Crimewatch, the Reality TV show for criminals, has been on the air now for twenty years. During this time, they have helped police close many cases, so they claim.
One of the more popular methods for enlisting the help of the public is to show a 'reconstruction' using actors that bare a passing resemblance to the victim. Originally, these showed the information that the polcie had, last movements, clothing, people met on route, and similar. There is no doubt that these have jogged the memories of the British public.
Of late, however, Crimewatch has started to dramatise their reconstructions to include pure conjecture and fabrication. Quite often they will start well in advance of the crime, and include scenes that the police cannot possibly be aware of, such as a couple enjoying a quiet evening in, discussing food, the weather and the state of Gambian politics. In smash in masked raiders who brutually destroy this idyllic scene, before making off with the familar silver and collection of Toby jugs.
It is this dramatisation that industry watchdogs are claiming do not help the public remember saliant facts that could make or break a case. And nor do the police know if the raiders wore masks, or the couple had fish fingers for dinner.
"It has a derogatory effect on people's memories," said chief constable, Andy Law. "They get hung up on the preamble that they forget the details put in to help them remember."
Anne Boolance, the show's crime editor, defends the fabricated segments of the reconstructions: "We are attempting to show how brutal these crimes are, in the hope that this makes those covering for the heinous thugs more sympathetic towards us. Besides, with an overall reduction in crime rate, we have to fill an hour long show somehow."
Don't have nightmares.