Hate Crimes
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Thursday, 31 January 2013 13:59

Sophie: The Face of Hate Crime

Sophie Hospital


Sophie's murder was treated as a Hate Crime by Judge Russell who sentenced the murderers accordingly. Under the current UK Hate Crime Legislation, and as the motivation behind the murder was hateful, he was able to use his discretion to class it as a Hate Crime.

We are working to have "Alternative Subcultures" or "Lifestyle and Dress Code" added to the reportable Hate Crime strands to ensure that it is not a discretionary option but equal to the existing strands which are:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Homophobia
  • Transgender

Sylvia has been a member of the Cross Party Independent Hate Crime Advisory Group to the UK Government since 2010. This places her at the heart of consultation and decision making. This role allows for the opportunity to discuss the issues around alternative hate crime at the most senior level.

Sylvia Lancaster OBE

In June 2014 Sylvia was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. The award for "Community Cohesion - Especially In Reduction Of Hate Crime" was a huge accolade for the work that has been done since Sophie's death in 2007. Sylvia was invited to Buckingham Palace in December 2014 to receive the award from HRH Prince Charles.


Lynne Featherstone MP: Equalities Minister 2012

The ACPO Hate Crime Conference: March 2012

"More Than Just Five Strands"

'Before i talk to you about the Government's approach, i wanted to mention that our five strands of monitored hate crime: Race, Faith, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Perceived Disability, are not a complete list.

A tragic example of the importance of this is the murder in 2007 of Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked alongside her boyfriend Robert Maltby because the offenders took issue with their appearance. The sentencing Judge correctly referred to the case as a hate crime and in doing so highlighted the importance of ensuring that all victims of crimes motivated by prejudice receive the justice they deserve. It is essential that the lessons learned on monitored hate crime apply to any local or emerging hostility that concerns our communities.

The work that Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie's Mother has done to challenge the bigotry that fuels such attacks is hugely welcomed. I have great admiration for Sylvia, another member of our group who will be outlining her work today."

SOPHIE Hold The World's First Alternative Hate Crime Conference - November 2104

Sylvia welcomed our delegates and guest speakers to the conference where we explored "Alternative Solutions to Hate Crime"

The day started with a film of the new Home Office Minister, Lynn Featherstone, who, as she was unable to attend, recorded her presentation in which she explained how there are more than five strands to hate crime and the how work of the Foundation provides a holistic approach to raising awareness and challenging thinking.

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw spoke about how tackling Hate Crime was a priority and that partnership working was very important. GMP's ACC Garry Shewan followed with a humbling presentation about how he was so inspired by Sylvia and the team's work in schools in Greater Manchester that it led him to lead the way with GMP becoming the first Police Authority to monitor and record Alternative Subculture Identity Hate Crime last year.

None of us were prepared for the powerful contribution Gena Buchan provided as she shared her horrific experience as a victim of alternative hate crime two years ago in Edinburgh. Her attack is described in the interview with Radio 5 Live


We are indebted to Gena for coming along to support our day.

We continued the thread of justice by introducing Carl Gaffney, the Crown Prosecution Service Barrister who worked on Sophie's murder. Carl gave a profound insight into the shocking attack and heroic bravery of Sophie that night. He talked about how she made the ultimate sacrifice that night in trying to stop a hate crime. He urged delegates to do all they can in ensuring hate crimes treated seriously. It was a highly professional yet personal presentation.

Dr Jon Garland from the Department of Criminology at Surrey University delivered the findings of his research with the Leicester Hate Crime Project. He focused on the findings of Alternative Subculture hate crimes and incidents and the extent of the problem. You can find more details here


The morning session closed with the Foundation's campaign manager Kate talking about how we use social media not only to raise awareness of Hate Crime but as a platform for people to share their experiences, offer moral support, signpost victims and communicate with our partners. This alternative approach to making sure social media is a force for good, a place where we can be one community and work together to support each other.

It was great to see people take the opportunity to network over lunch and many cards were exchanged - leading to more partnership working in the future we hope.

The second half of the day focused on education. We were proud to launch the SOPHIE Primary School Educational Resource following the pilot in East Lancashire. Lisa Bennett, our Education Project Worker, presented the evaluation of her work with twelve Primary Schools. The evidence of how impactful the resource has been was overwhelming and we look forward to rolling out the programme in the new year. The first training session for teachers will take place in January. The two young girls who read their poems about how damaging bullying is added a sense of how urgent this work really is.

Dr Stephen Minton of Trinity College Dubliin, Ireland delivered his findings of how research and project work around "Alternophobia and bullying"  The project in Ireland has revealed again how wide spread prejudice and bullying of young goths, emo and moshers is. We will share his paper next week.

The delegates were the first to see a preview of the new BBC film of "Black Roses - The Killing of Sophie Lancaster" featuring Julie Hesmondhalgh and Rachel Austin. The film will be completed in the new year and a shortened version will be on the BBC Education Zone, while the full version will belong to the charity for our use in education. The producer Susan Roberts introduced the film and a break was needed after the clip - such is its power.

The day was brought to a conclusion by Professor John Grieves CBE, chair of the UK Hate Crime Advisory Board, of which Sylvia is a member. Hes been asked to summarize the day and did so in a very interactive way. He asked delegates to use the letters in S.O.P.H.I.E. and rewrite what it stands for following their impressions of the day - quite an eyeopener ! John suggested " S - solutions O options P partnership H help I inspiration E engagement ... He explained how Sylvia was one of the most heroic people he has ever had the privilege to work with - We have to agree !

A full evaluation of the day will be prepared and shared with all delegates and on our website as soon as possible. Again, we thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to join us. Stacey and Adam worked wonders with the staff from Burnley Mechanics who were fantastic at making the day run smoothly. Thanks to all the media for covering the event and to the National Lottery Local Papers Award and Lancashire PCC for funding the day and our volunteers who helped us on the day.


The Government Hate Crime Action Plan

Challenge it, report it, stop it - A report on Hate Crime


GMP Monitor and Record Alterntative Hate Crime

Following months of work with Greater Manchester Police and their partners, from April 2013 Hate Crimes against people from Alternative Subcultures will be recorded as a crime by GMP in the same capacity 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 alterntative sub-cultures 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."

Please see below media coverage of the changes to Hate Crime monitoring and recording by Great Manchester Police:

BBC News - Police start recording attacks

Then within 48 hours

BBC News - First Hate Crime Arrest

Hate Crime Awareness Week 2015

We were proud to take such a central part in both Leicestershire NHS and Warwickshire Police HCAW events.

Sylvia and Kate went to work with Warwickshire South and North Police delivering four training sessions over two days, included Sylvia’s presentations and screenings of “Black Roses” film to the delegates. The film was followed by a panel Q&A session where Sylvia joined senior police officers.

We were particularly impressed with the honest exchange with frontline officers who as the sessions went on were expressing how their own practise would change following the training. This is such an important part of Sophie’s legacy: changing attitudes of those with such a responsibility for victims.

Chief Superintendent Lee Davenport, hate crime lead for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police, said: “Today’s event was extremely hard hitting and I’m sure it made everyone there think about the role they play in tackling hate crime.

“Fortunately, incidents as serious as Sophie’s murder are very rare but one of the key points I took from today was the impact day-to-day hate crime has on people from alternative subcultures and indeed any victim of hate crime.”

Paul Hooper from the Warwickshire Community Safety Partnership said: “I hope today’s workshop will help people understand the damaging effects it has on people’s lives and inspire people to take a stand in their communities. Hate crime is everyone’s responsibility and everyone has a role to play in addressing it.”

We were asked to return to deliver further educational training as we learnt that the community police officers had delivered 40 sessions to 1200 students over the last two years. Sylvia was presented with the evaluation which was deemed 100% positive.

Stacey and Adam worked with the team at Leicester NHS as they launched their Hate Crime and Healthcare Partnership. This will help to bridge the gap between victims and Police giving people the knowledge and confidence to understand and report hate motivated attacks. Again such a crucial step in supporting victims of hate crime.

We know many events took part across the UK and sadly we couldn’t be involved with them all. We were delighted to see Nottinghamshire Police change their Facebook page to an image of Sophie and our logo stressing hate crime based on your appearance is a crime taken seriously by Nottinghamshire Police.

There are now eight police authorities that record Hate Crimes and Incidents against “alternative subcultures” They are

Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Warwickshire, West Mercia, Durham, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, West Yorkshire and Sussex. Please check their websites for details to report any issues you may be experiencing.


Ways to Report a Hate Crime


Call 101 or 999 in an emergency

True Vision Hate Crime Reporting

Stop Hate UK

Crime Stoppers