LEICESTER, United Kingdom – England’s national Catholic chaplain for gypsies, Roma and Travellers says a new television documentary will only “reinforce … prejudice” against the communities.
The documentary “The Truth About Traveller Crime” aired on Channel 4 on Thursday night, and claimed to document extortion, theft, vandalism, and violence stemming from the community.
Travellers are a nomadic group originating in Ireland, and there are tens of thousands living in the United Kingdom. Although they are often called “gypsies” in Britain, they are distinct from the Roma community found throughout the rest of Europe. Altogether, there an estimated 300,000 members of these nomadic groups living in the UK.
“Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities make a valuable contribution to our society, yet face extraordinary levels of racism and discrimination. Almost every man, woman and child has suffered some form of hate speech or hate crime,” said Father Dan Mason, the national Catholic chaplain for the communities.
The documentary centers on a community in the Leicestershire town of Lutterworth and attributes a disproportionate amount of crime to the Traveller community in Britain.
“Channel 4’s program used sensationalist language, selective examples and dubious statistics which will only reinforce this prejudice. Such broadcasts would be dangerous and irresponsible at the best of times. Coming amid a national crisis, and a pandemic that’s hitting minority communities so hard, is particularly unacceptable,” the priest continued.
Professor Colin Clark, a members of the advisory committee of the Traveller Movement advocacy group, said what was “most disappointing” about the Channel 4 documentary – “aside from the blatant anti-Traveller and anti-Irish agenda that was evident” – was the use of what he called skewed data and flawed methodology in the program.
“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 program so that the interpretation and analysis that was broadcast on air can be independently and objectively interrogated,” he said in a statement.
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association said they had “seen an increase in the prejudice our community faces as a result” of the documentary, and called for a national review into the relationship between police and the gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities.
It pointed to the fact that an anonymous uniformed officer appeared on the program and “felt it was acceptable and safe to be openly racist,” and showed a “complete lack of understanding of the complexities that exist” in policing the community.
“This review should focus on identifying and eliminating internal systematic institutional racism and bias,” the association said.
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