'The abuse has become a daily thing': punks and goths hail overdue recognition

Manchester Police to classify as hate crimes attacks against subculture members

Attacks against goths, punks, emo kids, metallers and other followers of alternative music scenes will be recorded as hate crimes by Manchester Police.

The move has been hailed by campaigners as a much needed drive to tackle a form of prejudice that causes misery to thousands every year but rarely receives much attention.

It is the first time a British police force has classed attacks on subcultures with the same seriousness as offences against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

The change means victims of a crime who believe they were specifically targeted because of the way they dress will receive special support from the police. However courts and judges will be unable to impose harsher sentences on perpetrators because that would require legislative change.

Senior officers at Manchester have been working closely with the mother of Sophie Lancaster, a 20-year-old Lancashire student who was viciously beaten to death by a gang of teenagers after they took exception to her dreadlocks and piercings. Following her daughter’s murder, Sylvia Lancaster later set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation which campaigns for better protections in law for members of subcultures.

The announcement was widely praised by “alt scene” followers, many of whom regularly have to run a gauntlet of abuse – from the verbal to physical – purely because of the way they choose to look. David McComb, editor of Bizarre magazine, told The Independent: “It’s fantastic news. It seems ridiculous to me someone would attack someone purely because of the way they look or how they dress. But sadly it’s not a rarity.”

He added: “This is not the end of the story. It’s one small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Anyone who doubted whether goths, punks, emos and metallers faced abuse needed only to pick up a copy of Bizarre in the two years following Sophie murder in 2007. Each month they ran a regular two page slot in memory of Sophie asking readers to describe the kind of vitriol they faced. Replies flooded in, ranging from shouts of abuse to being spat at and physical assaults. Many remarked that if such attacks were targeted against a religious or racial community they would have caused widespread public revulsion and a much firmer policing response. 

Xander Dodd, a 28-year-old from Coventry currently sporting pink hair, facial piercings and tattoos, told The Independent he had been physically attacked twice because of the way he looks. “The abuse becomes a day to day thing,” he said. “You don’t go out to certain places at certain times because if you do you’re an easy target. It should not be acceptable to abuse or threaten someone because they look differently.”

Emma Lake, a 32-year-old retail manager from Camden, north London, who has sleeve tattoos, a chest piece and facial piercings,  said abuse was common while growing up in Liverpool and could cause real damage to teenagers especially.

“Nowadays I tend to head out to places where it’s socially accepted to look the way I do but it’s very hard when you’re 15 or 16 and have nowhere else to go,” she said. Her employers – the Office shoe chain – have no issue with how she dresses but she believes companies that refuse to hire those who adopt a subculture lifestyle also help reinforce wider prejudices.

“Obviously we choose to dress the way we do and I chose to adorn my body but there are parallels with religion,” she said. “People chose a religion but you wouldn’t discriminate against someone because they choose to worship a certain way or dress differently. The fact I chose to appear in a certain way shouldn’t count against me.”

Liverpool resident Louise Street, 34, manager of a football team for goth girls, said she hoped Manchester’s initiative would be adopted by other forces.  “I’d love to see the rest of the country follow suit, because Manchester isn’t the only place this happens,” she said. “If the police worked together, they might understand the amount of hate crime against goths and emos.”

Johna Curtis a 30-year-old shop worker from Manchester, who describes his look as "very borderline transvestite," said he has been a victim of bullying all of his life.

"It started getting significantly worse when I started dressing in a gothic style when I was 14. I got beaten up every day in lessons at school and the teachers wouldn’t do anything.

"I got attacked at a fairground by 14 lads once. I had my face kicked in and I was severely injured. Every time I see gangs of young men I have to cross the road. I do everything I can to avoid them. "

Mr Curtis welcomed the move by Manchester Police, but also feared that people could exploit the new classifications.

"Just because they’re a goth it doesn’t mean they can’t provoke people," he said.

"Obviously most attacks on goths are going to be based on their appearance but they’re not all saints.

"It’s good that there’s more protection for people like us but I don’t know if it will change anything to be honest.

"I think there’ll always be hate. There’ll always be racism, there’ll always be sexism. There’ll always be people who want to beat up men who wear makeup. In 50 years it will be the same I think. It’s a sad thing to say but I reckon there will always be prejudice of one form or another."

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?