Ken Dodd In The Dock

  • TV documentary
  • Channel 4
  • 2002
  • 1 episode

Documentary telling the story of Ken Dodd's 1989 trial for defrauding the Inland Revenue.

Key details

Channel 4
Ken Dodd
Nick Godwin

In 1989 Ken Dodd was on trial for defrauding the Inland Revenue.

George Carman, who, according to Barry Cryer, could have got Hitler off, tried to derail the trial before it left the station by sonorously informing the court that Dodd was at death's door. He had a sick note saying Dodd was suffering from ventricular tachycardia and, really, those who don't suffer a heart flutter at the prospect of three years in jail haven't given the matter sufficient thought.

According to Cryer, the prisoners at Walton jail were already hanging out a banner saying "Coming Next Week - Ken Dodd".

Carman's next line of attack was to suggest that his client was a chaotic chucklehead, a creative child entirely at sea with sums.

To support this thesis he showed a video of the house in Knotty Ash where Dodd had lived in all his life and will probably die. It was crammed with paraphernalia and props as if a bomb had dropped on a pantomime. You edged from door to door between skyscrapers of top hats and forests of feather dusters. Dodd kept his money in fivers in shoe boxes under the bed, occasionally carrying it in suitcases to offshore accounts on the Isle of Man.

Mr Justice Waterhouse enquired, a little wistfully, what £181,000 looked like.

According to his son's biography, Carman lost his entire brief fee of £35,000 playing blackjack before the five-week trial began. He was as profligate as Dodd was tight.

Called as a character witness, Roy Hudd spoke warmly of Dodd's genius but, asked if he was generous with his money, said warily that he had never asked Dodd for a loan. Another Cryer story was that Dodd once took a four-pack of lager to a bottle party at Jimmy Tarbuck's and, later finding it untouched, took it home again.

The prosecution claimed Ken Dodd was a calculating cheat, while the defence, led by George Carman QC, argued he was an unreliable eccentric who led a chaotic life and was bad at maths.

Dodd came from a modest background, and he was later to maintain that his poor upbringing spent selling household goods door to door gave him his passion for cash. He built up a sizeable fortune from the years he spent on the road, but maintained a spartan lifestyle, not taking a holiday until he was 51 years old, and even then at a knock-down price.

Dodd's mistrust of banks also emerged during the trial, as the court heard that he had amassed thousands of pounds, stored in shoeboxes around his house.

The trial transformed Liverpool's Crown Court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character references.

Dodd's acquittal, though, came at a price. His previously private persona had been exposed to the public and he was forced to hand over £800,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties, leaving him virtually bankrupt. To this day Dodd refuses to discuss the trial, though he still cracks uneasy gags about it in his stage act.

Additional details


Share this page