Broadcast: July 8th, 1960
Character: Sir Roger Casement
PETER as Sir Roger Casement in the dock.
A realistic and skilfully edited reconstruction of the trial of Sir Roger Casement for High Treason, opened a new series entitled ‘On Trial’ for Independent Television on Friday, July 8th, 1960. The case itself was an interesting and notorious one, although much more for its aftermath than for the matter for which Casement actually stood trial.
It was on Good Friday of 1916, when the First World War was at its height, that Sir Roger Casement was arrested after landing from a German U-Boat on the Irish coast. His trial for treason, overshadowed by the existence of his notorious private diaries, was one of the most sensational in British history. The last of the great state trials at bar, Casement’s trial is still of enduring interest to lawyers, but since his counsel, Sergeant Alexander Sullivan, declined to put him into the witness box, the four-day trial in the court of the Lord Chief Justice in June of 1916, lacked the cut-and-thrust which marked Sir Edward Carson’s cross examination of Oscar Wilde. This production concentrated on the moments of high drama: the collapse of Sullivan at the end of the third day, Casement’s two speeches from the dock, the solemnity of the three judges, each wearing a black cap passing the death sentence. PETER gave what might only be described as an impressive performance in the title role, convincingly suggesting that Casement, sitting scribbling furiously or quizzically listening from the dock, dominated the proceedings, and his final speech was movingly spoken.