Murdered disabled refugee Bijan Ebrahimi failed by 'Institutional racism' within police force and council

Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten to death and set on fire by his neighbour in July 2013. Credit: Family Photo

"Institutional racism" caused a council and police to take sides with the abuser who burned a disabled refugee to death, a report has found.

Safer Bristol Partnership found Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Bristol City Council, ignored Bijan Ebrahimi's repeated reports of "assaults, threats to kill him, harassment, criminal damage to his property and racist abuse".

They instead saw Mr Ebrahimi as the "primary problem" and following an incident between him and Lee James in 2013, arrested him under the Public Order Act, giving him an Anti Social Behavioural Order (ASBO).

This was despite James, who would later go on to kill him, being aggressive and threatening towards Ebrahimi even in front of police officers.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission earlier this year found that 44-year-old Ebrahimi had made more than 100 calls for help to police, sometimes fearing for his life.

He had even made a call up to an hour before he was beaten to death and set alight by James on a Bristol estate in July 2013. Mr Ebrahimi's neighbours, who were mostly white, had wrongfully labelled him as a paedophile. James, then 24, was sentenced to life in prison in November 2013.

The report says, "As an Iranian man living in this environment, Mr Ebrahimi was disadvantaged by the inappropriate responses by Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Bristol City Council to his racist victimisation.

"More account should have been taken" by the police and council "of Mr Ebrahimi’s isolation and vulnerability as an Iranian man in these circumstances."

Mr Ebrahimi had moved to Bristol from Iran in 2000 and was granted indefinite leave to remain July 2001.

He was moved to several flats over the years following a number of aggressive incidents towards him:

  • 2005 - A tenant in Mr Ebrahimi's rented house in Bedminster throws hot water on him, causing significant scalding injuries.

  • 2006 - Mr Ebrahimi is moved to a flat in The Whartons in Brislington.

  • 2007 - Mr Ebrahimi makes nine 999 calls to police reporting arson on his house and car. "Pervert" is daubed on his front door. He is moved to a flat in Capgrave Crescent.

  • 2008-2012 - Mr Ebrahimi makes multiple calls to police - 74 over the course of four years - many are 999 calls, reporting racist abuse, threats and assaults.

The report found Mr Ebrahimi was treated with Credit: ITV News/Avon & Somerset Constabulary

In February 2016, PC Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore, 56, were imprisoned for misconduct in a public office in connection with Ebrahimi's death.

Both the council and police have accepted the report's findings of a "collective failure" and have apologised.

We know that understanding vulnerability, spotting it early and working closely with our partners to protect and safeguard victims is of paramount importance and our new ways of working, introduced after Mr Ebrahimi’s murder, fully embrace this approach.

Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary statement

Chief Constable Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset Constabulary said the force "failed him in his hour of need".

Once again, I want to offer my sincere apologies to Mr Ebrahimi's family.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Ebrahimi's sisters say the "institutional racism" findings are "devastating":

Manisha Mooras, Ebrahimi's sister.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees also apologised to Mr Ebrahimi's family on behalf of the council.

We appreciate that no amount of lessons learned or changes in practice can possibly mitigate the impact this had on Bijan and his family," he said.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Brisol

The family’s solicitor, Tony Murphy of Bhatt Murphy says acknowledging that institutional racism played a central part in this case "is an essential first step towards systemic change".

There is no reason why the Council could not have taken this step much sooner and its delay has been injurious, not just to Bijan’s family, but to public confidence in the Council’s ability to combat racism. The Mayor’s recent commitment to working with the family and to gaining public confidence via meaningful reform is welcome.

Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy

The report makes 14 recommendations, including accurate recording of crimes by Avon and Somerset Constabulary and a genuine justification if decided otherwise; as well as recorded hate incidents being shared with support organisations such as Victim Support or Stand Against Racism & Inequality: SARI.

SARI say Mr Ebrahimi was 'failed' by the institutions he sought help from.

Institutional Racism was a key factor in why Bijan was failed in the years prior to his murder when he sought help repeatedly. We hope that identifying this underlying cause will help to create effective solutions to combatting hate crime.

Alex Raikes, SARI

More information about how to report concerns about hate crime or antisocial behaviour can be found here:

  • Watch the ITV News report by Wales & West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn