THE UK Government has been rapped for “perpetuating a negative ethnic stereotype” after an advert looking for new prison officers featured a black criminal with an afro haircut and pick comb.

The Ministry of Justice advert “must not appear again in the form complained of”, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled, telling the UK Government department that it must avoid “causing serious offence on the grounds of race”.

The advert – a paid promotion which appeared on Facebook – was initially ruled unacceptable in November 2022, but the UK Government appealed.

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The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the prison officer recruitment campaign ran every week of the year across a range of media, including social media, posters, radio and video on demand.

The MoJ said the images used showed real prison officers and real criminals, and did not therefore “portray” the black man as a prisoner, but showed a real convict.

It was the only image used in the Facebook campaign that showed white officers alongside ethnic minority prisoners, according to the ASA.

But the watchdog ruled that the advert was likely to be seen by consumers “in isolation”, and it had to be judged as such.

The ASA concluded: “The prisoner was only seen from behind, with his face not visible and his arms crossed, and wore his hair in an afro style, with an afro pick comb.

“We understood the hairstyle and hairstyling tool worn were important aspects of black culture, and were uniquely associated with it.

“We considered those elements had the cumulative effect of emphasising the prisoner’s race, rather than his inclusion in the ad as an individual prisoner.

“As a result, in the context of a prison scene, we considered the ad had the effect of perpetuating a negative ethnic stereotype about black men as criminals. On that basis, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We appealed the decision in order to reassert the important principle that we should be able to represent real officers and prisoners in our advertising.

“This photo was one of many we use to help potential prison officers understand what to expect from the role, and to show the priority we place on building constructive relationships with prisoners.”