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Outrage over disrespect to grieving black families

UNDER FIRE: The Funeral services industry

A VETERAN anti-racism campaigner has called for legislation to be strengthened to tackle bigotry in the private sector after a secret recording showed staff at a funeral services company being racist and disrespecting the dead.

Lee Jasper told The Voice he was outraged after seeing footage from ITV’s Exposure programme, entitled The British Way of Death .

Jasper, co-chair of BARAC UK, said what he saw was “profoundly disturbing. The desecration of the dead, the most toxic racism and sexism against a backdrop of extortionate pricing will case deep and profound distress.”

He said: “The anger this documentary will cause will be widespread. This why we need to strengthen legislation that can challenge the racism of the private sector. Unquestionably some of the most foul and despicable racial hatred I've witnessed for some time.”

The programme, aired on ITV last night (Sept 26), saw two undercover journalists go to work with two companies that make up 40 percent of the British funeral industry.

In it, undercover reporters secretly recorded staff making what Jasper calls “the most toxic” racist and sexist remarks and desecrating the dead.

Among the incidents they saw were:
• Family members being called ‘animals’ at an African Caribbean man’s funeral after his widow complained about an "awful" smell at her own husband's funeral. The body had been left unrefrigerated for six days, according to the programme description on ITV News.

• Funeral staff chanting 'Chelsea scum' at a corpse before sealing his coffin

• Staff failing to dress the deceased in clothes their loved ones had provided for them and

• Staff watching pornography on a mobile phone while driving a hearse

OUTRAGED: Lee Jasper

Commenting on one of the funeral services companies, Jasper continued: “Funeral Partners Ltd's treatment of the deceased and their families plumbed the depths of depravity. The National Federation of Funeral Directors should strike this firm off with immediate effect.”

Jasper added: “The Police should arrest those who used racial and religious abuse. The company itself should be boycotted and those families featured in the programme should receive substantial compensation…”

Phillip Greenfield, chief executive of Funeral Partners Ltd, told ITV: ‘We have launched an internal investigation and an external company is reviewing procedures in all our businesses.’

The National Association of Funeral Directors has also launched its own investigation following the broadcast.

A spokesman told The Voice earlier today (Sept 27) the Association views the issues raised with “considerable concern and presently is reviewing a number of issues raised”.

The spokesperson said both the head of the Association and the chairman of its professional standards board are spearheading the investigations.

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