A British police force will now treat violence and abuse against punks and goths as hate crimes.
Offenses committed on grounds of disability, race, religion or sexual orientation are already recognized across the U.K. as hate crimes. But now Greater Manchester Police (GMP) will record crimes against “alternative subcultures” — which include goths, punks, emos and metallers — in the same way.
In a statement heralding the “major breakthrough,” Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, GMP’s lead on hate crime said:
“We are able to officially recognize 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.”
Skaters, skinheads, bikers and bodybuilders would also be recognized as victims of hate crime, as Shewan told Channel 4 News.
The GMP’s decision comes five years after 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster died after being repeatedly kicked in the head in a Lancashire park — an offense that the judge sentencing her five killers recognized as a hate crime because she was targeted for being a goth. Two of them were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, while the others were convicted and jailed for grievous bodily harm.
Although such offenses will now be recorded by police as hate crimes, it is a distinction not yet enshrined in law. Asked on Twitter how designating such attacks as hate crimes would affect a prosecution, Shewan said that the evidence of “motivation, hate, prejudice or hostility” would be presented in court. That could result in a harsher sentence being imposed.
On Twitter, campaigners celebrated GMP’s decision and called for similar measures to be introduced throughout the U.K. and worldwide.
But the journalist Colin Freeman, writing in the Daily Telegraph, asks how ethnic minorities and other “vulnerable groups,” for whom hate-crime legislation was originally designed to protect, will feel about subcultures getting the same protection: “If things get really bad, goths and punks can always change the way they look,” he wrote. “You can’t do that with the colour of your skin.”