Is Line of Duty a true story? The real events and people hit BBC crime drama is based on

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Popular BBC crime drama Line of Duty has returned for its sixth season, with viewers already gripped by new twists and turns.

The drama first aired in 2012 and follows DS Steve Arnott after he’s transferred to the anti-corruption unit and begins uncovering widespread corruption within the police.

Is Line of Duty based on a true story?

The drama isn’t based on a singular true story, with most of the storylines and characters in the show invented by creator Jed Mercurio

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(From L) Thandie Newton, Jed Mercurio and Vicky McClure attend the launch of the BBC drama 'Line Of Duty' (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images).(From L) Thandie Newton, Jed Mercurio and Vicky McClure attend the launch of the BBC drama 'Line Of Duty' (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images).
(From L) Thandie Newton, Jed Mercurio and Vicky McClure attend the launch of the BBC drama 'Line Of Duty' (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images).

However, Mercurio does work with a team of ex-police advisors to create the show and ensure a degree of accuracy around storylines is maintained.

Some of the storylines in the show are also based on real UK criminal cases, such as the wrongful conviction of Stefan Kiszko and Barry George.

In 1975, Kiszko, who was intellectually disabled, was wrongly convicted for the murder of 11 year-old Lesley Molseed in Rochdale.

In this case, police failed to yell Kiszko of his right to have a solicitor present at questioning and did not caution him until after deciding he was the prime suspect.

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Kiszko confessed to the murder after police assured him he’d be allowed to return to his mother if he told them what had happened. Shortly afterwards, he retracted this confession.

Evidence that Kiszko could not have murdered Molseed was suppressed by police, and he was only aquitted of the murder after spending 16 years in prison.

Similarly, Barry George was wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando in the year 2000 and finally aquitted in 2008.

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Does the AC-12 really exist?

Some fans have wondered whether the AC-12 - the specialist anti-corruption unit in the show - really exists.

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While AC-12 doesn’t exist under the same name, there are similar, real-life anti-corruption branches of police across the UK.

The Met Police has a version known as the Directorate of Professional Standards (DOS).

Previously, the squad was nicknamed “the ghost squad” because so little was known about it. The unit had also originally been called the “A-10”, bearing similarities to the fictional A-12.

What do real police think of the drama?

It’s reported that a real-life police officer actually advises on Line of Duty storylines.

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The officer - named only as John - told The Telegraph in 2017:

“Jed will always use dramatic licence, but there are very few places where he’ll push the boundaries of what police work is really like.

"The job can be a lot more complex and time-consuming than we’re sometimes able to show in the series, but I’ve spoken to officers of various forces and ranks, and they recognise the fundamentals of day-to-day policing are there.”

Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Met Police, however, is much less impressed with the show’s portrayal of corruption in the force.

In 2019, she told the Radio Times:

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“I was absolutely outraged by the level of casual and extreme corruption that was being portrayed as the way the police is in 2018–19. It’s so far from that,” said Cressida Dick, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

“The standards and the professionalism are so high.”

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