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NHS, BBC staff also raised ‘serious concerns’ over treatment - LFB probe lawyer

NHS, BBC staff also raised ‘serious concerns’ over treatment - LFB probe lawyer

Nazir Afzal says a national inquiry should focus on misogyny and racism across all public sectors
Staff at the NHS, the BBC and at least five police forces have raised “serious concerns” with the way they are being treated, a lawyer who reviewed the culture at London Fire Brigade (LFB) has said.

Former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal, said a national inquiry into the culture at other public bodies is needed, “particularly in relation to misogyny” as well as racism.

His review into culture at LFB found “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women”, while colleagues from minority backgrounds were “frequently the target of racist abuse”.

Mr Afzal said he has been approached in the past 24 hours by several people who work for public bodies such as the BBC, NHS and police in the wake of his review.

He later told of being approached by people with the Army and the Navy, who expressed similar experiences.

Speaking at a briefing at the LFB headquarters in central London on Saturday, he said: “There are members of five different police forces who have approached me and said similar concerns about their own forces, I won’t name them.

“I’ve had approaches, it may shock, from the BBC and I’ve had approaches from the National Health Service.

“They are pivotal to the British society, these organisations, and yet there are people within them that are seriously concerned about the way they’re being treated within their organisations.

“I don’t know what to do, the BBC won’t ask me, the NHS won’t ask me, somebody needs to ask the people who work in these organisations and policing.

“I can assure you there are 43 police forces with problems and with serious concerns, and yet you currently know only about two.

“There needs to be a national inquiry, particularly in relation to misogyny because this is a subject that hasn’t had the attention that it deserves.”

Mr Afzal said the inquiry should focus on misogyny and racism across all sectors.

He told PA: “We’re not talking about a tiny outbreak here, a tiny outbreak there.

“This is a national pandemic issue, which requires a national pandemic-type response.”

It comes after the LFB review revealed a black firefighter was subject to racist bullying which culminated in someone putting a mock noose above his locker.

The review also referred to a Muslim firefighter, bullied because of his faith, who had bacon put in his sandwich by his colleagues.

Over a period of 10 months, a seven-strong team led by Mr Afzal gathered evidence of what people experienced in their working environment and the wider culture that supported this.

It has accounts ranging from women being groped to people having their helmets filled with urine.

In his conclusion, Mr Afzal said: “My review found evidence that supports a finding that LFB is institutionally misogynist and racist.”

The report, which makes 23 recommendations, is based on the experiences of hundreds of staff members.

The review was established in response to the death of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, who took his own life in August 2020.

His family were concerned that he had been bullied because of his race, the report said.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is a modern and inclusive organisation that seeks to create a culture where everyone can thrive professionally and produce their best work.

“We have a zero tolerance approach and would encourage anyone who has witnessed or been subject to inappropriate behaviour, to report it.”

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