. He was charged on two counts, one of fraud by abuse of position, and one of theft.

Like in The Accused, viewers follow the defendant in the months leading up to his trial, and the access is equally fantastic. Police interviews, footage of lawyers out on the road exploring the evidence, after-court reaction from the defendant and his legal team — there was little viewers didn’t see.

But did he do it? The evidence pointed to him, something his lawyers — GT Stewart partner Greg Stewart and 33 Bedford Row’s Ravinder Saimbhi — were keen to make clear to Łukasz pre-trial. However, the defendant protested his innocence throughout the show, alleging a conspiracy.

As a viewer, at times I was sold. Intelligent and charming, Łukasz is a man with two finance-related degrees and, probably rightly, he argued that he’d be “an idiot” to allow all lines of inquiry to lead so seamlessly to him. He added:

It feels like someone is trying to make you responsible for all this, when actually you’re not. There’s still time to investigate this and to find the right person to charge with all this, but nothing has been done. It just makes me feel like no one really bothers.

Whether you buy his defence or not, the devastating impact the charges had on Łukasz were plain to see. After internal banking investigators pointed the finger at Łukasz, the police froze his bank account, he lost his job and he lost his home.

This had a huge emotional impact on the defendant, who revolted at the thought of his peers hearing about the case: “I don’t want people to think I’m the bad guy. I wouldn’t like them to see me that way.” His family — still grieving the recent loss of Łukasz’s father — was hit hard too. His younger brother, Kacper, and stepmother were forced to relocate to Dundee, Scotland, where living costs are drastically cheaper. Łukasz’s FaceTime calls with Kacper, who seemed particularly cut-up over the whole thing, are sure to tug at your heartstrings. Łukasz said before the trial:

It makes me really, really worried about myself, about my family, about my future, about everything I’ve done till now. It’s just the end of my life at some points, I really thought ‘I’m not going to be able to go through this.’

But will the jurors have as much sympathy for Łukasz as I did? You’ll have to tune in to the show, which airs 9pm Monday 31 July on Channel 5, to find out.

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