Line of Duty boss Jed Mercurio has hit back after criticism over describing a character with Down’s Syndrome as the ‘local oddball’ on World Down Syndrome Day.
The hit BBC police corruption drama returned for a sixth season on Sunday night, as the team looked into the death of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho).
The man accused of killing her was Terry Boyle – played by Tommy Jessop, an actor with Down’s Syndrome – who first appeared in series one with Elliott Rosen in the role, when an organised crime group stored the dead body of property developer Jackie Laverty (Gina McKee) was stored in his freezer.
The character returned in series five with Jessop playing the part, with the body still stored in his character’s flat.
In last night’s opening episode, the DNA of a criminal called Carl Banks was found at the crime scene, suggesting Terry might actually be innocent.
Adrian Dunbar’s character Ted Hasting said: ‘[Carl’s] much more likely to be the gunman than the local oddball, that’s for sure.’
Many viewers expressed concern over the line, including one who tweeted: ‘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 #LineofDuty’
Another fan wrote: ‘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.’
Other praised the show for featuring Jessop so heavily on World Down Syndrome Day.
The show’s creator Mercurio responded to the backlash on social media, and said the line was a direct reference to Barry George, who spent eight years in prison for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando before later being acquitted.
He wrote: ‘“Oddball” has no connotation for learning difficulties. It describes a loner, an eccentric.
‘It’s an equally fitting description for someone like Christopher Jefferies. The drama is using the term to refer to the Dando case, not to learning difficulties.’
Responding to INEQE Safeguarding Group CEO Jim Gamble, he added: ‘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. (sic)’
Line of Duty airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.
Credit: Original article published here.