Bijan Ebrahimi’s murder in 2013 was truly appalling and will not be forgotten. Yesterday, Safer Bristol Partnership published an independent review which examines and responds to the ways local organisations, including Bristol City Council, interacted with Mr Ebrahimi prior to his death.
The review states that there was evidence of institutional racism within our organisation. Institutional racism is a collective failure by an organisation to provide appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.
The report makes no accusation of racism by individual colleagues, or of specific acts. However, we recognise that there is work to be done to address the concerns at an organisational level.
We sincerely and wholeheartedly apologise for the failings in the council’s treatment of Bijan leading up to his tragic death, and appreciate that no amount of lessons learned or changes in practice can possibly mitigate the impact this had on Bijan and his family. I have met with the family to apologise in person.
Recommendations for improvement
The review includes a number of recommendations for how we can improve.
We must ensure that any action we are considering which could have a punitive effect on a victim, is only taken following an accurate assessment of the situation, and considers the likely effects. We must also minimise the risk to victims and witnesses as a result of the action.
In future cases, any application for an anti-social behaviour injunction must be based on accurate evidence which presents a balanced view. The subject of the injunction should be told about the application unless there is a strong reason not to.
Wherever we are dealing with vulnerable tenants who have multiple, complex needs we must ensure those tenant’s needs are being met, and be sure that the process for assessing our tenant’s vulnerability is complied with.
The report makes it clear that there is a standard to be met in all our dealings with vulnerable citizens. If we are to be the type of organisation which we aspire to be, we must meet that standard. This is for the sake of the city and organisation, but also for our colleagues, who come to work committed to delivering for the city.
We have already taken action to address our failures, and make changes which minimise the risk of such an incident ever being repeated.
The way we and our partner organisations work are now dramatically different. We have improved how we assess risk, identify and support vulnerable people and recognise the complex needs which individuals can have. We will also be updating and improving our racial equality training for all colleagues, there will be more information on this soon.
The learning from Mr Ebrahimi’s case does not end with the publication of the review, and it is important that we all understand our personal role in the ongoing process of improvement.