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Film / Let Him Have It

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Let Him Have It is a 1991 British drama directed by Peter Medak, based on the true story of Derek Bentley.

Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is an illiterate, epileptic, mentally disabled young adult who falls into a gang led by a 16 year old student, Christopher Craig (Paul Reynolds). While breaking into a warehouse, Craig shoots and kills a police officer, PC Sidney Miles, resulting in Britain's most controversial court case.


Let Him Have It shows examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Bentley received a pardon in 1998, decades after his execution, seven years after the movie was made and one year after his sister Iris' death.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Derek shouting "Let him have it". To this day, it is unclear if he meant it literally, as in "surrender the gun" (as argued by his defense) or figuratively, as in "shoot him" (as argued by the prosecution).
  • Black Cap of Death: The judge puts on the customary black cap before sentencing Derek to hang.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bentley is sentenced to hang for PC Miles' murder, despite being arrested by then, while the actual gunman, Craig, spent a total of ten years in prison due to being a minor.
  • Felony Murder: "Joint enterprise" in Britain. Bentley is charged with murder due to being the only adult around, despite being under arrest and in custody when the shots were fired. The uproar this caused ultimately ended the practise of joint enterprise.
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  • Flare Gun: A student hands in a brass Webley flare gun when Craig's teacher demands all his students place their guns on his desk. The teacher knowledgeably identifies it as being manufactured by the Wolseley Car Company.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The defense argues that, as Craig had sawed off his revolver's barrel to about three inches, leaving a large jag that would send any bullet flying off randomly and having to make do with whatever ammo he could find and fit in the chambers, accuracy would be next to impossible, but it would be possible to hit something he wasn't aiming for, and thus PC Miles' death should be ruled manslaughter.
  • Loophole Abuse: Derek was an accomplice in the break-in and subsequent shooting and was actually in custody during the latter, but because he was an adult and the actual gunman was a minor, Derek gets sentenced to hang due to Felony Murder.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Derek is hanged while the actual murderer gets ten years, despite being in police custody when the shooting occurred.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better:
    • Craig carries a Colt New Service in .455 Webley, which he modified by cutting down the barrel to about three inches. He trades a Colt Detective Special, of which he claims to have three, to another student for a Luger.
    • Detective Sergeant Fairfax is seen retrieving a Smith and Wesson Second Model Hand Ejector when the shooting starts. Other constables are issued Enfield No. 2 revolvers before responding to the shooting. In real life, the London Metropolitan Police used a .32 automatic at the time (presumably the revolvers were chosen because they were easier to procure and were more reliable with blanks).
  • Universal Ammo: Craig is unable to find any .455 Webley rounds for his Colt New Service, so he instead forces or files down various .45 and .41 ammo. He also says "Tommy gun ammo" (.45 ACP) will work.note  When he trades another revolver for a Luger, he's advised he can force ".38s" into it in lieu of 9mm (presumably .38 S&W, also called .38/200 and .380 Mk I, as .38 Special is far too long), which he's apparently able to do and fires a round into the ceiling.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with a note saying Derek's sister Iris was still fighting for an acquittal. She died six years after the film was made. One year after that, Derek's sentence was overturned and he was pardoned.


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