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The Real Prime Suspect: From the Beat to the Screen. My Life as a Female Detective

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Jackie Malton

Sunday 8th October 10:20 - 11:20 | Ballroom

Jackie Malton, the inspiration for legendary TV detective Jane Tennison in Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect, joined the police force in the 1970s. It was the time of sex segregation in the police force. Male recruits were given truncheon; female recruits received a handbag and were assigned social work duties. But Malton desperately wanted to become a detective.

Feisty and determined, Malton made her way into some of the most male-dominated departments of the police force. She worked in CID and the famous flying squad before rising to become one of the only three female detective chief inspectors in the Metropolitan Police. Malton will describe the struggles she faced as an openly gay woman in the Metropolitan Police, where sexism and homophobia were rife.

During her time on the force, Malton dealt with rapists, wife beaters, murderers, blackmailers, and armed robbers but it was tackling the corruption in her own station that proved the most challenging. Ostracised and harassed by fellow officers furious that she reported the illegality of some of her colleagues, Malton used alcohol to curb her anxiety.

A chance meeting with writer Lynda La Plante five years later changed the course of her life. Together they worked on shaping Jane Tennison, one of TV’s most famous police characters, in the ground-breaking series Prime Suspect. Not long after, Malton recovered from alcoholism and now works as an AA volunteer in prison and as a TV consultant.


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