The Telegraph today reviews the final episode of the harrowing story of the Rochade Child Abuse case.
There was no catharsis or closure in the concluding episode of Three Girls, Nicole Taylor’s gripping, damning dramatisation of the Rochdale child grooming scandal. If anything, the sense of injustice reverberated stronger than ever as the final credits revealed whistle-blowing child welfare worker Sara Rowbotham (Maxine Peake) had been quietly scapegoated – and ultimately made redundant – after exposing the authorities’s endemic indifference towards the trafficking of vulnerable teenagers.
Ending on a downtempo note was a courageous gesture from a series that has neither flinched from nor wallowed in the horrors chronicled on screen. A glibber drama would have seized the Hollywood conclusion that beckoned after rape victims Ruby Bowen (Liv Hill) and Holly Winshaw (Molly Windsor) bravely testified by video link regarding their abuse and the accused were duly found guilty. Fade to black and the whole affair would have been wrapped up with a shiny bow.
But it was in its gently devastating coda that Three Girls landed its hardest punches. While the sex offenders cultivating and preying upon the young women were obviously monsters, the facile villainy of the legal system was also placed in the dock. The mendacity – all verified by official sources – was in places breathtaking.
When Ruby’s older sister Amber (Ria Zmitrowicz) was judged an unreliable witness, the prosecution discreetly listed her as a defendant alongside the men standing trial so that her evidence would be placed before the jury anyway. She would only be made aware of the fact when child services, noting she had been prosecuted for sex offences, tried to take her infant away.
The court-room scenes were grim and riveting, with Holly refusing to be cowed by a parade of smug, preening defence barristers. A chilling insight was also offered into the mindset of the assailants – something about which Three Girls had until now proved oddly incurious.
In the witness stand, Holly’s rapist “Daddy” (a unnervingly indignant Simon Nagra) embarked on a rant about the white community’s attitudes towards sex and appropriate behavior of young women. White people, he shouted, trained girls in “drinking and sex” from a young age. Even when confronted with evidence of his crimes, he couldn’t see he had done wrong.
Racial divisions stoked by the cases were sensitively touched upon, too. Far-right extremists chanted and waved placards outside court; later at a town hall meeting, members of the Pakistani community complained they were being collectively held accountable for the crimes of a few. This was the stagiest sequence of the three hours – but a necessary acknowledgment of the tensions framing the prosecutions and their aftermath.
Peake, so devastating in parts one and two, was more peripheral in the final hour as her character receded somewhat. However, there were absorbing turns by Paul Kaye as Holly’s emotionally tortured father and, especially, by Hill and Winshaw as Ruby and Holly.
The outcome of their cases is already known. But the suspense was nonetheless excruciating as they blinked their way through the tears and the defence's inference that they were glorified prostitutes vindictively trying to restore their reputations.
Amid the darkness of the subject matter and the web of official incompetence, their courage was a beacon burning brightly.
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