Politicians 'are leaving black youths to die'

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The Independent Online

An adviser to the Home Office on gun crime has sparked a furious row after claiming that politicians were "leaving black youths to die" by cutting funding to community groups.

Derrick Campbell was accused of "insulting" community organisations, but insisted he had hard evidence that groups which had helped cut gun crime had lost grants.

Mr Campbell, chairman of the National Independent Advisory Group on Criminal Use of Firearms, spoke out after the deaths of three young men in 24 hours in London, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

"We have clear evidence of organisations which used to be funded and have delivered on outcomes but have suddenly not been supported," he said. "And we have to ask the question whether there seems to be an acceptance that if another black youth is killed they are just another one that we don't have to worry about.

"Black youths within this country have been left to die. That's a very strong statement, but it's a statement that seems to be borne out through evidence about black youths who seem to be at the top of the list when it comes to our youngsters being killed." Speaking to the BBC, he added: "Now we're asking very serious questions of national government and local government as to why it seems that resources that have been allocated for community cohesion and other activities have not been going to those organisations."

Mr Campbell pointed to the huge attention surrounding the killing of 11-year-old Rhys Jones – a white boy from Liverpool – a year ago, insisting that the case got more media and government attention than the deaths of black youths.

He said he had raised his arguments directly with the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and with members of the House of Lords.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, said: "Cutting funds to vital community groups at time when we are seeing so many young people involved in knife crimes would appear to go against all common sense. The Government has made no real assessment of what effect many community projects are actually having, meaning that cuts in funding could hit some of the organisations that are actually having the biggest impact.

"It's not enough for ministers to talk tough on crime, they also have to support projects that help stop people getting involved in crime in the first place."

Tony McNulty, the Police minister, said: "Frankly, what Derrick says is an insult to black groups and other community groups up and down the country who are being funded by local and central government and work in this area on a daily and regular basis.

"I do need to knock down the notion that somehow there is a national conspiracy of, at best, indifference and, at worst, an active policy that says somehow the death of young black men on our streets doesn't matter. It matters profoundly and it matters in every single instance whether the individual is black or white."

He added: "The clamour – to use that sort of deprecating phrase – over Rhys Jones was the circumstances of it, the age of poor Rhys Jones and the circumstances fairly unique in Liverpool, a place where it had not happened much before. I don't accept that it is a stark black-and-white issue."