Exactly two years after her Goth daughter was kicked to death for looking ‘different’, Sylvia Lancaster is making headway in ensuring the law protects other people who belong to subcultures by spearheading the ‘Be Safe’ Campaign in Bolton.
On 11 August 11, 2007 Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Rob Maltby were brutally attacked by a gang of teenagers who kicked and stamped on them as they walked through a park in Bacup, Lancashire. Sophie never regained consciousness following the vicious attack and died two weeks later.
Now, following two years of campaigning and devoting her life to fighting for tolerance of people who are part of subcultures, Sylvia Lancaster is working closely with Bolton Council to support its groundbreaking ‘Be Safe’ initiative to combat hate incidents.
Bolton Council has set up a network of local hate incident reporting centres in the centre of communities, so that people who are targeted because of what they believe, how they look, or for being part of a minority group, can report occurrences in a local, informal environment where they feel more comfortable, rather than visiting a police station.
What’s more, the team behind the initiative, inspired by the Sophie Lancaster case, chose to include ‘lifestyle and dress code’ as a hate incident category in recognition of the fact that people who are part of alternative subcultures warrant the same level of protection.
This is a significant breakthrough that Sylvia has been working towards since 2007, with the aim of this category eventually being included in the government’s hate crime legislation. She believes that people today are more likely to be subjected to unmotivated attacks on the street, like Sophie and Rob, because they belong to a subculture than for any other reason.
Following a meeting with Jack Straw in May to discuss updating national hate crime legislation, Sylvia has been invited to join Lancashire Council’s hate crime board, where she is working with the CPS and police force to introduce an initiative similar to Bolton’s. Sylvia will offer ongoing support and training for Bolton’s scheme, and hopes to see many other similar schemes developing in the future.
Sylvia commented: “I’ve dedicated my life’s work to creating a lasting legacy to my daughter Sophie. And what I’ve learned since her attack two years ago is that people of all ages that are part of a subculture, like Goths, emos, punks, moshers, and everything in-between, particularly younger people, are being subjected to serious and regular attacks when they’re walking down the street, simply for expressing their individuality.
“We need to recognise that this is totally unacceptable, and is as serious as anyone being abused because they’re in a wheelchair, or gay, or black”.
For more information visit the official MySpace, Twitter and website for the S.O.P.H.I.E Campaign.