CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

On stage at Baftas: A family destroyed by traffic fine tragedy

Brother’s plea after award goes to dramatisation exploring suicide of courier pursued for debt

17 May, 2019 — By Richard Osley

The Rogers family at the Royal Festival Hall

THE family of a motorcycle courier who took his own life after being pursued by collection agencies over traffic fines appeared on stage at the Bafta awards ceremony when a dramatisation exploring the tragedy won one of the famous golden masks.

Jerome Rogers, 20, had been visited by bailiffs chasing unpaid tickets issued on behalf of Camden Council before he was found dead three years ago in the woods where he played as a child. Two initial £65 fines he had been unable to pay had spiralled into a £1,000 debt after a collection agency was brought in and clamped his motorbike – his main means of earning money.

Jerome Rogers

Killed By My Debt, a dramatisation of the tragic sequence of events screened on BBC Three last year, was awarded the Best Single Drama prize at Sunday night’s ceremony. Nat Rogers, Jerome’s brother, told the star-studded audience at the Royal Festival Hall: “The bailiff industry is completely unregulated, and can cause a young man to take his own life before he’s reached his 21st birthday. We just want as many people to know about it so we can bring about change.” He added: “Any of us – any of us in this room – could be subject to bailiff action and for something like that to lead to somebody taking their own life, and destroying a family, is not right.”

Chance Perdomo in Killed By My Debt

Mr Rogers’ family have been campaigning for debt collection reforms since Jerome’s death near the family home in Croydon.

“We just want to say thank you to everybody who helped bring this to the nation’s attention. To highlight the issues of the gig economy to the nation and to have this platform is incredible,” said Nat Rodgers. “We hope if one more person sees this because of tonight then it’s amazing. For it to be used as an educational tool, as it has been, is amazing.”

The family were joined on stage by producers and actor Chance Perdomo, who was cast as Jerome. Famous faces in the audience looked tearful as the story was retold. Killed By My Debt director Joseph Bullman, accepting that most of the audience may not have seen the film, added: “You don’t often see stories like this told on television.”

He added: “He had a zero-hours job. Some weeks he was earning £12, other weeks he was earning nothing at all. “Jerome didn’t tell his most beautiful family, kept it to himself. The thing is the private debt collection agencies, the bailiffs, in this country are just an organised gang extorting money from those who haven’t got it.”

A coroner recorded a verdict of suicide after an inquest in 2017, but added in her findings that Mr Rogers was “stressed by being in debt”.

The bailiff involved was ruled to have behaved in a reasonable way towards Mr Rogers in the course of his job. Camden Council said it did not ask bailiffs to continue pursuing debts when there was an inability to pay. Last week, the Town Hall said it was to start trialling “a debt relief clinic” and consider debt instalment plans for people struggling to pay parking fines.

l For confidential support, call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit samaritans.org Free and confidential help with debt is provided by the Debt Advice Foundation on 0800 043 40 50

Joan wins the Fellowship

Joan Bakewell made a pointed quip at the pay gap between men and women in the world of drama and broadcasting as she collected Bafta’s fellowship award on Sunday evening – the arts charity’s highest accolade, writes Richard Osley.

The 86-year-old said her journey to a career in broadcasting had “all begun with Charlotte Bronte”.

“People perhaps don’t realise how subversive a character Jane Eyre is, calling as she does for the right of women to express themselves as much as men do. I took in that message from the age of 12 and it’s been with me ever since,” she told the black-tie audience. “It’s been a long journey and along the way I’ve had the encouragement and professional support of many, many women, making their own bid to have as much a chance as men – and possibly earn as much. That would be nice. I owe them all a great deal.”

Baroness Bakewell, who has presented and worked on a series of hard-hitting program­mes during her career, including The Heart Of The Matter, has lived in Primrose Hill for more than 45 years. She told the audience: “Creativity is the human spark which gives meaning to life. There’s nothing more exhilarating than coming together with a crowd of people of different talents to create a work for others to enjoy. Whether it’s a cathedral, a symphony, a sculpture or a television programme.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, who lives in Dartmouth Park, won the Bafta for leading actor for his role in the Sky drama Patrick Melrose. Hampstead magician Anthony Owen, who died suddenly last month, was remembered among performers who passed away in the last year.

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