Channel 4’s flagship Dispatches investigative journalism programme has gone undercover with British Transport Police to showcase how they work to catch racist football fans on trains.
Using CCTV, the programme shows how football thugs on trains subject staff and passengers including children to a torrent of abuse as they travel to matches. For their victims, there is no way to escape as they are often blocked in their seats and even if they move carriage, they cannot leave a moving train.
Some of the most shocking footage shows an elderly Jewish man forced to move carriage as Chelsea fans shout that the “Yids” are “on their way to Auschwitz” and that “Hitler’s gonna gas ‘em again”. As the elderly man leaves, the thugs can be seen looking on “triumphantly”, according to a British Transport Police Inspector who is reviewing the footage following a complaint. Fortunately in this case, another passenger, journalist Tamanna Rahman, was sitting nearby and filmed the incident on her smartphone despite the danger to herself, then provided footage to the police. A plumber, Melvin Kerswell, was identified by police and sheepishly admitted his involvement in the repulsive thuggery, but to the frustration of the police, by the time they had identified him and tracked him down, the deadline for bringing a prosecution had passed.
The programme uses a number of cases to show the impressive lengths that British Transport Police are going to so that offenders can be identified. This tallies with Campaign Against Antisemitism’s experience of British Transport Police, whose record of investigating hate crimes tends to be stronger than that of many other police forces. For example, since passengers often fail to inform the police about hate crime on trains, police now send undercover officers posing as football fans on problematic routes. The programme shows how cases are transformed when police are provided with smartphone footage, as CCTV usually fails to capture the audio that is so crucial, especially in cases of hate crime. It also shows how far officers will go to track down individuals.
The Chief Constable of British Transport Police, Paul Crowther OBE, also shames the football clubs which all too often fail to ban fans who engage in abuse.
We commend British Transport Police for its exemplary zero tolerance approach to hate crime. Its example should be admired and replicated.
British Transport Police can be contacted by calling 0800 405040, or by sending a text message to 61016. In an emergency, always call 999.