'Emmerdale': Aaron Dingle prison ordeal sparks almost 200 viewers complaints

Emmerdale has triggered almost 200 complaints after popular gay character Aaron Dingle's prison abuse storyline took a dark and disturbing turn in Monday night's episode. In recent weeks viewers have seen Aaron (played by Danny Miller) struggle to cope with life behind bars as the ITV soap explores the very real issue of homophobia in prison. The former mechanic, who forms on half of the show's popular couple 'Robron' with Robert Sugden (Ryan Hawley), has been victimised by thuggish fellow inmate Jason (Samuel Edward-Cook) since his sexuality was disocvered last week. Monday night's episode (March 6) saw Jason take his campaign of abuse to another level as he violently assaulted Aaron and taunted him about suffering sexual abuse at the hands of his father Gordon (Gary Mavers), who took his life in the same prison during a dark storyline broadcast last year. After trapping Aaron in the cell in which his father hanged himself, Jason pinned him down and told him: "Your pansy old man died in here." He continued: "This is where he laid at night thinking about all the things you and him got up to. "Did you cry for him to stop, or did you secretly want him to carry on?" He added: "I reckon the last thought that went through his head, your dad, was that it was worth it because he ruined you."

A spokesperson for Ofcom confirmed to DigitalSpy that the TV watchdog had received 180 complaints from viewers about the upsetting scenes, which were broadcast before well the 9pm watershed.

"We will assess these complaints before deciding whether to investigate or not," they said.

ITV have defended the episode's, saying a message was broadcast beforehand warning viewers about the nature of the episode. "The threat of violence towards Aaron Dingle was signposted both before and during last night's episode, which included a pre-transmission warning of scenes some viewers might find upsetting," a spokesperson said. "The issue of violence in prisons is a real and highly topical one, and many viewers have praised the storyline for highlighting the homophobia some people face within the criminal justice system. "The actual violence shown towards Aaron was, however, carefully judged and suitably limited, given the scheduling of the programme." Aaron's agonising storyline was previously praised by LGBT charity Stonewall, who said: "Gay men experience homophobia in many different parts of their lives, whether at work, in school or in their local communities, and it’s great to see Emmerdale tackling the abuse that lesbian, gay, bi and trans people continue to face.

“It’s vital that all prison staff are trained in how to prevent and tackle anti-LGBT behaviour, and that all public institutions take pride in promoting diversity and inclusion.”

Emmerdale continues at 7pm tonight (March 8) on ITV. More stories: BBC News’ James Longman on the reality of reporting from the Middle East as a gay man George Michael’s former partner Fadi Fawaz breaks silence after singer’s cause of death is confirmed