Last week, the series connected a fictional police corruption scandal to the real-world paedophile Jimmy Savile, in a turn which some viewers said pushed the boundaries of good taste.
In episode three of the hit BBC One crime drama, which aired last night (4 April), journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho) seemed to allude to Richard when discussing fictional police misconduct within the show’s world.
In one scene, Vella, whose character is murdered before the start of series six, is seen in a video interviewing Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani (Ace Bhatti).
“Instead of pursuing the guilty police officers, your constabulary investigated celebrities and VIPs all without charge,” she tells the official.
“Officers arguably colluded with the BBC in enabling a news helicopter to film the search of an elderly pop star’s home, again, without charge.”
Viewers interpreted the line as a reference to the searching of Richard’s house back in August 2014 by South Yorkshire Police, following a child sexual assault allegation.
In 2013, a man told the Metropolitan Police that Richard had sexually assaulted him when he was a child in 1985. Richard strenuously denied the allegation and was never arrested, and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges.
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The broadcaster was ruled to have infringed on the singer’s privacy in a “serious and sensationalist way” in its extensive coverage of the police raid, which included the use of aerial footage taken from a helicopter.
Line of Duty viewers reacted to the reference on social media, with one person describing the line as a “big dig at the BBC”.
“Not sure Cliff will appreciate being called an ‘elderly pop star’,” wrote another.
“Jimmy Saville last week. Cliff Richard this week,” wrote someone else, alongside a shocked face emoji.
Line of Duty continues on BBC One at 9pm next Sunday.
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