BBC, police and NHS workers also have 'racism and sexism' concerns

BBC, police and NHS workers have also raised ‘serious concerns over racism and sexism’, says author of hard-hitting report into London Fire Brigade

  • London Fire Brigade report found ‘dangerous levels of prejudice against women’
  • Report revealed minority background colleagues are ‘target of racist abuse’  
  • Nazir Afzal, who led review, said he has now been contacted by other bodies 
  • He is calling for a ‘national inquiry’ after approaches by BBC, police and NHS 

Lawyer Nazir Afzal, who led a damning report into a toxic culture inside London Fire Brigade said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ 

The lawyer who led a damning report into a toxic culture of bullying, racism and misogyny inside London Fire Brigade said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ about the way they are treated.

An independent culture review of London Fire Brigade (LFB), led by Nazir Afzal – a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West – found ‘dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women’, while colleagues from minority backgrounds are ‘frequently the target of racist abuse’.

Now Mr Afzal has called for a ‘national inquiry’ into other public bodies, saying he has been approached in the past 24 hours by several people who work for them.

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 a national inquiry should focus on misogyny and racism across all sectors.

It comes after the 70-page LFB review revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories that claim abuse and bullying are normalised in the emergency service.

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said the report was ‘very sobering’ and vowed change

In one case, a female firefighter was left with post-traumatic stress disorder after her helmet was filled with urine.

Other examples of vile behaviour include a black employee finding a noose above his locker and a Muslim firefighter discovering a terrorism hotline sticker near his belongings. 

Another Muslim firefighter, bullied because of his faith, had bacon put in his sandwich by his colleagues. 

The report, seen by The Times, was commissioned after 21-year-old Jaden Francois-Esprit, a trainee at Wembley fire station, took his own life in August 2020.

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.

The review concluded that the service was institutionally misogynistic and racist.

‘Unless a toxic culture that allows bullying and abuse to be normalised is tackled then I fear that, like Jaden, other firefighters will tragically take their lives,’ Mr Afzalm said. 

In the past five years, six members of the brigade’s staff had taken their own lives.

The report also included harrowing accounts from women, who claimed to have been groped during training exercises.

One said: ‘The threshold for bullying is so high, you would have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked. Everything else is seen as banter.’ 

More than 4,500 of the brigade’s 5,000 staff are firefighters, but just 425 are women and just over 500 are from ethnic minorities. London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said the report was ‘very sobering’.

The 70-page review revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories of abuse and bullying in the service

He added: ‘There is no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the brigade and from today it will be completely clear to all staff what behaviour isn’t acceptable and what the consequences will be.

‘I am deeply sorry for the harm that has been caused. I will be fully accountable for improving our culture and I fully accept all of the report’s 23 recommendations.

‘I want to ensure a safe, modern workplace for the dedicated, public-spirited people at the brigade who, like me, are horrified by what this review has uncovered.’

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