Thursday, 4 April 2013

Greater Manchester Police Adopt 'Hate Crime'

Manchester police to record attacks on punks, emos and goths as hate crimes
Twenty-year-old goth Sophie Lancaster was kicked and stamped on by youths in a Bacup park

GREATER Manchester Police (GMP) have become the first force in the UK to treat the recording of attacks on members of subcultures, such as goths and emos, as hate crimes offences. Previously hate crimes were only registered for offences against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. GMP has worked with a charity set up following the murder of 20-year-old 'Goth' lass Sophie Lancaster in 2007. 

On 24 August 2007, Sophie Lancaster was brutally attacked in Stubbeylee park in Bacup, Lancashire, along with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, because of the way they were dressed.  She was kicked and stamped on as she cradled her badly beaten boyfriend.  Mr Maltby made a partial recovery from his injuries, Ms Lancaster slipped into a coma after the attack and died later in hospital.  Last year, Northern Voices'* published an interview with Sophie's mother Sylvia Lancaster, and last September The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester put on a play related to the incident entitled 'Black Roses'.

Today Sylvia Lancaster, who helped set up the foundation and who has fought to make attacks on sub-cultures like the Goths a 'Hate Crime' 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.'   Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said:  'People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime.'  The Manchester police said the change would enable officers to give more support to victims of anti-punk or anti-Goth crime.  But it won't necessarily mean tougher sentences.

The ex-director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, said he had reservations about changing the legal definition of a hate crime.  He said:  'People's racial origins, their religion, their sexual orientation, people's dignity in the face of disability - these have been lines in the sand with the law saying, look, these are crimes that threaten social cohesion as a whole and therefore national life.  I'm a little cautious about watering down this concept.' 

Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris, both from Bacup, were jailed for life in 2008 for Miss Lancaster's murder and for causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Maltby.   When sentencing them, Judge Anthony Russell QC said:  'This was a hate crime against these completely harmless people targeted because their appearance was different to yours.' 

The Goths emerged as a youth subculture in the 1980s and the term was initially used to describe a form of music.  Since then it has come to cover literature, art and fashion, with its exponents often dressing in dark clothing.

There are still a few copies of the printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13*, available for sale with the Sylvia Lancaster interview, it can be obtained as follows:  
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

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