GMP launches hate crime first

Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death because she was a Goth Credit: Johnny Green/PA Archive

For the first time in the UK, police in Greater Manchester will officially record if a person who belongs to an alternative sub-culture has been a victim of hate crime. This will be recorded as a crime by GMP in the same way as disability, racist, religious, sexual orientation and transgender hate crime to provide better support to victims and repeat victims.

Greater Manchester Police, in consultation with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, recognises alternative sub-culture as a broad term to define a strong sense of collective identity and a set of group-specific values and tastes. This typically centres on distinctive style, clothing, make up, body art and music preference. Those involved usually stand out to both fellow participants and to those outside the group. Groups typically under the ‘alternative’ umbrella include Goths, Emos, Punks and Metallers however this list is not exhaustive.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, GMP’s lead on hate crime, said: “The launch of this new strand of recordable hate crime is a major breakthrough. We are able to officially recognise that people who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime – something that many people have to endure on a daily basis.

“This means that we can recognise the impact that alternative sub-culture hate crime has on its victims and the wider community, we can offer better support and risk assess the potential for repeat victimisation.”

Sophie Lancaster died in 2007 at the age of 20 after her and her boyfriend were brutally attacked as they walked home through Stubbeylee Park, Bacup. She suffered horrific head injuries and never regained consciousness. Her killers were sentenced in 2008 and the judge recognised her death as a hate crime because they were targeted for being Goths. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was set up to create respect and understanding of sub-cultures. The charity works with police forces and politicians to ensure individuals who are part of sub-cultures are protected by the law.

GMP and the foundation have been working closely for some time to speak to communities and offer training for officers so they are able to provide support for individuals and victims of hate crime who are part an alternative sub-culture community.

ACC Shewan continues: “Sophie’s tragic death brought forward a need to recognise that there are many other victims of hate crime that should be protected by law. While we have worked with the foundation for some time, I am proud to say we are now the first force in the country to officially record alternative sub-culture as a sixth strand of hate crime motivation.

“Hate crime ruins many people’s lives and in some cases can tragically cost lives. We work with many organisations to raise the awareness of what hate crime is and how victims can be supported and we will continue to encourage our communities to challenge it, report it and help us to stop it.”

Sylvia Lancaster, founder of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and Sophie’s mum, said: “It is a very proud day for me personally and the rest of the team. It is a validation of the work we have undertaken in the past five years and hopefully other forces will follow GMP’s lead. A big thank you to Greater Manchester Police and all our supporters.”

Bafta award winning actress and supporter of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Vicky McClure, said: “I've watched how hard Sylvia and Kate have worked to get to this point, not only is this a huge step for the Sophie Charity but for those who have been a victim of hate crime.”