Line of Duty season 6: what did Ted Hastings say about character Terry Boyle - and why have there been complaints?

The BBC received a number of complaints from Line Of Duty viewers who were unhappy with the way character Ted Hastings referred to a character with Down’s syndrome
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The hit BBC police thriller series, which follows anti-corruption unit AC-12, returned to the nation’s screens on Sunday (21 March), with a record 9.8 million people turning into watch.

Despite the show’s ratings, some viewers expressed annoyance with a remark used to describe a character with Down’s syndrome in the show.

The episode which featured the remark aired on World Down Syndrome Day.

What did Ted Hastings say about character Terry Boyle, and why have there been complaints?

*Article contains minor spoilers

What did Ted Hastings say about Terry Boyle?

The first episode saw Terry Boyle, a character with Down’s syndrome, played by Tommy Jessop, arrested for the murder of journalist Gail Vella.

The hit BBC police thriller series returned with a record 9.8 million people tuning in (Photo: BBC)The hit BBC police thriller series returned with a record 9.8 million people tuning in (Photo: BBC)
The hit BBC police thriller series returned with a record 9.8 million people tuning in (Photo: BBC)

During the episode, Superintendent Terry Hastings (played by Adrian Dunbar) referred to character Terry Boyle as a “local oddball”.

In the scene, Terry Boyle was being quizzed as a new suspect in the high profile murder of the journalist.

When Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson comes to the attention of DS Arnott, the murder case becomes the interest of AC-12, led by Superintendent Hastings.

Whilst discussing the latest development with Hastings, the Superintendent suggested another suspect was “more likely to be the gunman than the local oddball, that’s for sure”.

Who is Terry Boyle?

Terry Boyle is a man with Down’s syndrome, who lives independently in his own flat.

Throughout the Line Of Duty series, audiences have seen him exploited by the members of an organised crime group - and particularly by Ryan Pilkington (Gregory Piper), who claims to be his best friend while continually using and abusing him.

Who plays Terry Boyle?

The role was originally portrayed by Elliot Rosen in season one. Rosen’s other credits include Peak Practice and Eastenders.

For season five of Line Of Duty, the role of Terry Boyle was taken over by Tommy Jessop. The actor’s other credits include Off Their Rockers, Doctors, Day of the Flowers, and Casualty.

Why have there been complaints?

The remark from Superintendent Hastings drew criticism from viewers, with some taking to social media to share their views at the comment.

One viewer said on Twitter: “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 viewer 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."

A third added: “I absolutely love #LineOfDuty . I especially love Hastings and I know that he is known for an unusual turn of phrase. However I am disgusted that he referred to someone with Down Syndrome as “the local oddball” Do better @bbc @jed_mercurio."

What did show creator Jed Mercurio say?

Creator of the show, Jed Mercurio, took to Twitter to defend the use of the phrase.

After criticism from a police officer on the social media site, Mercurio responded by referencing how suspect Barry George responded during the Jill Dando case.

“I was the easiest target on the case. They (police) could just say, ‘We’ve got the local oddball’.” Direct quote from Barry George,” he said.

“Oddball’ has no connotation for learning difficulties,” Jed continued.

“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 [Jill] Dando case, not to learning difficulties.”

What have the BBC said?

In response to the companies the BBC have said Superintendent Hastings’ remark was not a reference to Terry Boyle’s disability, but rather to the theory he was stalking the journalist.

The BBC said: “Superintendent Ted Hastings’ comments were not in reference to the character Terry Boyle’s disability – Ted Hastings had never met Terry Boyle.

“Hastings was looking only at the evidence against Boyle, namely the press cuttings of Gail Vella found in his flat.

“The word ‘oddball’ means an eccentric person and has no meaning or connotation of disability and Hastings was referring to the stalker/obsessed fan theory of Gail Vella’s murder.”

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