18th March 2021

Is Line of Duty’s DI Steve Arnott “skating on wafer-thin ice”?

So, at the end of season five of the BBC’s Line of Duty, what have we learned?

  1. Morse code for “H” is four dots (please don’t start me on the whole four dots revelation)
  2. Accused police officers can insist on being questioned by someone “of at least one rank superior”.
  3. Regulation 15 Notice Interviews are the most exciting part of any Line of Duty episode (even with that really annoying tape-recorder beep which precedes every single interview)

Season 6 of the BBC’s Line of Duty recommences on Sunday. For those who haven’t watched it yet, Superintendent Ted Hasting is the Senior Investigating Officer at the Anti-Corruption (AC) Unit within Central Police. Hastings is the plain-speaking, old-school copper with the Easter Island nose and the icy death stare. The AC-12 Unit is tasked with investigating the corrupt actions of police officers.

A Regulation 15 Notice is served when an officer is suspected of general or gross misconduct. In total, there have been nine Regulation 15 Notices served since the start of this TV drama.

But today, I question why Detective Inspector Steve Arnott is still employed by AC-12? Surely any employer in its right mind would have dismissed Arnott for his past misdemeanours.

OK, so, let’s ignore Arnott’s initial act of gross negligence at the very start of the series when he mistook a “6” for a “9”, identified the wrong flat and instructed his counter-terrorist team to raid it, resulting in the death of an innocent man. Arnott was reflective. And remorseful. And stuck to his story, regardless of the pressure he was put under by his colleagues and superiors to tow the party line and tell a lie.

Having said that, there are still plenty more reasons why Arnott should have been dismissed long before now….

Serious insubordination

First there is the small matter of serious insubordination. So, Steve is dogged. And tenacious. He’s even thorough (at times). But his problem is that he clings on and doesn’t let go, no matter where the investigations may lead him…

An employee who disregards lawful instruction may be guilty of serious insubordination. Remember in season five when Arnott tipped off an OCG (Organised Crime Group) about a police raid. Even if Arnott believed that he was working with an UPO (Undercover Police Officer) within the OCG, it is not the done thing. As Hasting stated to Arnott, “For Christ’s sake, son, you’ve broken every rule in the book!”

But worse still, was Arnott’s disregard of Hasting’s “Fahrenheit” instruction. Avid viewers might recall Arnott meeting with the main protagonist (who was an UPO in the OGC). Arnott was given back up by AC-12 who were hiding in an undercover van and speaking to him via a wire. Hastings ordered Arnott to shoot the UPO (in the OCG) and Arnott refused! Yeah, so Hasting’s instruction was arguably illegal. However surely Arnott’s serious insubordination should have caused AC-12 some concerns, regardless of Steve’s misguided pursuit of justice. Come on. Arnott went rogue against the UPO of the OCG, putting his life (and others) at risk. OMG and WTF?

Serious incapability at work brought on by illegal drugs

And remember when Arnott was investigating DCI Huntley’s husband. Arnott’s doggedness in refusing to get off the phone to the husband meant that he couldn’t pick up Hastings warnings that the husband could be dangerous. On the way up in the lift, this anti-corruption terrier was attacked by “balaclava man”. After a stairwell tussle, Arnott was thrown down three flights of stairs.

After Arnott’s fall down the stairs, he clearly suffers from a long-term physical effect: back problems which have led to a reliance on painkillers and…. ahem… difficulties performing in the bedroom.

But why was he at work during this time? Should Arnott not have declared himself as unfit to work as a police officer during this time?

Let in the season, it gets a whole lot worse for poor old Stevie-boy. None of his colleagues have yet discovered how badly his injuries have affected him. More recently, we have seen him, alone in his flat, popping more pills…

Who has assessed the physical and psychological impact of the waistcoat-clad, pocket-rocket’s attack?

And in the very final episode of season five, Arnott is involved in his first fatal shooting of (bent) red-haired cop in the ladies’ toilet. This was quickly followed up by his tender confession of, “I’ve never shot anyone before….”

OK, so season five demonstrated Steve’s ability to grow a beard but his pain killer addiction can’t have done wonders for his mental health. If an employee works in a regulated profession, surely that employee has a duty to disclose his or her fitness (or otherwise) to carry out their duties? I suspect that if Hastings discovered the true extent of Arnott’s addiction to pain killers, he would be yelling more than “Mother of God”.

Bringing the organisation into disrepute

The final issue of gross misconduct is the fact that Arnott could have brought the organisation into disrepute. Remember in season two, when Arnott was caught canoodling with the nurse on the witness’ ward? If ever there was a reason to use the monkey-hiding-behind-its-eyes-emoji, it was when DI Denton (the suspect in AC-12’s investigations) produced the photos of Arnott in the nurse’s bedroom during Denton’s Regulation 15 Interview.

Worse still was when Mr Dive-Into-Dodgy-Relationship-With-Suspect-First-Ask-Questions-Later was caught canoodling with DI Denton. OK. I hear you. Arnott’s position was that he was trying to win Denton’s trust through sexual tensions. And sure, although it was eventually revealed that something had happened … although not much… that was OK? Surely not.

To me, that demonstrated a reckless lack of judgment, inexcusable for someone in Arnott’s position. Imagine if this had been reported outwith the interview room? Would Hastings really have allowed him back into AC-12 when he knew that Arnott behaved improperly? I mean, his magical eyebrows of sexual magnetism have worked wonders in the past. But an employee with the habit of sleeping with witnesses is a dangerous person to have on your team? How many more investigations will Arnott compromise?

So how will Arnott get on in season six? I suspect that we’ll see Arnott continually reminding Hastings of his eagerness to be bumped up the ranks? (I should point out that it takes some brass neck to suggest a promotion after nearly derailing the whole department)

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Hastings doesn’t have to issue Arnott with another Regulation 15 Notice. Otherwise Hastings will be very, very disappointed in him and might even suggest that Arnott himself should be sucking diesel, fella.

Simon Allison, Partner
Employment Law
Blackadders LLP
@EmpLawyerSimon

www.blackadders.co.uk

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