Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Front Page - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ @Oliv­erClayRWWN

HAL­TON Coun­cil has been ac­cused of ‘bla­tant racism’ after it used a pic­ture of two young black Amer­i­can men to il­lus­trate a story about the youth jus­tice sys­tem.

The im­age ap­pears to have been a stock im­age lifted from any num­ber of web­sites in­clud­ing Shutterstock.

Kirsty Walker, a blog­ger who works in the City Of Liver­pool Col­lege’s English de­part­ment, raised the is­sue, point­ing out that Run­corn and Widnes are largely white and have very few black res­i­dents com­pared to the bulk of the pop­u­la­tion, which she said was 98% white.

Although the im­age is not racist in and of it­self, Kirsty said the coun­cil’s choice of pic­ture stereo­typed black peo­ple as crim­i­nals.

A re­verse im­age search for the pic­ture on­line re­veals that it might have been lifted from Shutterstock, where its file name is listed as ‘Two young African Amer­i­cans. A per­son can be seen in the back­ground out of fo­cus’.

At www.fea­ it is called ‘ Young African Amer­i­cans’ and at the Ger­man site­to­ it is ‘Amerikaner’, although it has generic num­bers and let­ters names on some sites.

The pic­ture was the more prom­i­nent im­age of the two stock pic­tures used with the coun­cil news story on its web­site, the other show­ing a young white woman with the file name used by the coun­cil as ‘care leaver’, but the pic­ture of the two black men was the im­age used on the lo­cal author­ity’s Face­book page.

Other pic­tures used for other sto- ries show white peo­ple in the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of cases.

Kirsty said nei­ther im­age was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of young peo­ple en­ter­ing the jus­tice sys­tem in Hal­ton.

Cit­ing fig­ures in the Cheshire Youth Jus­tice Board plan 2014-17, she said of 11 young peo­ple en­ter­ing the jus­tice sys­tem for the first time, ie be­ing con­victed of a crime for the first time, in Jan­uary-March 2014, one was black and 10 were white.

She added it re­quires some dig­ging on the Shutterstock web­site to find the pic­ture of the black men, and she had to type in ‘black youth’ to find it.

Most of the most highly-ranked im­ages found un­der a search us­ing the term ‘youth jus­tice’ show pic­tures of white hands in hand­cuffs.

Ac­cord­ing to 2011 cen­sus data, 97.8% of Hal­ton’s pop­u­la­tion are white Bri­tish, Ir­ish, Trav­eller or white other. The per­cent­age clas­si­fied as black was 0.2%.

Kirsty said: “When I saw the pic­ture ac­com­pa­ny­ing the press re­lease about youth jus­tice in Hal­ton I could tell in­stantly it was a stock photo, which meant that some­one had been look­ing for an im­age to sug­gest young peo­ple in the jus­tice sys­tem and thought that two young black men was the best im­age to il­lus­trate this.

“In Hal­ton, 98% of peo­ple are white so there was no rea­son for the press of­fice to use a pic­ture of two black Amer­i­can teenagers, this was bla­tant racism as black men of­ten suf­fer from be­ing stereo­typed as crim­i­nals.

“There is no way that two black men and one white woman rep­re­sent the most com­mon iden­ti­ties in the Hal­ton Youth Jus­tice Sys­tem.”

“If it was some­where with a sig­nif­i­cant black pop­u­la­tion it would still be in stereo­typ­ing ter­ri­tory but in Hal­ton it is just racist.

She added: “It’s sad they can’t even see that.”

A Hal­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil spokeswoman said: “We have re­ceived an email from your reader.

“We will look into the is­sues that have been raised and re­spond to her di­rectly.”

● Hal­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil has been ac­cused of ‘bla­tant racism’ after post­ing a story about youth jus­tice

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