Date: 17th April 2020
On Thursday the 16th April we watched in utter dismay Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’. The programme was highly critical of Gypsy and Traveller communities and made a number of sensationalist statements that only fuel and reinforces stereotypical racist tropes about Gypsy and Traveller people.
As an organisation that works to promote the rights and social inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, we are deeply disturbed at the divisive and racist rhetoric used in the programme’s narrative to malign an entire community. The truth certainly was not on Channel 4’s agenda last night.
A number of claims in relation to criminal activity in the Traveller community were made by the programme, but the broadcast failed to properly evidence those spurious claims. Instead, the programme relied on weak and unsubstantiated data to falsely imply a cause-and-effect relationship between Traveller site locations and crime rates. Further, when the Traveller Movement requested the raw data on which the programme relied, Channel 4 refused to share it. It also failed to consult with the experts or organisations working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities to add balance. The National Police Chiefs’ Council were not consulted and called the broadcast an “appalling” and “sensationalised” programme and stated “there is no evidence that links higher crime levels to Traveller sites nor do we have ‘no go’ sites”.
Let’s just replace the word ‘Traveller’ with any other ethnic minority to reveal just how racist this programme is.
The programme and its producers have demonstrated a complete disregard for impartial and accurate reporting and instead have resorted to the tired damaging stereotypical trope that “Travellers equals crime”.
Chair of the Traveller Movement, Pauline Anderson OBE: I am absolutely appalled at the misuse of my interview in this sensationalist TV show. At a time of national crisis when broadcasters should be bringing people together, they are instead sowing division and leaving my community vulnerable to hate crime and abuse. It’s an absolute disgrace to journalism. We expect more from Channel 4.
Founder of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller Police Association, Jim Davies: Show some sensationalized footage of crimes you’d find on deprived housing estates up and down the country, add in some statistics that would crumble under the slightest scrutiny, get unsubstantiated comments from a police officer who isn’t brave enough to show his face, and completely ignore the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association. I have no idea what the point of that programme was, but it wasn’t to tell the truth.
Advisory Committee of the Traveller Movement member, Professor Colin Clark: What was most disappointing about the programme, aside from the blatant anti-Traveller and anti-Irish agenda that was evident, was the skewed data and flawed methodology used to support the assertion that there is a demonstrated link between the geography of Traveller sites and spikes in local crime rates. It needs to be made clear that correlation does not equal causation and the producers were guilty of this on several occasions. It would be very helpful to see the raw data and methodology used by the production team for this programme so that the interpretation and analysis that was broadcast on air can be independently and objectively interrogated.
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association: Having watched Dispatches last night, the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association believe that the programme was racist, unbalanced and extremely offensive to the Gypsy and Traveller Community. We were disgraced by the content of it and have already seen an increase in the prejudice our community faces as a result. The Association would like to ask NPCC lead for GRT communities to support a national review into the service provision by police to GRT communities. This review should focus on identifying and eliminating internal systematic institutional racism and bias. The need for this is not only evidenced by the Traveller Movement report into relationships between GRT and Police but also the fact a uniformed police officer on national television felt it was acceptable and safe to be openly racist. His remarks show a complete lack of understanding of the complexities that exist in community policing and indeed policing today. No officer should fail to understand their role is to protect and serve all communities of this country. This is already having a profound impact on our own GRT officers and staff, and more importantly the community as a whole.
Yvonne MacNamara, CEO
T: 07961 432 074
Patricia Stapleton, policy manager
Notes to Editor
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
*View report: Policing by consent: Understanding and improving relations between Gypsies, Roma, Irish Travellers and the police’: