Line of Duty viewers praise “brave” decision to use Jimmy Savile photograph in BBC drama

Savile was pictured alongside two fictional child sex abusers in a key scene in the BBC2 police thriller

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The unexpected appearance of a sinister familiar face was not the biggest shock in the penultimate episode of Line of Duty on Thursday night, but it was certainly a talking point.

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RadioTimes.com asked viewers what they thought of the decision to include real-life sexual criminal Jimmy Savile in a photograph relating to a fictitious story about child abuse in the BBC2 police drama, and the overwhelming response was that it was a positive move.

Viewers said he chilling nature of the case was enhanced by being given a real-world context, and that it was a “brave” decision by the BBC given Savile’s links to the Corporation.

Posting on Facebook, viewer Clare Trussell said “It was relevant and in context so I don’t have an issue with Jed including this. I think it’s a great programme,” while Donald MacGregor added “Magnificent programme dealing with a horrendous crime and that individual was central to perpetration of the dreadful acts along with his fellow travellers. Great acting in a gripping drama.”

“Loved the way they mixed fact with fiction superb writing,” said Kelvin Fitzimmions-Mawson. “I think it added weight & veracity to the drama,” agreed Ruthie Green.

During a police interview scene, Savile was pictured in the same photograph as fictional characters former councillor Dale Roach and retired police Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank, who had both been implicated in a child sex abuse ring.

“I think we all recognise him,” said Adrian Dunbar’s Supt Ted Hastings when the photo was shown. 

In a statement, the BBC said: “Line of Duty is an established fictional drama series set in a recognisable and authentic world. One brief picture has been included to highlight the real-life context of the fictional story – that a fictional police officer suppressed claims of child sexual exploitation by a fictional local politician.

“When viewers have had the opportunity to view the episode for themselves, they will see the BBC has acted responsibly and sensitively towards the victims and survivors of Savile, NAPAC were consulted and aware of his inclusion and the episode will be preceded by a warning and followed by an action line.”

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Line of Duty concludes with a feature-length episode on Thursday 28th April at 9pm on BBC2