Racial blunder smashes company's sales appeal

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The gross caricature of a black man has a hammer in one hand and a torch in the other and he is coming through the window.

"Stop Burglars for Good" screams the message from the brochure, which has arrived in households across suburban England during recent months.

There are seven people featured in the glossy document, and only one of them is black - the one homing in on the carriage clock and the china.

The others are the friendly white staff from Deltrex Glazing Systems and the white family gazing securely outwards from their newly protected home.

The brochure - which carries the Home Office logo Crime ... Together We'll Crack It - was held up yesterday as a symbol of how far Britain has to go to achieve a multicultural society.

Yesterday the Manchester-based company claimed to have sent out thousands of the brochures and not received a single complaint.

It said it had discussed the document with police crime- prevention officers.

One person who did take issue with the brochure was Robert Powell, a white photographer, who took the matter up with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after receiving a brochure as an insert in the upmarket Cheshire Life magazine. "I was horrified," said Mr Powell. "The brochure seemed to assume that the reader was racist."

He was even more dismayed when the ASA responded by saying: "The ASA Council did not object to the brochure under the codes". Mr Powell, who described the response as "spineless", sent copies of the advertisement and his correspondence to the Tottenham MP, Bernie Grant, who has campaigned against negative images of black people in advertising.

Mr Grant said: "This just shows the huge gap in perceptions between the black community and parts of the white community.

"It shows what an enormous way we have to go before we can be regarded as a sensitive society in terms of race.

"If this does not breach the ASA regulations then it is the regulations that need changing."

He added that in the United States the company would have been heavily censured and faced a trading boycott from local authorities and government departments.

The ASA did agree to contact Deltrex, which instructed its printers to lighten the skin colour of the burglar "as much as their process will allow". Other copies of the brochure with the original image were to be scrapped.

John McGowan, the company's general manager, said: "I don't really regret anything. It was never the intention to upset a white or black person or anybody else."