Line of Duty in firing line after character with Down’s Syndrome called ‘oddball’

A former senior police officer from Northern Ireland has clashed with the writer of a BBC crime drama Line of Duty after a character with Down’s Syndrome was referred to as ‘the local oddball’.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 12:30 pm

Jim Gamble, a recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal, said the line was especially inappropriate given that it aired yesterday on World Down’s Syndrome Day.

Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio said the line was used to refer to the real life case of Barry George.

George was convicted of the murder of Jill Dando, a conviction that was later overturned. He described himself as ‘the local oddball’.

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Superintendent Ted Hastings (ADRIAN DUNBAR) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill

In this series of Line of Duty the storyline also concerns the murder of a high profile journalist. In the first episode Terry Boyle, a character with Down’s Syndrome, played by Tommy Jessop is interviewed as a suspect. Later Supt Ted Hastings, played by NI actor Adrian Dunbar, refers to him as ‘the local oddball’.

After last night’s show Mr Gamble, who runs an organisation focused on safeguarding children online, tweeted: “Especially on the day that it is but also on any day, the script writer of #LineOfDuty needs to reflect on the line referring to a suspect with special needs being referred to as the local odd ball.”

Mr Mercurio defended the use of the term oddball saying it “has no connotation for learning difficulties”.

He said: “It describes a loner, an eccentric. The drama is using the term to refer to the Dando case, not to learning difficulties.”

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Mr Gamble suggested that Mr Mercurio “speak to some people who’ve worked in policing and with vulnerable people and see what they think about connotation in this context”.

Mr Mercurio said Line of Duty worked with numerous police advisers and the programme portrayed “policing with some of its failings.”

Mr Gamble said the use of the term “was foolish to say the least and shows an utter lack of understanding”.

He said: “If you’re saying the head of professional standards would say that you need new police advisors.”

Mr Mercurio said: “OK, Jim, you keep up your rose-tinted view of policing. The events of the last week was clearly just a mass delusion.”

Many on social media supported Mr Gamble’s assertion that the line was inappropriate while some said TV drama needed to reflect what people might say.

NI actor Charlie Lawson said that “writing must be totally real and no rules applied”.

He said: “I think that’s exactly what the character would say. Good writing shouldn’t offend in context.”

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