Coerced or willing?

Coerced or willing?

A person with Down’s syndrome is given a complex character in BBC hit thriller Line of Duty. Tracey Harding follows an intriguing plotline

Line of Duty (Series 5) BBC1, 2019 Creator: Jed Mercurio

There are a few television series which become almost national institutions, and Line of Duty (BBC1), first aired in 2012, must surely be one of them. Series 5 has finished, and a sixth has been promised.

Created by Jed Mecurio, the series follow DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DS Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure). Together, they work under the supervision of Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) to uncover corruption within the police force as part of a special unit, AC12.

As the five series progress, it is revealed that the force contains a network of corrupt police officers with links to an organised crime group, referred to as the OCG. While each series has had disparate story lines, a link runs through them all – the mystery of the identity of ‘H’, the code name for the overlord responsible for major corruption within the force.

The fifth series referred back to series 1 with the reappearance of a character with learning disabilities, Terry Boyle, played by Tommy Jessop. The OCG pays a visit to Terry’s house; in the first scene, they used to hang out here and take advantage of him.

When the group visit, they are looking for information from him with regard to Kingsgate Printing Services across the street, which is used by the OCG and was recently raided by AC-12. As they abuse him verbally and physically because of what they regard is his inability to recall information, Terry turns the tables and has the upper hand as he reveals that he has taken photos of the officers who entered the building. One of the group, Ryan, continues to abuse and taunt him, and viewers are shocked when it is revealed that the body of a woman the group had murdered is still in Terry’s freezer.

It was an interesting subplot, and good to see a character with learning disabilities being written with the same complexities as others. The viewer is left pondering whether Terry was coerced by the group, or whether he was involved willingly.

Jessop was the first actor with Down’s syndrome to star in a BBC prime-time drama – Coming Down the Mountain in 2007 – and is the founding member of award-winning integrated theatre company Blue Apple Theatre, where he was the first professional actor with Down’s syndrome to play Hamlet.