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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Game show traps 'wanted' guests
Christine and Neil Hamilton
Neil and Christine Hamilton were employed to front the show
A number of people wanted by police were duped into appearing on a fake TV game show, only to find themselves trapped by detectives.

Hampshire Police sent hoax letters to the homes of fine-dodgers and others wanted on court warrants, offering them the chance to win big cash prizes.

Twenty contestants were invited to Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday to take part in the Great Big Giveaway Show.

But instead of leaving as millionaires, 17 of them ended up under arrest.

They were wanted for outstanding fines, traffic offences, common assault, criminal damage, drink-driving, drugs and bail offences.

The whole event, recorded for Channel Five, is to be broadcast later this year.

Police will at times use covert measures but the way this has become entertainment is distasteful
Barry Hugill, Liberty
Celebrities Neil and Christine Hamilton were employed to front the show and actor Darren Day provided a voice-over.

As the "guests" arrived they were frisked and had their identities checked by a police officer dressed in a dinner suit.

After having their make-up done, the contestants waited backstage where they could hear the sound of a taped studio audience.

One by one they were called on to the stage, along a red carpet, through a cloud smoke and straight into the hands of two awaiting police officers.

Nine men and eight women were arrested, according to a Hampshire Police spokeswoman.

'Distasteful stunt'

Police plan to bring a further 144 fine-dodgers before magistrates after they replied to the hoax letters.

Barry Hugill, spokesman for civil liberties campaign group Liberty criticised the sting, calling it a public relations stunt.

"I clearly have no objection to the police tracking down petty offenders and people who have not paid their fines, but not if it becomes part of showbusiness.

"A crime is something that is very serious and it cannot be treated like a game show.

"Police will at times use covert measures but the way this has become entertainment is distasteful."

He also added that those brought to court would be entitled to instruct their lawyer to question whether there had been an invasion of privacy in the manner of their arrest.

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