Abuse against ‘alternative subcultures’ such as goths, emos and punks, will now be classified as hate crime in Manchester – the first to do so in the country.
Greater Manchester Police will expand its definition of the term which means they will now treat abuse towards such groups in the same way they do attacks based on race, religion, sexuality or disability.
The broadening of the definition has been largely welcomed by the Manchester community, and was changed in consultation with The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
Sophie was murdered in 2007 by a gang who attacked her and her boyfriend in a Lancashire park for being ‘goths’.
Her mother Sylvia 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.”
The police are hoping they can offer better support for victims now that attacks on members of such communities can be a strand of recordable hate crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, GMP’s lead on hate crime, said: “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.
“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.
MM spoke to 24-year-old Phil Greig from Manchester, who has been subjected to abuse due to the way he dresses and is dubious about how much use the new classification will be.
“This initiative probably won’t make a lot of difference,” he said. “I’ve been shouted at loads of times by various people for what I’m wearing, or my hair.”
Phil, who works for Forbidden Planet on Oldham Street, said he believes it is often parents’ influence over their children that causes them to be abusive to people who dress differently.
“It’s more of a social issue that needs to be tackled from the bottom up than something that can be attacked with legislation,” he said.
“If I was a victim of a hate crime I’d report it, whether I’d report it as a hate crime or not would be dependent on the context.”
Vicky McClure is a Bafta award-winning actress and a staunch supporter of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
She 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.”
Leanne Frost, 25, a recruitment retention officer from Droylsden, said: “In a way what Greater Manchester Police are doing is a good thing but they shouldn’t stereotype, because anyone could be a victim of crime.
“They should be more vigilant to everybody – there’s old women who get mugged all the time.
“The police need to do more community activities – I’ve been mugged twice in the city centre.
“They used to have a police van in Piccadilly Gardens and that seemed to clear a lot of people from there but it’s not been there in months.”
Joseph Adshead, 48, a substance misuse worker from Manchester, said: “I think people are people and, at the end of the day, all crimes against a person are hate crimes, regardless of who or what someone is classified as.”