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The Trial of Gillian Taylforth brings to Channel 5 a reconstruction of a major celebrity court case, in which key scenes from the courtroom – based on court transcripts and newspaper coverage – are dramatised with the story unfolding just as it did in the original trial. These scenes are linked by interviews with those who were directly and indirectly involved, including witnesses and legal experts.
January 1994: the Royal Courts of Justice. It was the perfect tabloid story: sex, celebrity, villains, the tabloids, a smoking gun – even an ambulance. EastEnders actress Gillian Taylforth was starring in the highest-rated soap opera on British television and simultaneously risking her reputation in a libel case against the Sun newspaper. Gillian and her boyfriend Geoff Knights claimed that they were the innocent victims of a salacious newspaper story, which had reported that she had been observed by police performing a sex act in their car in a lay-by on the A1. Taylforth claimed she had simply been giving medical assistance to Knights. The case hinged on whether Gillian or the policeman was telling the truth.
During the court case, Taylforth tearfully described an innocent but drunken day at the races, followed by Geoff's attack of pancreatitis, her attempts to ease his pain in a lay-by, the appearance of PC Talbot, who claimed to have witnessed an indecent act, Geoff's arrest, the modesty of her own private life, and the abuse she had suffered after the story had been leaked to the Sun.
When George Carman QC cross examined her, he accused her of lying and acting, with Taylforth angrily denying his claims. The case included perhaps the most bizarre reenactment of a crime the Royal Courts of Justice have ever seen, which took place in the car park of the building and involved Gillian and Geoff awkwardly trying to show that the sex act of which they were accused would have been anatomically impossible. This display was followed by two Sun journalists enthusiastically demonstrating that it was very possible indeed.
The case went on for weeks, with newspapers printing accounts of the court proceedings. However, midway through the trial, evidence was discovered that proved to be explosive...