“When did we stop caring about honesty and integrity?” asks Supt. Ted Hastings in the Line of Duty series six trailer. His words could be this show’s battle cry. The first series of the BBC crime thriller was inspired by the 2005 fatal shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes, an electrician mistaken for a terrorist by a Metropolitan Police surveillance team. In the four series since, it’s drawn on other real-life failures of the law – the framing of vulnerable people for serious crimes, child abusers being protected from investigation because of their status, officers leaking to the press and accepting bribes to facilitate organised crime.
This is a drama born in reaction to the ‘post-truth era’, repeatedly staging misgivings about the ongoing conflict between PR manipulation and unflattering realities. As such, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the tagline for series six “Lies cost lives” intended as a critique of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Underneath the trappings of this high-tension, high-action, twist-packed thriller is real concern about what people in power are getting away with.
The show’s villains can generally be divided into one of three categories: desensitised brutes, high status hypocrites, and people trying – with varying degrees of success – to dig themselves out of a hole, usually of their own making. Below are 30 such characters from series one to five, all police officers who’ve committed a crime of some kind – whether they’ve been caught or not – ranked in order of immorality.
Come back at the end of series six, which starts on Sunday the 21st of March at 9pm on BBC One, to see the new additions, and who may have moved up the ladder.
30. Supt. Ted Hastings
Crime: Robin Hooding £50K of dirty money
Working for the OCG? Not on your nelly
Currently: Commanding AC-12 but on a final written warning
Sit. Rep: Let’s make one thing clear: Ted’s only on this list because he broke the letter of the law to commit an act of kindness. Instead of letting £50K of the cash with which the OCG attempted to bribe him in series five sit around in an evidence bag, he secretly gave it to the widow of DS John Corbett, a pawn in Gill Biggeloe’s cruel and corrupt game.
29. PC Maneet Bindra
Crime: Suppressing a line of inquiry that incriminated her cousin, leaking sensitive files
Working for the OCG? Indirectly and initially, without her knowledge
Sit. Rep: PC Maneet Bindra (RIP) was good police and a loyal cousin. When ACC Hilton asked her to leak AC-12 secrets in exchange for him stopping her gambling-addict cousin from losing his job, she followed the orders of a much senior officer. When her cousin was bribed by the OCG to help them plan an ambush on a shipment of heroin, Maneet tried to protect him. When that cost her job, she tried to put it right and they killed her.
28. PS Colin Brackley & Co.
Crime: Manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Working for the OCG? No
Currently: Still serving, as far as we know. No charges were brought against the team
Sit. Rep: In the opening minutes of the first ever episode, Sgt Brackley shot dead an innocent man – Kareem Ali – after the team mistook Ali’s No. 59 flat for the target flat No. 56 due to a broken door number. At the behest of Chief Inspector Philip Osborne, the squad colluded in an attempt to cover up the botched killing, but Steve Arnott refused to lie, which led to his recruitment by AC-12.
27. CC Philip Osborne
Crime: Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Working for the OCG? Jury’s out on that one
Currently: The CC of Central Police, aka the top dog
Sit. Rep: Come back in seven weeks and Chief Constable Philip Osborne could well have shot straight to the top of this list. The reason he’s in such a low position currently is that we only know that he pressured his Counter-Terrorism team to cover up a botched op. We suspect though, that he could well be up to his neck in the OCG. Is he the fourth senior ranking officer in their pay?
26. PC Kieran Bloom
Crime: Faking an ambush to divert resources from the Eastfield depot raid
Working for the OCG? Indirectly, yes
Currently: Presumably no longer a police officer
Sit. Rep: DCS Hargreaves (blackmailed by the OCG, who obtained his DNA when he abused an underage sex trafficking victim at a gang-run ‘brothel’) made PC Bloom call in the fake ambush on the night of the Eastfield Depot raid, so he’d have an excuse to be in the area.
25. DCI Mark Moffatt
Crime: Conspiring to bribe and frame Supt. Ted Hastings
Working for the OCG? Yes
Currently: He was arrested and charged by AC-12, so, serving time?
Sit. Rep: We met Moffatt as Roz Huntley’s Police Federation Rep. in series four, and maybe he was already in the OCG’s pocket at that point. He clearly was by series five, after his retirement from the force, when he used his new property development position to attempt to bribe Ted Hastings with £100K of the gang’s filthy lucre.
24. PC Jane Cafferty
Crime: Stopping a police convoy so the OCG could ambush it
Working for the OCG? Yes
Currently: Presumably serving time
Sit. Rep: Cafferty was recruited by DI Cottan in 2015 when the OCG blackmailed her, threatening to release CCTV footage of her affair to her husband and family. She was forced to pass information and assist in the ambush of the heroin convoy, and later provided the info they needed to ambush a shipment of weaponry.
23. PC Kevin Greysham, PC Ray Randhawa, PC Carl Waldhouse
Crime: As above.
Working for the OCG? Yes.
Currently: Shot dead by the OCG.
Sit. Rep: In Jane Cafferty’s police interview, she confirmed that the three officers killed by the OCG during the heroin ambush weren’t innocent men. Greysham and Randhawa were both on the take from the gang, while Waldhouse was being blackmailed by them over his use of sex workers.
22. DS Jayne Akers
Crime: Rerouting a police convoy to allow a witness to be murdered; bribing DI Denton
Working for the OCG? Yes, in cahoots with DI Cottan
Currently: Shot dead by the OCG
Sit. Rep: Jayne Akers appealed to Lindsay Denton’s sense of moral justice to convince her that the only way to see Carly Kirk’s abusive pimp Tommy Hunter punished was to break the law and allow the OCG to get to him. Perhaps she also felt that she was on a crusading mission? Either way, they both took the gang’s bribe money.
21. DC Jamie Desford
Crime: Tipping off ACC Hilton so he could evade capture, attempting to abscond with suspect Jimmy Lakewell
Working for the OCG? Yes, via ACC Hilton
Currently: Fired from the police
Sit. Rep: DCI Roz Huntley did two good things when she realised that the jig was up: she arrested Jimmy Lakewell and talked Jamie Desford down from what would have been the very serious crime of shooting a police officer. Like PC Maneet Bindra, Desford seemed to be another officer exploited by Hilton, who didn’t care who he used.
20. DC Nigel Morton
Crime: Leaking stories to the press, faking his disability for benefits, spitting on Kate and leaving excrement in Steve’s car, and most egregiously: finding out Dot was the Caddy but not telling anybody
Working for the OCG? No
Currently: Retired on a cushy pension
Sit. Rep: Perhaps the laziest bent copper on this list, Neil Morrissey’s character did a lot of little bad things and got away with them all.
19. Merchant and Leland
Crime: Assaulting prisoner Lindsay Denton with boiling water
Working for the OCG? Yes
Currently: Rumoured to be returning in series six
Sit. Rep: These two aren’t technically police officers, but employees of SecuritVite, the private security firm that staffs HMP Brentiss. Not strictly bent coppers then, but definitely a couple of wrong’uns who abused their power to try to keep Lindsay Denton quiet inside.
18. Tim Ifield
Crime: Planning to dismember and dispose of DCI Roz Huntley’s corpse
Working for the OCG? No
Currently: Accidentally killed by DCI Roz Huntley
Sit. Rep: A tricky placement, this, and technically another civilian. In series four, forensics coordinator Tim Ifield was the squeaky wheel convinced there was something wrong with the evidence incriminating Michael Farmer, and he was spot-on – Farmer was being framed by the OCG. So far, so honest. When Ifield wrongly thought he’d killed DCI Huntley in a struggle though, it was much less honest of him to attempt to dispose of the body than to report it.
17. PS Martina Tranter
Crime: Attempted murder of witness Gill Biggeloe
Working for the OCG? Oh yes
Currently: Dead, we think. Last seen being stretchered out of HQ after Steve shot her
Sit. Rep: What a twist. When Gill Biggeloe was rumbled, the OCG decided she wasn’t worth extracting so instead had bent AC-3 copper try to kill her in the Ladies toilet. Luckily, Steve and Kate were there to save the day.
16. PC Hari Bains
Crime: Conspiracy and murder
Working for the OCG? Yes, through Dot Cottan
Currently: Presumably serving time
Sit. Rep: In series three, Danny Waldron forced PC Bains, PC Kennedy and PC Brickford to corroborate his version of the killing of Ronan Murphy, then Dot blackmailed Hari to kill Waldron, who was investigating an historical paedophile ring run by the OCG. Hari shot Waldron and the others covered for him initially before Rod threatened to talk and Dot killed him, faking his suicide.
15. DCI Tony Gates
Crime: Laddering his stats, covering up Jackie Laverty’s hit-and-run, colluding with the OCG to cover up the Greek Lane murders
Working for the OCG? Under duress, yes
Currently: Killed himself by walking into traffic
Sit. Rep: Gates started out mildly corrupt – massaging his team’s results to provide ACC Hilton with better stats and accepting the odd free breakfast. When his OCG money-laundering mistress ran over her accountant and he helped her to cover it up though, he got entangled with the gang, who killed Jackie and threatened to frame him for her murder if he didn’t assist in covering up a series of drug murders. Gates did bad things, but redeemed himself by bringing in Tommy Hunter before he reached the end of the line.
14. DCI Roz Huntley
Crime: Attempting to cover up the manslaughter of Tim Ifield
Working for the OCG? No, though her boss ACC Hilton and husband’s pal Jimmy Lakewell were
Currently: Serving a 10 year sentence for Manslaughter in HMP Brentiss
Sit. Rep: Huntley’s corruption may have been OCG-adjacent, but she was just trying to save her own skin after accidentally murdering a man who was about to dismember what he thought was her corpse. Instead of coming clean about what happened with Ifield, she cut off his fingers and tampered with evidence to protect herself, but was eventually caught out by a symbolically festering wound.
13. DI Lindsay Denton
Crime: Accepting a bribe to reroute a witness transport so the OCG could ambush it, driving a car into DS Manish Prasad
Working for the OCG? Yes, but also working for moral justice
Currently: Shot dead by DI Matthew Cottan
Sit. Rep: More sinned against than sinning? Denton was bent, absolutely, but her corruption perhaps says less about her than about the limitations of the law in seeing justice done. Knowing that Tommy Hunter was a child-exploiting pimp, Denton agreed to collude in his murder, recognising that his immunity deal would otherwise protect him from punishment. When she rammed DS Prasad (see below) with a car, it was because he was another child-abusing bastard who frankly, deserved everything he got.
12. DCC Mike Dryden
Crime: Officially, perverting the course of justice. Unofficially, being a pervert
Working for the OCG? He says not, but they had blackmail material on him
Currently: Resigned from the force
Sit. Rep: This may seem a high position for Dryden, but really, what a scumbag. Even forgetting Dryden’s affair with Lindsay Denton, he had a sexual predilection for underage girls and engaged in a sex act with exploited teenager Carly Kirk – set up by Tommy Hunter so the OCG could blackmail him with Kirk’s dead body (or a body made to look like Kirk’s – she’d actually managed to escape). When Dryden’s wife was caught speeding, he lied that he was driving to get an alibi for the time he was abusing Carly. Nasty, selfish, and only out to protect himself.
11. DCS Les Hargreaves
Crime: Colluding in the Eastfield Depot raid, sexually abusing trafficking victims
Working for the OCG? Yes, blackmailed to do so
Currently: Shot dead by DS John Corbett
Sit. Rep: The OCG ran the illegal brothel Hargreaves visited to have sex with underage trafficking victims, which meant they had blackmail material on him. Not just that, they kept his used condoms in a freezer, ready to plant his DNA on any murder victim they chose. That’s why he helped them steal the £50 million of goods from Eastfield depot, where he was killed.
10. DS Danny Waldron
Crime: Murder, kidnapping, torture, conspiracy
Working for the OCG? Absolutely not
Currently: Shot dead by PC Hari Bains
Sit. Rep: This is another tricky one. There’s no doubt that Danny Waldron did terrible things, but much like Lindsay Denton, he did those terrible things to some truly terrible people. Ronan and Linus Murphy were part of the paedophile ring that abused boys at the Sands View Children’s Home. When Danny killed one, and tortured and beheaded the other, it was hard not to sympathise. Once again, his acts showed a police officer not trusting the legal system to provide justice.
9. AFO Lambert
Crime: Shooting fellow officers to bust DI Cottan out of HQ, helping to frame Steve for Lindsay Denton’s murder
Working for the OCG? Big time
Currently: Shot dead by DI Kate Fleming
Sit. Rep: A surprise maybe, that a character with no lines would be so high up this list, but AFO Lambert did very bad things. When Dot had been rumbled and requested an urgent extraction, it was Lambert who shot his fellow guard and escorted Cottan out of the premises. Prior to that, he’d helped Dot doctor the firearms paperwork that almost had Steve framed for the shooting of Lindsay Denton. In the end, Kate took him down.
8. DS John Corbett
Crime: Murdering at least five bent coppers, torturing Roisin Hastings
Working for the OCG? Yes and no. He ran it, but as an undercover officer
Currently: Killed by the OCG
Sit. Rep: Like Ted Hastings, DS Corbett was on a mission to rid Central Police of bent coppers, but unlike Ted Hastings, DS Corbett took an unlawful shortcut. He had the heroin convoy coppers killed, had Maneet’s throat slit and personally gunned down DCS Hargreaves. The really unconscionable act though, was his torture of Roisin Hastings.
7. Gill Biggeloe
Crime: Major cover-ups, perverting the course of justice, enabling institutional corruption
Working for the OCG? Absolutely
Currently: In witness protection, somewhere bleak
Sit. Rep: “It’s complicated”, Gill told Ted when he asked her why she’d tried to frame him as ‘H’, but then she’s always had that “non-exclusive relationship with the truth”. It wasn’t complicated; Gill Biggeloe was just greedy and took the OCG’s money to fund her silk blouses and posh car. Not strictly an officer, she was Central Police’s Senior Legal Counsel, and as such enabled multiple crimes. Most heinously of all, she very nearly succeeded in framing Ted Hastings and disbanding AC-12.
6. DC Jeremy Cole
Crime: Murdering the 5th September ambush cops, pushing Georgia out of a window, killing Tommy Hunter, impersonating a nurse
Working for the OCG? Hundo P
Currently: Beaten to death by DS Prasad (see below)
Sit. Rep: Just an absolute bent bastard. Along with DS Prasad, these Vice cops groomed vulnerable underage girls to be sexually exploited by Tommy Hunter’s operation.
5. DS Manish Prasad
Crime: All of the above, plus beating DC Cole to death
Working for the OCG? Oh yeah
Currently: He requested immunity, so probably in witness protection
Sit. Rep: Prasad and Cole were evil pieces of work who abused their positions to exploit the vulnerable, carried out gangland executions and generally provide the OCG’s muscle. DI Denton did get a confession out of Prasad, but seeing as she obtained it by breaking his legs with a car, it wouldn’t have been admissible in court.
4. SPO Ryan Pilkington
Crime: Years of low-level drug dealing and runner work, the murder of DS John Corbett
Working for the OCG? He’s the new Caddy, basically
Currently: A new recruit for Central Police
Sit. Rep: Ryan got in with the OCG when he was just a lad, and even at that age took part in some dreadful business including the torture of Steve Arnott. He’s seemingly without a conscience, happily slitting John Corbett’s throat, bullying Terry Boyle and cracking jokes about Jackie Laverty’s corpse. His recruitment as a student police officer was series five’s bitter punchline.
3. ACC Derek Hilton
Crime: Conspiracy to murder Steve Arnott and frame Michael Farmer, aiding DI Cottan’s career progression, recruiting Maneet Bindra and Jamie Desford for the OCG
Working for the OCG? Yes
Currently: Shot dead by the OCG in what we assume was a faked suicide
Sit. Rep: ACC Hilton’s very high up on this list for a character who, as far as we know, didn’t personally kill or torture anybody, but just because he didn’t get his hands dirty doesn’t mean he wasn’t responsible for some truly terrible things, not least the attempted murder of Steve Arnott in series four. Being the Assistant Chief Constable, he had oversight of so many police operations and did untold damage to lawful investigations while being blackmailed by the OCG.
2. DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan
Crime: A career’s worth of corruption assisting the OCG, the murders of PC Rod Kennedy and DI Lindsay Denton, lord knows what else
Working for the OCG? Since he was a boy
Currently: Shot dead by the OCG
Sit. Rep: He was ‘The Caddy’, a legendarily corrupt officer who audaciously transferred to Anti-Corruption Unit 12 after series one to curtail their investigations into the OCG. He enabled countless crimes and committed many himself, including the blackmail and recruitment of fellow officers. He’d be top of this list, in fact, if it wasn’t for Craig Parkinson’s humanising performance in the series three, where Dot was revealed not to be a moustache-twirling villain, but someone in well over his head, who’d been groomed and exploited since he was young. And how’s this for redemption? Dot died taking a bullet for Kate Fleming. In his Dying Declaration, he regularly continues to provide AC-12 with insider tips from beyond the grave. You can hate what the Caddy did, but you can’t hate him.
1. Ch. Supt. Patrick Fairbanks
Crime: Participating in and covering up the long-term sexual abuse of children
Working for the OCG? In cahoots with them, yes
Currently: Serving a 10 year sentence
Sit. Rep: The dreadful nature of Fairbanks’ crimes combined with his seniority are what make him the worst of the worst. A mason, he used his connections and position to quell the voices of the children he abused, and colluded with fellow abusers in the OCG to kill the sole adult who tried to help them – social worker Oliver Stephens Lloyd. A criminal protected by his status, he’s a symbol of corruption, who was living a comfortable retirement as a pillar of the community until Danny Waldron and AC-12 did their jobs and sent him down in perhaps the most satisfying collar of the series as a whole.
Line of Duty series six starts on Sunday the 21st of March at 9pm on BBC One.