Line of Duty slammed over ‘offensive’ comment about Down Syndrome character

The BBC has been blasted for allowing an "offensive" remark about a character with Down Syndrome in Line Of Duty's return.

Popular AC-12 Superintendent Ted Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar, referred to murder suspect Terry Boyle, played by Down Syndrome actor Tommy Jessop, as a "local oddball".

But many shocked viewers pointed out the scene aired on World Down Syndrome Day on Sunday.

Mick Finnegan, a Royal College of Psychiatrists adviser and campaigner for people with disabilities, was among those to tweet his dismay at the use.

He wrote: "It's great that Line of Duty is back.

"However, calling a character with Down's Syndrome ‘the local oddball' on World Down Syndrome Day doesn't sit well with me.

"Great the actor was given the opportunity but language is key to acceptance and understanding."

Another said: "Solid return for #LineofDuty but surprised to hear the phrase ‘local oddball' used when referring to a character with Down's Syndrome – and on #WorldDownSyndromeDay.

"A misfire by the BBC on this occasion."

Defending the use of language to critics, Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio said: "‘Oddball' has no connotation for learning difficulties. It describes a loner, an eccentric."

He continued: "We work with numerous police advisers. Line of Duty portrays policing with some of its failings.

"The officer in question doesn't work with vulnerable people and hadn't met the suspect.

"The ones dealing with the suspect used different, more appropriate language.

"I'm not sure if you're saying no police officer would use that term (some would – and way, way worse, tbh) or that TV drama can't use a term that, for the reasons I've explained, just doesn't have the intended connotation you've subjectively attributed the main reason being a reference to a real case of police mishandling of a vulnerable suspect."

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A BBC spokesman added: "Ted Hastings has never met Terry Boyle. In the scene, he is reviewing the evidence against the character.

"The word used in dialogue refers to an eccentric or loner, which fits the stalker/obsessed fan theory of Gail Vella's murder. The dialogue has no meaning or connotation that relates to the character's disability."

Line Of Duty continues on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

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