Sergeant Viv James (Geff Francis) first appears in series one as a uniformed sergeant working in the front office of Fenchurch East Police Station. During episode seven, Shaz Granger is stabbed by Gil Hollis and in retaliation, Gene Hunt allows Chris Skelton and Ray Carling to violently assault Hollis while he is cuffed and in police custody. James pleads with the officers to stop, and eventually receives an apology from Hunt.

During episode six of the third series, James enters HMP Fenchurch East in order to quell a major prison riot along with his colleagues, and on their retreat he is left behind and taken hostage by those inside. It is later revealed that he arranged with Jason Sacks, the orchestrator of the riot, to bring in a firearm in return for another prisoner to admit to the crime his nephew is being held for, allowing his release. During the episode, James is shot and while the riot is underway he single-handedly defends the wing his cousin is held on. He is later shot again by Jason Sacks and as he lies dying, he is found by DCI Jim Keats, who makes no attempt to help him, but places his hands either side of his head while he dies, claiming when the rest of the team arrives that James was already dead when he got there; Gene informs the rest of the team to claim that James was simply injured in the riot without revealing his role in it.
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In the finale Chris mentions a dream he had of Viv surrounded by flames; given the episode's revelations about the characters all being in an afterlife, who Keats is and how Viv died, the implication is that Viv has ended up in Hell.