UK

Benefits Street Residents Receive Twitter Death Threats After Channel 4 Documentary

07/01/2014 12:24 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Critics have dubbed Channel 4's Benefit's Street "irresponsible" and "divisive" broadcasting, pitting neighbours against each other and encouraging threatening behaviour.

And residents of the street in Birmingham featured on the controversial programme said they were told the focus was to be on "community spirit" and the "close-knit" area.

Instead the programme focused on the residents who were benefit fraudsters, drug abusers, and foul-mouthed, anti-social troublemakers.

benefits street

One of the residents of Benefits Street, Funghi, as featured on the Channel 4 programme

The programme, broadcast on Monday night, sparked a stream of abuse against participants on Twitter, including death threats.

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One tweeted: "So where do we get guns to kill these wankers? #BenefitsStreet".

Another wrote: "Should just terminate these scroungers, gas them in their sleep".

A reply to another tweet said: "They don't deserve such a painless experience. Fuckin burn them."

Blogger Tom Pride wrote on his website that he would report people to the police for the threats and wrote a letter of complaint to Channel 4. "You should be ashamed of yourselves. But you won’t be," he wrote to the broadcaster.

Superintendent Danny Long, from Birmingham Police, said: “Like many people across the country, we saw the footage broadcast on the programme for the first time last night. Throughout the programme and in the hours that have followed, we have been inundated with comments from members of the public, many of whom are concerned about elements of show which showed criminal activity.

“The Winson Green area of Birmingham is a diverse and vibrant community and the Soho neighbourhood policing team – which covers James Turner Street - enjoys a very positive relationship with local residents and community groups.”

Others on Twitter expressed horror at the reaction to the programme:

James Turner Street resident Dee Roberts, a qualified mentor and support worker, told the Birmingham Mail she felt poorly treated by the programme.

Roberts, one of the central characters, is on police bail after a a drugs squad raid her address.

In the opening sequence, Roberts is seen walking along the street pointing out those who are unemployed, and on benefits. Roberts claimed she also pointed at each house where people were working and said what they did, but that had been cut.

When she was first approached, she said “they said that ‘Britain was broken’ but that I lived in an area where the community was very close. I participated in the show on that belief.

“But this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It’s all about people in the street living off benefits, taking drugs and dossing around all day. It makes people out as complete scum.

“They lied to us from the very beginning. We opened our doors and hearts to them and they violated us and abused our trust.”

A spokesperson for Channel 4 has previously defended the programme to the Daily Mail, saying: "The series reveals a community where residents know that, when times get tough, they can turn to each other for help.

"It is a sympathetic, humane and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts in benefits.'