Former Equality Chief Accuses BBC of ‘Whitewashing’ Black-on-Black Knife Crime

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Trevor Phillips, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, speaks at the British Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference held at the headquarters of BAFTA on March 18, 2010 in London, England. The annual conference entitled 'Preparing for Change - Setting the Business Agenda' …
Oli Scarff/Getty

Trevor Phillips has accused the BBC of “whitewashing” crime stories by not addressing the high number of black-on-black stabbings, and warned politicians and police to stop ignoring the links between race and gang violence.

Mr Phillips, the former head of the United Kingdom’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR), made the comments in an opinion piece in The Telegraph on Friday, following a string of stabbings in London and Birmingham.

Referencing a report released on Thursday which revealed that some 27,000 under-19s in England identify themselves as being part of a gang, Mr Phillips noted that in terms of youth gang violence, “black boys are more than 20 times as likely to be involved in serious attacks compared with their white peers.”

“Yet, to read our newspapers and to listen to our media, you would imagine that race played no part in this issue at all,” the Policy Exchange think tank senior fellow wrote.

“The BBC in particular is guilty of whitewashing the truth. Its defence is that race should only be reported where it is relevant. Yet it has no qualms about routinely describing stop and search by police in racial terms.”

“The daily parade of dark faces in items about knife crime tells its own story,” he remarked. “And the routine appearance of such individuals as ‘Olu from Brixton’ in radio interviews would provoke howls of ‘racist dog-whistling’ around Broadcasting House were the BBC’s own journalists not so deeply complicit in the silence.”

Admonishing police, the media, and politicians for wasting time and resources by arguing over police numbers and “tough tactics”, Mr Phillips said, “We need to focus honestly on who is dying and who is doing the killing if we are to stop the carnage.”

Across England, nine males have died, mostly as a result of a stabbing, in the past week, with three under-19s being stabbed to death in Birmingham in less than two weeks.

Normally associated with London, the issue of youth knife violence in the Midlands city hit the headlines after the fatal stabbing of three minority ethnic males, Hazrat Umar, 18, Abdullah Muhammad, 16, and Sidali Mohamed, 16.

The string of youth murders resulted in West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson declaring knife crime “an emergency”, with 269 knife crimes recorded in Birmingham so far this year, 97 of which were stabbings.

Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, saw its bloodiest year in a decade in 2018, with the city’s murder rate per capita between April and September being higher than for that same period in London.

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